Did you manage to read part 11 last week? We looked at improving you impact on the game from the servers partners perspective. I had some great feedback from that blog post. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to have a read.
In this part we are going to look at the hot seat, you are in the hot seat when you are the returners partner. I have coached so many people who almost seem like they feel this is a position they can have a little rest as they don’t really get to see much of the ball. In this blog I am going to give you a few simple tips that I promise will make a huge difference to you.
Here is the scene, your tennis partner is ready to return serve. You are correctly in the hot seat, but where are you standing? Who are you facing? Boom, while you were thinking your opposition fires their volley past you down the middle of the court. I am guessing we have all felt this at one time or another. I am going to answer these questions and if you go out and put these answers in to practise you will notice an immediate improvement in your doubles:
  1. Where are you standing when you are the returners partner? You should be on the service line next to the T, almost in the centre of the court. The reason for this is that you are plugging the gap that the “Danger Player” (we discussed this in the previous blog) wants to hit in to, this is the easiest place for them to hit their volley. You stand here to give yourself half a chance of scraping that ball back but also to put them off a little, give them something else to think about.
  2. Where are you facing? You should have your hips, shoulders and eyes facing the “danger player” that player is your primary concern. Turn your body to face them, whatever you do, do not turn and look at your partner as they hit their return (this is hospital tennis).
  3. When you start in this position you are in a defensive position and this is where most recreational level players stay. I see very little movement from this position. As soon as the return is hit, one of two things are going to happen. Ether your partner hots a good return and fires it back to the server or its a bad return and the volleyer intercepts. As you are now standing in the correct position if the worst case happens and the “danger player” intercepts they can either volley it at you or go for the angle (good luck with the angle, that’s a 3 out of 10 shot). If your partner hits a good return back to the server this is when you need to move forward and become the “danger player”. The “danger player” position switches throughout the entire rally – so sorry there is no rest for you net players.
Time is short on the doubles court, and the person who understands it best has a huge advantage over others. Tennis Holidays are a great way to make real progressions in your game, it is an intense week of learning new skills in the morning and putting them in to practise in the afternoons. Being able to play for 20 hours in one week means that you can really make changes in your game fast! Our Tennis Holidays our suitable for all levels whether you are a complete beginner through to county level players – everyone is welcome!
Did you manage to read part 10 last? We looked at improving your smash, I had some great feedback from that blog post. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to have a read. In this post we are going to look at the player who is the servers partner. Picture the scene, your partner is ready to hit their first serve. You are correctly The Danger Player, as you are the first person that can have a real impact on the point (depending on how good your partners serve is). But where are you standing? Who are you focused on? What are you thinking about doing? Where are you aiming? Three questions that we are going to work through the answers to.
  1. Where are you standing? There are two elements to this answer, how far up the court are you and how far in to the court are you. There is no absolute hard and fast rule about where you should be as this will depend on how offensive your partners serve is and how athletic you are. There are however a couple of principles you can follow.
    • In terms how wide you stand the simple rule is you need to be able to cover the trams in one step. At a professional level they probably stand with their outside foot in the middle of the service box, they can get away from this as they read the game fast and incredibly athletic.
    • How far up, as a general rule I would suggest being approx half way up the service box
  2. Who are you focused on? The key player for you here is obviously the returner. Focus all of your concentration on them, make sure you are facing them with an aim to try to intercept the return.
  3. What do you want to do? Your goal is to intercept their return. If they have not once hit down your line you should feel quite free to intercept the return, they might not even be able to hit down the line – ask them this question. Don’t feel like you need to run across the entire court, just ensure that when you move, you move diagonally forward cutting down the angle, you will not need to cross the centre line to intercept effectively.
  4. Where are you aiming? This is simple if you intercept and you make contact with the ball above the height of the net you aim at the shoe laces of your opponent. If the ball is below net height do you best to control the volley back to the baseline. These rules are set – use them and this will make a huge difference to your game.
Tennis Holidays are a great way to make real progressions in your game, it is an intense week of learning new skills in the morning and putting them in to practise in the afternoons. Being able to play for 20 hours in one week means that you can really make changes in your game fast! Our Tennis Holidays our suitable for all levels whether you are a complete beginner through to county level players – everyone is welcome!The first thing to know about grass courts is that they’re fast – much faster than clay and hard courts. When the ball hits the surface, blades of grass are flattened and the ball skids off the court fast and low. By late summer, when the grass has been worn down, you’ll also find the bounce is very unpredictable.

IS IT ALL SERVE-AND-VOLLEY?

Big servers have always been successful at Wimbledon with the ball flying off the surface. And those who have mixed it up with a solid volley have won many titles at SW19. Serve-and-volley play works for a number of reasons:
  • it keeps the ball off the ground so you avoid unpredictable bounces
  • fast serves are made faster because the ball skids off the court
You should also develop a good sliced backhand since the ball stays lower to the ground. But it’s not true that only serve-and-volley players prosper – in fact, on the tour there are few serve-and-volleyers left. Baseline players need to think about ending points quickly as well – if you’re a slogger, it’s important to work on hitting powerful winners and aiming down the line.Did you manage to read part 9 last week based on improving your volley technique, I had some great feedback from that blog post. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to have a read. In the part we are going to look at simple ways to improve your smash, specifically at the arm movement. As a doubles player, the smash is an essential weapon in your arsenal since you are looking to spend the majority of your time at the net and closing the net down. Essential Elements The key to improving your overhead is understanding, learning, and practising a three essential elements:
  1. Unit turn
  2. Movement (footwork)
  3. The arm swing
In this blog will will focus on the arm movement. Before I start discussing the arm moevment, I want to stress the necessity to learn and to use the continental grip around the net, on the serve, and on the overhead. The continental grip, along with a good unit turn as described next, is what allows greater racket acceleration and, therefore, ball speed. The arm swing The first step to creating a great arm swing, as in all the shots, it is creating the turn position with your feet and torso as described in part 8.

