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updated 12/10/01
forehand strokes
The forehand is definately the favorite shot of a majority of players. It is the shot of the dominant arm and as such the confidence and power is generally enhanced. Fundamentals are always the starting point and foundation of any shot. In understanding this the primacy of knowing how the body operates is a key component in developing a smooth and consistent stroking pattern.

First to get the ball over the net.
Second to place the ball in the most effective position
Third to move the ball at the desired speed, angle and condition. .

Let us go through the basic techniques and demands of the Forehand. A technique is nothing more than a consistent system of methodical operations that can be repeated in approaching varying yet similar situations. It is a practical process designed to utilize trained skills to achieve semi-automatic and consistent results.

The ball is moving towards you at varying rates of speed, height of bounce, direction, spin and distance to your body. You have only a fixed amount of time to respond to the circumstances. Your body is trained and the mind is focused. There is ongoing mental decisions conscious and subconscious. Your footwork, balance and shot selection must be synchronized in a harmonious and functional bio-mechanically effective manner.

In consideration of the realities; time and space, movement and distance, force and inertia, and clarity and confusion the superior player must take stock of the whole viewpoint.

The tennis court is 78' x 27' with a net that is 3 1/2' on the sides and 3' at the center. The ball travels between 50 and 110 mph on groundstroke rallies. This allows from the time you hit the ball from the baseline until it is returned by your opponent anywhere from roughly 3.5 seconds to 1.0 seconds. This is all the time you have from the moment you hit the ball until it returns to your racquet.

The optimum place to be is in the center of the court at all times in a groundstroke rally. This allows for the player to retrieve any ball equally. It is the natural position of yourself and your opponent. Understanding this brings us to the fact that hitting down the lines or crosscourt to the lines is the most appropriate shot. From the center point there is 13.5 ft to each sideline.

To actually hit the ball you must move 10 ft. from your position. The lateral movement required is 10 ft to each side. The optimal shots would be to force a player into a side to side movement until the amount of time he has to reach the ball will not allow it to be physically possible. The ball moving from one corner to the opposite corner at an ETA of 1 sec is a speed of 56mph, a speed of 75mph will bring the ball in at a rate of 3/4 of a second. In order to move 10 ft in 3/4 of a second it requires an average speed of 10mph.

This means that the acceleration must be much quicker than 10mph and deceleration must also be very quick. To move from one sideline to the other a distance of 27ft the speed in .75 of an second will be averaged to 24.55mph. In Comparison a 10 second 100 meter dash is an average speed of only 22.36mph and a 4.4 40yd dash is 18.6mph. Anticipation is the ability to speculate and make a judgement on where the ball is to be hit in order to get a jump on it. If a player hits the ball from the center point to the outside corner at 100 mph it will get there in about .55 secs.

It is physically impossible to reach that point and be set to return the ball correctly without anticipating the shot. The ability to see the opponents techniques and correctly interpret them is an imperative asset in order to diminish the time necessary to reach the ball and hit it at a proper point for return. Each step will take from .05 to .20 tenths of a second covering a distance of 2 to 3 feet. Relating to a speed of .05 per ft at maximum, (The speed of a 4.4 40 yd dash is .03666 ft per sec.) In a 10ft distance the quickness required to reach it is five steps of 2 ft per each at a speed of .10 per ft.

This translates into about 7mph. To travel 27 feet in this time is the same as a 4.4 40 yd dash or 18mph. To start and stop and hit would be very impressive for any human. By anticipating the shot selection correctly by .10 of a second you will save 2 steps and approximately 5 feet. This is enough to reach the ball and place it back in play. There is in every trajectory optimum positions to hit the ball. The return trajectory is determined by the positioning of your body in relation to the ball. Your arms do not stretch nor does your body remain balanced when reaching for the ball when based in an awkward position.

In order to reach these optimum positions requires; anticipation, balance, speed, and accuracy of movement. Without the accuracy of movement it would be entirely impossible to do anything. With such little time as explained previously. Accuracy of movement is essential to being prepared to make the shot.

Athletic training is designed to make the body function in automatically and synchronously with the mind. Robotic consistency with spontaneous reactive coordination in balance with a clear mind is required to achieve the optimum shot selection. On the forehand. The grip is set in a semi-western mode, Slide your hand along the strings of the racquet until you reach the grip.

Take it and turn the racquet face slightly forward so the top to the racquet is moved to an 11:00 position. When a ball is hit to your forehand side step out first with what will be your back foot, This is your right foot for right handers on the forehand side. Hear the foot hit the court to stop your lateral momentum. At this point make sure the racquet is behind your body and laid back as your are stepping forward in the correct position to return the oncoming ball.

Now feel the weight transfer as your left hand reaches out toward the ball as it moves forward towards you. Bring your right arm forward close to your body with the wrist laid back. This is an arm motion, not a wrist or elbow motion. Hit through the path of the ball and continue the follow through so that you feel the impact of your shoulder and biceps against your chin. Your left hand catches the racquet just above your head. You now bring the back foot up and get in ready position for the return of the ball your just hit.

This article will be updated soon to go over other common elements and facets of the forehand such as; open stance, hitting on the rise, exaggerated open stance, closed stance, blocking, hitting high forehands, hitting low forehands, hitting flat shots, rolling over the ball, holding the ball on the racquet, slice forehand, cross court and inside out forehands. Thank you for your interest. Rich