3 Things We Can Learn Watching Wimbledon
As tennis players and fans, July is always one of the best months of the year. Warm weather at home, and the biggest tournament of the year on TV; The Wimbledon Championships. Undoubtably this is when you talk about tennis with your friends and family who might not normally be in the loop, because Wimbledon is always just a little bit bigger. As we head into the second week, let's take a look at three things we can learn from the pros when they play on grass.
Master the Slice
Underspin is so important when playing on grass, or any fast surface, because of how low the ball stays to the ground. That forces opponents to get low and hit up on the ball themselves, which either neutralizes the rally, or can force errors. A lot of club players struggle with the slice because they try to impart the backspin by hitting down on the ball. While it's true that you will have a slightly downward strike on the ball, spin on the slice comes from just a slightly open racquet face and a forward motion. The "chop" down will create a lot of spin, but the ball will float and actually bounce very high. Watch the matches this week and see how forward the pros swing through the slice to get it going through the court. For more tips, check out this video from Scott McCulloch. Short and Sweet Take-backs
The faster the ball comes in, the less time we have as players to take a full backswing. At Wimbledon more than any other tournament, you'll see players take a much shorter backswing than usual. This allows them to time the ball better when it comes off the grass. On a slower surface like clay, large backswings are okay, but on grass, you have to be able to have a compact take-back. As non pros, what you can learn here is that shorter swings often lead to better contact - it's pretty wild how big of a difference it makes just by hitting the ball closer to the center of the racquet. It's also important to note that just because a swing is shorter, does not mean it is slower! You have to accelerate through the shot no matter what. If you're struggling with off-center strikes or maybe even a few shanks, try to make the swing shorter and focus on clean contact. Court Positioning is King
I love looking at the wear marks on the grass as the tournament rolls on. Check out the image below. Grass is the fastest and lowest bouncing surface on tour, and yet we still see wear marks becoming clear up to 8 feet behind the baseline. The biggest tip here is that when you play at home, whether is singles or doubles, give yourself a few feet of space behind the baseline. So many of our campers stand right on top of the baseline - while it's great to take the ball early, it's also very difficult to time and you can get burned by a good shot from your opponent. The real key is to adjust your court positioning after every shot you hit. Here's a very basic guide to try: You hit a good or great shot --> Move two steps forward You hit an average or pretty good shot --> Hold your position You hit a soft, short or poor shot --> Move two steps back
Anticipation is everything at the higher levels of tennis, and the more you can improve that aspect of your game, the better your movement and court positioning will be.