The second step is getting to the tick or trophy position. There are a 2 ways to do this:
  1. The racket drop. The racket falls along the side of the torso with the tip pointing more or less straight down at the court, then swings up like a pendulum in to a tick position creating a lot of momentum.
  2. The abbreviated takeback. Just like on Rafa’s serve the racket doesn’t drop instead it comes straight to the tick/trophy position
You can use either of these methods but bear in mind if you don’t have much time option 2 would be used. The third step is the swing to contact. The simplest way to think of this is think as though you are throwing your racket at the ball., if you over think this and break it down in to too much detail you will struggle. If you have a correct relaxed service motion, you shouldn’t have to think about all this too much and it will probably happen naturally. A simple way to improve this motion is to practise throwing, (as a guide you should be to be able to throw the ball from the baseline to at least the service line on the other side), if you cant do this then practise, if you can do this you should be able to generate good racket speed. Overall, what makes the overhead difficult is the ability to move in position with the proper turn position. The unit turn and the movement, I believe, are the two areas where the average player needs to focus. The arm swing is important, but as your serve arm swing improves in this area so will your overhead swing. As I mentioned above, conquering the ability to do the cross steps as you initiate the turn will go a long way in making the overhead the best part of your game. The Overhead Game There is a great live ball overhead drill that I have used many years with my high school doubles teams to work on implementing the overhead in matches.

One team is back at the baseline and one team is at the net. Your coach or one of the back players starts the point by lobbing to the net players. The lob feed should not be too tough or too easy. The net players cannot let the ball bounce either on the lob or the volleys. After the lob is hit, the point is live. The baseline players can do anything they want — lob, hit, go to the net, etc.

First team to five points wins, then everyone rotates (clockwise) one position and the game starts again. Rotating the positions gives the players practice from both halves of the court, which is important because of the differences in the angles.

This drill is a great way to just get completely comfortable with hitting overheads everywhere on the court. Even if you are a singles player, it gives you the repetitions and the variety of movement and positions on the court that you need. If you haven’t really developed an overhead, this game can be difficult at first because so many of the overheads are hit while moving back. Overall, though, it’s the best way I know of to develop those critical cross steps. You’ll know you are getting better when the team hitting the overheads starts to win the majority of the games. Tennis Holidays are a great way to make real progressions in your game, it is an intense week of learning new skills in the morning and putting them in to practise in the afternoons. Being able to play for 20 hours in one week means that you can really make changes in your game fast! Our Tennis Holidays our suitable for all levels whether you are a complete beginner through to county level players – everyone is welcome!

YOURS, YOURS !!!!!

Hi everyone and welcome to part 5 of our tennis crimes series, todays crime is again one we see all the time on our tennis holidays and focuses within the doubles game and really highlights the importance of communication. So here’s the scenario, you and your doubles partner have attacked the net. Your approach wasn’t fantastic and your tactically astute opponents have been able to guide the ball accurately down the middle causing confusion and disarray between you and your partner… and here comes the crime, both players shout “yours” and the ball sails down the middle of the court for an easy winner with both players unhappy at their partners lack of assertiveness.         So ask yourself these questions:
  1. What does your ready position look like?

  2. When should you be in the ready position?

The ready position is the foundation for almost all of your footwork when you are playing tennis. How you move around the tennis court in one way or another relates directly back to your ready position.

ready_position_pros_novak_djokovicA good ready position

  • You want your feet about shoulder width apart, or a little bit wider.
  • Your knees should be slightly bent and your weight should be on the balls of your feet, not the heels.
  • Your upper body should be relaxed, with your arms and the tennis racket out in front of your body.
  • Angle the head of your racket up a little bit.
  • It’s also important that your upper body should not be hunched over, bending forward. Your back should be straight so that with your legs bent it is almost like you are sitting in a chair.
  • Your eyes should be on your opponent and especially the tennis ball, not looking down at the tennis court.
  • Practically speaking, when you are in the ready position you want to be about a foot shorter than your normal height, which is a good athletic height.
“GET READY, STAY READY”Did you manage to read part 8 last week based on improving your smash we focused on talking about the importance of the unit turn. People seemed to really like it. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to have a read. In the part we are going to look at the next key element to improving your smash, your movement. The smash is an essential weapon in your arsenal since you are looking to spend the majority of your time at the net and closing the net down. Essential Elements The key to improving your overhead is understanding, learning, and practising a three essential elements:
  1. Unit turn
  2. Movement (footwork)
  3. The arm swing
In this blog post will will focus on your movement for the smash, the arm swing will be covered in part 10. Before I start discussing the movement, again I want to reiterate the necessity to learn and to use the continental grip around the net, on the serve, and on the overhead. The continental grip, along with a good unit turn as described next, is what allows greater racket acceleration and, therefore, ball speed. Movement Beyond the technical differences in the preparation, the biggest difference from the serve is that the player must move to the ball. How a player moves his/her feet to position themselves on any shot is key to achieving great success in your game. But on the overhead, the footwork is especially important and can be the difference between having no overhead and a having a very good one. On the groundstrokes, players with good hands can sometimes get away with bad movement and still make a decent shot. But the overhead is a different story. Unlike the serve, which is hit from the same position on the court every time, the ball on the overhead is moving toward your side of the court. You can hit an overhead from literally anywhere on your side of the net. The ball is also descending from a much greater height than the serve toss. This is important because as the ball drops, it accelerates due to gravity. For these reasons it is vital to be ready when the ball passes through the hitting zone. The ability to use Carioka (cross) and shuffle (side) are the keys to moving upward and back. These steps can also be used to move on diagonals across the court when the player needs to move sideways at the same time. If you want to maximize your ability to move on most overheads, do not rely only on shuffle steps alone. This is where most players make their first mistake.

