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Using the Classic Closed Stance Technique


▌ © C. Tom Harton 1991-2011 ▐

The classic tennis topspin forehand groundstroke is an intricate blend of well timed movements. Here is a body-movement description which is accurate and a touch humorous at the same time …

Starting from a momentary position of readiness – the “ready position” - as the moving ball approaches your body,

  1. You first need to track the ball as precisely as possible, calculating its speed, trajectory (direction) and bounce (spin).

  2. Immediately you need to move your entire body to an optimal spot, either forward, backward, and/or sideways to the right or left, so that the ball arrives at your best hitting zone – an area where the oncoming ball will reach you near your waist level.

  3. As soon as you reach that spot, you need to set up for your stroke, which mean momentarily adjusting your body in preparation for hitting the ball.

  4. You need to bend your knees, move your front foot* forward toward the ball while pivoting on your rear foot, and coil your torso (*when using a closed stance forehand you step forward with your non-dominant arm’s side)

  5. You then need to move your racket arm in an upward-backward-and-downward backswing loop, rotating your shoulders,

  6. You need to bend your elbow, while bending your wrist back into a fixed position, so that the butt of your racket handle is momentarily aimed at your target area

  7. You need to tighten your hand on the grip, and drop your racket head at the bottom of your loop about a foot below the anticipated contact point, which is about waist high and near your front foot,

  8. Then you need to accelerate your racket forward in an upward path from low to high while uncoiling your hips, and moving your body weight forward as you swing until you contact the ball.

  9. After your racket face brushes up the back of the ball, you should continue the upward movement of the racket, following through high with your racket head above your chin level to end the stroke.

All of this needs to be accomplished with more-or-less exact timing in a symphony of continuous coordinated movements. Add to this, complicating elements such as wind, sunlight or night lights in your eyes, and a veritable host of sensory / mental distractions. Woahhh. Not an real easy thing to learn, much less to do repetitively in a series of near-identical mechanical “muscle-memory” repetitions!

Now you might better understand why it’s difficult to learn the classic forehand topspin stroke and why it takes hundreds of practice strokes. Nevertheless, many, many thousands of people have learned how to do it extremely well, and you can too, if you have sufficient motivation and patience with yourself. This is where a tennis instructor comes in. Me, for instance.

[6B-Anatomy of a Topspin Forehand by TennisTom] [Revised 3-17-11]

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