Shuffling is an inefficient way of moving either forward or backward when needing to move over a greater distance. There are many instances where you will see a great player shuffle back or forward to hit an overhead, but usually it is on a ball where they have a lot of time, and/or not much movement either forward or back is required. They come into play on all the shots in the game at certain times. They are just especially critical on the overhead. Mastering the ability to rotate your body and then use these crossing steps will increase the distance you can cover – and your power on the overhead. The tough thing about gaining this ability is to be able to do it with the arms moving upwards into the air. Backward Movement The key to moving backward is to take a cross step backward with the front foot toward the baseline. So the front foot actually crosses over the rear foot in this first move. In many ways, the best way to practice this crossstep movement is without the ball. Put yourself into the turn position with your arms up and move backward with the front foot crossing in front of the rear foot. Keep practicing it until you can run at full speed and still feel secure in your balance. As you get more confident with this movement you can experiment with jumping from the back leg to make the upward motion more explosive. Most good players do this on most overheads because they are moving back at the time of the hit to deal with the lob attempts of opponents. Even on a bounce overhead, the crosscourt movement is usually crucial to getting into position quickly. Even when you get what seems like a relatively easy overhead, get into the habit of taking that initial backwards cross step. You will be amazed how fast and far back you can get using the correct footwork. Forward Movement The key to forward movement is similar to the backward movement. When they have any significant distance to cover, the players will use the cross step pattern. Now the first step is forward with the rear foot. The side on which the rear foot crosses the front foot depends on whether the player is moving forward to the left or right. When the player moves to the right and forward, the rear foot will cross to the right side of the front foot. When moving left and forward, the rear foot will cross to left side of the front foot. In each case, though, the rear foot is stepping towards the net. Sometimes there is a combination of cross stepping and shuffling after the cross step, depending how far or how fast the player has to move. But, most importantly, the first reaction with your feet is the key. The cross step is what facilitates and maintains the unit turn as a player moves to position for the lob. Tennis Holidays are a great way to make real progressions in your game, it is an intense week of learning new skills in the morning and putting them in to practise in the afternoons. Being able to play for 20 hours in one week means that you can really make changes in your game fast! Our Tennis Holidays our suitable for all levels whether you are a complete beginner through to county level players – everyone is welcome!

GET READY !!!!!

Hi everyone and welcome to part four of our tennis crimes blog. At active away cannot stress enough how strongly we feel about today’s blog.  Nothing frustrates me more as a tennis coach than seeing one of our players on our tennis holidays about to return a serve but actually looks like they are waiting for a bus. Ready-Position-Li-Na-Tennis-FixationThe “ready” position is the best way to prepare for an incoming ball, it allows you to be balanced but still allows room to be sharp and move dynamically either way, making it much more difficult for your opponent to cause damage with their strike. We see a few crimes committed relating to this on our tennis holidays. Firstly the ‘lock up and throw away the key’ crime is never being ready; racket down by your side and flat footed. You are simply fighting a losing battle if you aren’t ready for the ball. The second crime we see is almost as bad; the player that before the point is about to begin looks so sharp, so strong, so dynamic . However as soon as the point begins they fall back into the flat footed habits they had before just watching the game go past them. The ready position is not the only thing you need to do be ready, it’s simply the start of having a ready attitude. The work you do in between your shots is crucial in the quest to make every ball you hit the best it can possibly be. So ask yourself these questions:
  1. What does your ready position look like?

  2. When should you be in the ready position?

The ready position is the foundation for almost all of your footwork when you are playing tennis. How you move around the tennis court in one way or another relates directly back to your ready position.
 

ready_position_pros_novak_djokovicA good ready position

  • You want your feet about shoulder width apart, or a little bit wider.
  • Your knees should be slightly bent and your weight should be on the balls of your feet, not the heels.
  • Your upper body should be relaxed, with your arms and the tennis racket out in front of your body.
  • Angle the head of your racket up a little bit.
  • It’s also important that your upper body should not be hunched over, bending forward. Your back should be straight so that with your legs bent it is almost like you are sitting in a chair.
  • Your eyes should be on your opponent and especially the tennis ball, not looking down at the tennis court.
  • Practically speaking, when you are in the ready position you want to be about a foot shorter than your normal height, which is a good athletic height.
  “GET READY, STAY READY”

The ‘EASY’ Smash !!!!

Hi everyone and welcome to part three of our Tennis crimes Blog, I hope you are all enjoying them and getting the chance to practice guarding against committing the crimes!! We are going to start this weeks tennis crime by painting a really clear picture. You’ve hit a crushing forehand down the line allowing yourself to stride into the net ready to put away the inevitable ‘easy’ volley… however, here comes the problem, you’re playing against the most annoying player you can play, the dreaded “hacker”. He scrambles to the forehand and strikes the ball high in the sky… and in here lies the crime, its something we see time and time again on our tennis holidays, the net player has moved forward still looking proud of the previous forehand they hit but you forget to move, the ball goes high up above your head, somehow your feet suddenly feel like they are stuck in super glue and the rest of your body moves in slow motion. rogerfederer smashThen comes the crime, despite being in a terrible position we still try and hit the ball as hard as we possibly can, the ball (if indeed any contact is made) goes flying at 200mph over the back fence and bounces away down the road. So why do we see this happen so much on our tennis holidays, firstly we believe part of the problem is in the name! The name SMASH implies that we have to hit the ball as hard as we can, this simply isn’t true, a shot hit from overhead could have any tactical intention completely dependant on the ball you receive.  You could indeed be defending a ‘smash’. So here is a drill to help you with your overhead shots. Ask a friend/coach to hit a few balls to you that could be hit overhead, ask the player/coach to shout out “hit” or “catch” leaving it as late as they can, if you’re not in a good enough position to do be able to do both then you are not finding a good enough position to catch the ball in your left hand. This means you are probably not in a good enough position to be able to hit an effective consistent overhead.  Using the skills you learn in practice and implementing them into a match situation is the toughest thing to achieve in tennis. A variety of factors can hinder your performance such as nerves, tactics or lack of confidence. To combat this we have put together our top five tips to help you unlock your potential in those tough matches!
 

novak image 11. Working out your own and your opponents strengths and weaknesses

It is key to know your main strengths as a player so when you play a match you are then able to give yourself the best opportunity to use them e.g If your strength is your forehand you should be looking to use this shot as often as possible. As soon as you step on the court and begin warming up with your opponent you should be analysing their strengths and weaknesses. Once identified you can then use your shots to exploit their weaknesses and neutralise their strengths
 

novak wimbledon trophy2. Staying in the present mentality

In tennis it is easy to let your head drop when things are going badly. It is vital to remain positive at all time – focus on one point at a time and try to visualise yourself winning each point. Trying to remain positive will really help to raise your game and losing your PMA can cost you a match. If you lose a point its in the past, there is nothing you can do to effect it. If you think about the future your brain will run away with you. Focus on the here and now, stay positive and make SMART decisions.
 

novak bh prep3. Early Preparation

This is something that unlike most aspects of tennis you have full control over. Be prepared both on and off the court – off the court make sure you arrive on time to the match to enable a sufficient warm up both physically and mentally. On the court make sure you are recovering to an appropriate ready position and taking your racket back as early as possible.
 

djokovic_defend4. Shot Selection – Attack/Rally/Defend

Be SMART with your shot selection. Don’t rush for a winner, build the point and wait for your opportunities to arise in the point. Always play the percentages, when things aren’t going your way think of the basics – am I hitting the ball high enough over the net? Am I hitting with enough length
 

5. Playing younovak image 2r opponent mentally

In a match situation you need to be able to mentally ‘get inside’ your opponents mind to help influence how they play. You should then pounce on any mental frailties they exhibit – for example if they are struggling with their second serve you should then stand closer to the service line to apply further pressure. So next time you have a match and you find yourself struggling think back to these 5 points and ask yourself whether you are truthfully implementing them!

Having A Plan

Hi everyone and welcome again to part 2 on our ‘tennis crimes’ series.  On our tennis holidays I think back to what the most common request to improve people’s tennis is, while occasionally people would like to be able to send down a 150 mph rocket 1st serve or learn to craft a stunning slice backhand fizzing off the court, the overwhelming favourite request is “I’d like to be more consistent” or “I’d like to make less errors” both fantastic things to work on, if we as tennis players can achieve these then we will most definitely be collecting more points and winning more matches !!!

benjamin franklin

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail! – Benjamin Franklin”

 

andy-murray-image

So what does consistency really mean?

Well for us at active away it can mean a lot of things, I could in theory be consistent at hitting ‘lights out’ winners down the line, however in the long run its probably not a tactic that will pay off. So here’s the crime were going to be looking at today. On our tennis holidays you will often hear the coaches ask questions such as “what were you trying to do with that shot” and here comes the crime……….

“I have no idea what I was doing”

Well if we don’t know what we’re trying to do with the ball the likelihood is that it won’t be doing anything positive. This is often when we find he ball hitting the side fence or even when we start losing balls. So how do we plan what to do with the tennis ball? Firstly it goes without saying that this is a difficult skill that can take years of practice and repetition. There are an awful lot of factors that can influence what we want to do with the ball and we only have a split second to make the choice, but here are a few to consider.
  1. Where you are? Your court position will certainly have an influence on the type of shot you need to be hitting, are you too deep to attack? Are you too wide to go back cross court?

  2. Where is your opponent? Again a huge influence when planning your next shot. Are they out if position? Can I exploit the space?

  3. What are your strengths and their weaknesses? It’s such a simple tactic in tennis but under used, the amount of times on our tennis holidays we see forehand to forehand rallies, try and find times where you can use your strength to your opponents weakness!

  4. The ball you have received. Of course this is the biggest factor in our decision, is it spinning, is it fast, is it high?

Practice

Here’s a really simple drill to help you put this in to practice, split every shot you hit into one of three categories; Defend, Rally, Attack.
  1. Practise one: Rally with a partner and try to make a decision before you hit the ball. Call out either attack rally or defend using the above 4 questions to help influence your decision.

  2. Practice two: Can you play a point and say which tactical intention you have before you hit the ball?

  3. Practice three: Could you even play a whole set doing this?

andy murray image 1This will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses as well as improving your decision making process at the same time. In time this will become much more natural, of course Andy Murray doesn’t say “DEFEND” as he chased back to scrape a ball off the baseline but I can guarantee it was something he worked on extensively as a junior making him one of the best tactical players in the game. So remember on our tennis holidays. The coaches will be asking you “what were you trying to do with that all” if you answer with “I was trying to attack but It was the wrong choice” we can forgive you but if the answer is “I don’t know” you have committed a tennis crime! You’ve been warned….. We are watching you !!!!!  In the last blog post we talked about our 80/20 rule and ho it helps you maintain a good position, if you haven’t read it yet you can read it by clicking here. In this blog we are going to give you a few tips on how to move better at the net. This might surprise some people but its a fact: the key to tennis isn’t how well you hit the ball its how well you can move to enable you to hit the ball well. There are two types of movement at the net vertical (forward and backward) and lateral (side to side) today we are going to give you a few tips on how to improve your lateral movement with you partner. Imagine the situation: Situation 1: You have two players at the net (you and your partner) and two players at the back of the court:
  1. Be strong in the middle – to many times players leave a big gap down the middle because they are worried about being passed down the trams. Try to make sure you can reach across and tap each others rackets in one step. The majority of balls coming at you will come down the middle.
  2. Follow the line of the ball – Imagine you have a metal rod attached to both of you. If the ball goes to the player on the left you both move to the left, if it goes to the right you go to the right, you want to make sure that which ever direction you move one player moves to just inside their trams and their partner comes to just inside the centre line, try not to cross these lines.
  3. Use your advantage – If you are both right handed try to make sure if the ball comes down the middle the person with their forehand volley will take the shot.
  Situation 2: You have two players at the net (you and your partner) and one player up and one player at the back of the court:
  1. Follow the same principles as above, the only difference being that there wont be such large lateral movements to be made as the majority of volleys (except for when finishing the point) will be directed back to the baseliner.
  2. The principles are the same if you hit a good angled volley to the baseliner you both follow the ball wider, if you hit more down the middle you follow the ball back to a more central position at the net.
  Follow these three simple tips and I guarantee you that you will become impenetrable at the net, it will make it so much harder for your opponents to find gaps past you. I hope you enjoyed reading this and can take a few of these thoughts in to your next match. Tennis Holidays are a great way to make real progressions in your game, it is an intense week of learning new skills in the morning and putting them in to practise in the afternoons. Being able to play for 20 hours in one week means that you can really make changes in your game fast! Our Tennis Holidays our suitable for all levels whether you are a complete beginner through to county level players – everyone is welcome!

The Second Serve

Hi everyone and welcome to our Blog. If you have been on one of our tennis holidays you will have heard our coaches mention the dreaded ‘tennis crimes’! There are a few simple reminders that can help us all in our quest for a more consistent game. The first one we are going to talk about is the 2nd serve.

“you’re only as good as your second serve”

As the old saying goes “you’re only as good as your second serve”. If it’s weak it’s a huge opportunity for your opponent to feast upon it. Throw in a few double faults and you’re in big trouble. A solid, dependable second serve can get you out of tough situations and can even cause problems for opponents. A truly reliable second serve can allow you to enjoy the freedom of a fully aggressive first serve knowing that the trusty second serve is a rock solid back up. It really is a crucial area and the percentage of points won on the 2nd serve is a massive indicator of the match result. Roger Federer ServingSo let’s look at the crime being committed all too often on our tennis holidays. Firstly the second serve going in the net – it’s a lock up and throw away the key crime! Good flight over the net married with good spin can cause your opponent damage without risking the net. There is simply very little benefit to hitting it low over the net on a second serve – it’s an extremely high-risk strategy with a relatively low percentage reward. As tennis players on the quest for consistency, we are searching out situations where we can achieve low risk-high reward scenarios. The second serve is one such scenario.
Sharapova ServingThe stats don’t lie…. While none of the ‘big 4’ occupy the top 4 places in first serve percentage points won, they dominate the second serve percentage points won with Novak out in front. The Djokovic machine rarely makes unforced errors and many coaches and experts alike believe the key to Novak’s success is his second serve. A good second serve is almost always a spin serve. It just gives you  many more options and keeps your opponent guessing – the same way Sampras kept his opponents guessing. We must practice it guys – we now know how important this part of the game is. There is no need to be weak at the knees, trembling with every bounce of the ball – however do not neglect this area in your practice. Practice hitting targets with a good margin for error. Can you hit a second serve and make the second bounce go outside the court ? Maybe play a practice match or two only giving yourself one serve ! So…. Remember, the second serve is not our enemy it can be a great friend. Be aggressive but be aggressive with flight and spin !! If you’re on one of our holidays and we catch you hitting the net on the second serve you can expect a timely reminder that you are committing one of our most serious tennis crimes !!!! All the tennis coaches on the Active Away tennis holidays have been instructed to have their eyes on your second serves! You’ve been warned….. We are watching you !!!!!  Did you manage to read part 3? We focused on the importance of finding the right partner. People seemed to really like it. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to have a read. Now that you have found the right partner and worked on the first ball (serve and return), it’s time to talk about court positioning. There are three basic court positions for doubles: two up, two back and one up, one back.
 

Two Up

Two up doubles positionTwo up means that both players are positioned at the net. This is the best of the three because you are offensive and can cover most of the court from this configuration.The one wild card is the lob. Because there is nobody there to back you up, covering the lob can be tricky for the weekend warrior. You must learn to recognize the lob earlier by watching the opponent’s court position and racket face.For example, if you’ve come in behind a deep approach shot or hit a deep first volley and you see your opponent back up, odds are you will see a lob. Anticipation is the key to covering the lob effectively.
 

 Two Back

Two back doubles positionTwo back means that both players are positioned on the baseline. Although most of the court is covered and you do not have to worry about the lob, this is not considered as effective as two up because it is difficult to be offensive from the baseline in doubles. This configuration should be used if you are and your partner are not good volleyers, or at times when your opponents are moving a lot at the net and outplaying you from there. Then the best bet is to step back to make it more difficult for them to hit winners and to make sure you don’t go home with a bunch of bumps and bruises courtesy of the other team drilling you with the ball.
 

One Up – One Back

One up one back doubles positionOne up, one back means that one player is standing at the net while their teammate is on the baseline. This is the least desirable of the three configurations mainly because there is a big gap left open in the court right down the middle. As long as the ball stays in front of the player at the net, it is not as big a problem. But if the pattern switches and the ball is cross-court from the net player, then you are in trouble. It also makes poaching (the opponents net player crossing the middle of the court to intercept the ball) more effective because there is a big open target to hit to when the opponent gets the ball. Many times you will find yourself caught in a one up, one back situation. Don’t panic, it’s not the end of the world. But do try to get up to the net with your partner at the earliest opportunity to be more aggressive. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this because of the level of your volleys, then work on your volleys until you do feel comfortable. You will also find that the more often you move forward to the net, the easier it will become to see the lob coming before your opponent even makes contact with the ball. Tennis Holidays are a great way to make real progressions in your game, it is an intense week of learning new skills in the morning and putting them in to practise in the afternoons. Being able to play for 20 hours in one week means that you can really make changes in your game fast! Our Tennis Holidays our suitable for all levels whether you are a complete beginner through to county level players – everyone is welcome!Did you manage to read part 2 last week based on improving your slice serve? People seemed to really like it. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to have a read. In the Blog we are going to talking about the importance of finding the right partner. Now we might not all be lucky enough to have a sibling who also happens to play great tennis. The number one rule when playing doubles tennis is to find the right partner. Remember, this may not mean the best singles player, but someone who plays at the same or higher level and at the same time compliments your game.
I’ll tell you one big secret singles players don’t care about doubles. Double is for practice “Ernest Gulbis”
For example, if you are a good server and play well around the net, but have trouble breaking serve, find someone that returns serve well and can help you in that department.Conversely, if you return well but struggle to hold serve, playing with someone who likes to volley and moves well around the net may be the best choice to help you win your own serve and give you the best opportunity for success. Team Work Imagae It is also very important to find someone who is compatible from a personality standpoint. If you are the type of person that likes to be in control and call the shots, then playing with someone with similar characteristics may lead to friction. You should find someone who is more open to suggestion and will follow your lead. Dissension among partners is a very difficult obstacle to overcome mid-match, and I’m sure we’ve all seen matches where it boils over. It’s not pretty. At the same time, two players with more docile personalities may not work well together because there is no leader or decision maker.Play can become less cohesive and the energy on court can become flat.So finding the right partner for your game style and your personality is crucial. Tennis Holidays are a great way to make real progressions in your game, it is an intense week of learning new skills in the morning and putting them in to practise in the afternoons. Being able to play for 20 hours in one week means that you can really make changes in your game fast! Our Tennis Holidays our suitable for all levels whether you are a complete beginner through to county level players – everyone is welcome!Did you manage to read part 1 last week based all about the first ball we focused on talking about the importance of the serve and return. People seemed to really like it. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to have a read. Learning to hit an effective slice tennis serve may be tough its its something new for you but it is definitely worth pursuing this skill. Here are our seven top tips to get you started on hitting a perfect wide slice to the deuce side.
  1. Position yourself more to the right of the middle to have a better angle. You can even stand half-way between the middle and the sideline.
  2. Use a continental/chopper grip (or at least move round towards this if you are not comfortable with being in a completely chopper grip) so that you will impart slice naturally.
  3. Toss the ball in front and little to the right. Experiment to find the right place without losing balance when you serve.
  4. Imagine cutting round the side of the ball
  5. Continue your movement forward with the edge of the racket going forward – a kind of karate chop at he ball. Again, hit many serves to refine this feel.
  6. Rotate your shoulders and finally face with your body towards the target. If you end up facing straight ahead then it’s hard to steer the ball left.
  7. Practice, practice, practice.
I once coached a player from whose groundstrokes and volleys were pretty average for his level of play, but his serve was exceptional. I asked him where he learned the serve, who coached him, how did he practice and so on. He said he just served every day for an additional hour following his regular practice. No coach, no drills, just trying to serve more accurately and faster. I hope you enjoyed reading this and can take a few of these thoughts in to your next match. Tennis Holidays are a great way to make real progressions in your game, it is an intense week of learning new skills in the morning and putting them in to practise in the afternoons. Being able to play for 20 hours in one week means that you can really make changes in your game fast! Our Tennis Holidays our suitable for all levels whether you are a complete beginner through to county level players – everyone is welcome!The most important part of doubles play is the first ball. The serve and return in doubles are the keys to success, and how you play these first balls will decide your fate. Our Tennis Holiday’s focus predominantly on doubles play, looking at key areas that you can take back to your club and make a real impact in your club matches. When serving, having a high first-serve percentage is essential to holding serve. You will have better results taking a little pace off the serve and serving 70 percent with less aces or service winners than you will serving 40 percent with 10 aces and 10 winners. More: In Next Edition of Tennis Holiday KIS Coaching We Will Be Looking At Developing Your Slice Serve This is because of the mentality of the returner. On the first serve return, a returner is not looking to be as aggressive or offensive. So even when they are not seeing huge first serves, they are more likely to just put the ball in play and less likely to actually do something with it. This means you are starting on offence 70 percent of the time when serving a high percentage, rather than 40 percent of the time when you are going for the big bomb. The thought process of the returner will change, whether consciously or subconsciously, when receiving a second serve. Now the opponent is looking to do damage with the return and begin to attack themselves. This means trouble if your opponent has a decent return! When receiving, the biggest mistake I see is players trying to do too much with the return. This is a singles player mentality and must change when playing doubles I hope you enjoyed reading this and can take a few of these thoughts in to your next match. Tennis Holidays are a great way to make real progressions in your game, it is an intense week of learning new skills in the morning and putting them in to practise in the afternoons. Being able to play for 20 hours in one week means that you can really make changes in your game fast! Our Tennis Holidays our suitable for all levels whether you are a complete beginner through to county level players – everyone is welcome!  We have had a busy time recently out in Turkey meeting loads of fantastic new people as well as seeing lots of friends that have been away with us previously. Today I am going to give you a few tips on how you can improve your set up. First of all we have to define what I mean when I talk about set up. The set up is a combination of your grip, the preparation of the swing, the movement to the ball and the position of your feet at contact. As you can see there are already four different teaching points within this one area of our coaching process and if you cast your mind back to the previous email we talked about how important it is to work on one teaching point at a time – work out what comes first” I would use the below as a guide as to what you should be working on first:
  1. Using an appropriate grip
  2. The preparatory phase  – turn of the shoulders and begin your movement to the ball
  3. Using an appropriate stance at contact
As well as all of the above, you also need to be able to read the ball effectively to help you maintain a consistent contact point as without this you won’t be able to maintain your balance once you are set up…this is the old “chicken and egg” conundrum. We need to be in a good position with a strong set up but in order to do this, you need to be able to read the ball effectively. We will be talking about developing your ability to read the ball in the 4th instalment of How to Win More Points. For the rest of this article we will be discussing how to find an appropriate forehand grip for you; I have focused on the forehand as this is an area where there are many people doing many different things and you have to find out what works for you.  

The Forehand Grip

You will not be pleased to hear this but there is no one answer nor one correct grip; there is simply just finding a grip that works for you. When talking about various grips on the forehand there is always a trade off between power and spin/control. The further round you go on the grip the harder you find it to generate power but ieasier to generate more spin and therefore more control. Over the last 20 to 30 years players have evolved from relatively defensive players into athletic, physically dominant baseline players who also have all court capabilities. Part of this evolution has been the technical development of more powerful, whipping, heavy-spin, but versatile forehands. These forehands have allowed players to continue to defend unbelievably well, but also attack with aggression and force. Rafa Nadal’s forehand—one of the best weapons in the modern game– is the epitome of this trend. Although Nadal is famous for his relatively extreme grip, I believe that a Rafa style forehand can actually be built with a range of grips, ranging anywhere between a strong eastern (bevel 3-4) and an extreme semi-western (Bevel 4-5). grips image The result of this incredible shot comes from a combination of the speed of the racket and the path of the racket through the shot – more on this in future articles. An example of a strong eastern is Roger Federer’s grip, with the index knuckle between the third and fourth bevel. An extreme semi-western is Rafa’s grip, with the index knuckle between the fourth and fifth bevel. grips image 1 Most, if not all modern pros, have grips in the same range as discussed above. This is one reason why players have very versatile forehands and can transition to fast court play more effectively than in past decades. It is a common mistake to call Rafa’s forehand grip a full western or extreme western, with the palm of the handle completely under the grip. This is inaccurate, it is a simply a myth that top pros use a western grip to hit big, heavy, whipping forehands. I would always suggest using a forehand grip in this range and ideally a strong eastern grip (Roger Federer’s) as this gives you a great combination of power and spin. I have covered a lot of information in this article, although bear in mind I have really drilled down in to what comes first. I have been talking about developing your set up of your shot; the first element being the grip and in particular the forehand grip with an aim for you to become more consistent from the back of the court and help you win more points. I have concentrated each article on one teaching point to help keep you focused. Remember to focus on improving “what comes first” – always ask yourself if you are working on improving the most appropriate point for you and where you are on your tennis journey or are you jumping ahead down the coaching process. I look forward to seeing you soon working on these in person on one of our holidays. Dates are now live on the site click here to have a look for 2014. All the best, Matt. Matt Allen profile picActive Away Blog March – Flying Travel Tips! I’m currently onboard an Easyjet flight to Sofia – heading out to Bansko for our Skiing weeks. After many years of flying, both long and short haul, I’ve found there’s certain things I do to help make my journey a little easier, and wanted to share those with you. Flying has definitely become far less glamorous than in say the 70’s or 80’s with the general consensus of Airlines being ‘low cost, ontime, no frills.’ This allows much more of the population to venture abroad than before, something that I believe is fantastic! I’ve outlined 10 of my ‘top flying travel tips’  below… 1) Purchase a ‘1 Size Fits All’ carry on bag! Many airlines (including BA) offer ‘hand baggage only fares.’ This means that when booking, the price excludes a check in bag/suitcase (normally around 20kg) and you will be charged extra for this. Fortunately when travelling with Active Away, this is included in the price of your holiday! However if you are flying short haul quite a lot, you can take advantages of some cheap fares by packing everything you need in your carry on bag and saves you paying for a bag which is normally around £50. N.B. Buy a carry on that can be accepted in by all Airlines – sizes do differ from Airline to Airline, I would personally recommend the: Stratic Suitcase Agravic, which is currently able to fit in every hand baggage allowence. 2) Check in Online An obvious one that will save you time at the airport is to check in online. All you require is your ‘booking reference number’ and surname, enter these on the airlines website and simply follow the steps. Some airlines, for example Easyjet require you to check in online before you travel. 3) Mobile Boarding Passes I love my iPhone, and am a big Apple geek, and keep discovering it’s capabilities! With the latest iPhone software, inbuilt is an app called ‘Passbook’ which allows you to save your boarding pass to your phone. I hate being unorganized and having loads of paper in my pockets. Most airlines now offer a service whereby you can download your boarding pass to your phone, and simply use that at the airport to scan and board with. I find it really handy, as I have actually ended up loaing my boarding card before, and you can also keep a record of your trips! 4) Give yourself time! I find airports intriguing and also strangely productive. I don’t like to be rushed, so tend to give myself time to grab a coffee and do some work on the laptop. You may find there are long queues at security or at the check in desk, so allow for this! 5) Use public transport to get to the airport! Most airports in Britain now have a pretty good transport link to the nearest city. With parking prices consistently increasing, I find travelling to the airport on the train a very relaxing and cheap experience. I ‘persuade’ a family member/friend to provide a 10 minute drive to Sheffield train station, where I can catch my train directly to Manchester Airport, all for £17.50 return, with a reserved seat and no stress of driving! 6) Join the Rewards Club/Airmiles I tend to travel on British Airways and Emirates fairly regularly and am a member of both of their rewards schemes (free to join). Everytime you travel just remember to claim your miles, and before you know it you’ll have a free upgrade! British Airways is known as one of the most generous rewards schemes with their ‘Avios’ system. 7) Ask the question + Be polite! Being 6 foot 2, sometimes it’s nice to have a little extra legroom on the flight! I always speak to the person at the check in counter and see if they have extra legroom available (for free). I would guesstimate the success rate to be around 50% and has provided me with a little more comfort! Ask the cabin crew again when you are on the plane, as if the extra leg room seats aren’t sold they will often tell you that you are able to take the seat after takeoff. The amount of times I’ve seen customers be rude to try and get around a situation (delays/cancellation/seat change etc) astonishes me. The chances are you aren’t going to change things anyway, so being rude is going to get you nowhere! 8) Bring Entertainment! Yes, if you are travelling on your own, flights can be monotonous and boring, so do bring some kind of multimedia device. Ipads/Mp3 players/Laptops can save you from boredom! Alternatively if you are travelling with friends discuss your upcoming trip! 9) Food/Drink Accept that you will pay more! I like to eat well before I get to the Airport, as I know that the chances are if I find I require a snack I end up out of pocket! My personal highlights were paying £3.50 for a bottle of water in Amsterdam Airport, and a slice of Pizza at Dalaman Airport for £8.00! 10) Airport Security This is a point of frustration for me – I’m the person that always gets their bag searched and gets frisked! Be prepared – you know you have to take your laptop out of your bag, your belt off, and your coat/jacket off  – so do it before you get to the desk! If everyone was to do this, Airport security would move a lot faster (even if they do frisk me!)   I hope you enjoyed my tips! If you have any questions please feel free to email me: josh@activeaway.com   Look forward to seeing you on a flight soon! Josh Thompson