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Having a strong serve means more than just hitting aces.

Most players think of the serve as a power shot. But that's shortsighted. Sure, hitting aces and service winners are desirable results, but it's not realistic to rely on such shots. To be an effective server, you need to learn to use your serve in an offensive way to construct a point. It's a different philosophy from trying to serve your opponent off the court. To me, there's a subtle art to moving your serve around to different parts of the box and mixing up your pace and spin so you can be aggressive from your first shot. It's using your serve as a setup shot rather than a finisher. Here's how to get it done. BEGINNER

OBJECTIVE: Develop a consistent toss and learn the slice.

When you're starting out, learning to hit different locations on a regular basis starts with a consistent ball toss. If your toss is regularly in the right spot, you can get away with some idiosyncrasies in your motion. Your first goal should be to keep the toss out in front of your body-just about in line with your hitting shoulder- and make contact at full extension. Once you can control the toss, concentrate on placing the serve. The slice out wide is an effective delivery to add to your game. For a right-handed player this means using that serve in the deuce court (ad side for lefties) and dragging your opponent into the doubles alley. Toss the ball around 1 o'clock (11 o'clock for lefties) and hit the right outside edge to create slice. The spin naturally pulls the ball off the court. If you're successful with this serve, you'll have a great one-two punch: go out wide, then hit into the open court. Forcing a beginner to hit on the move will win you many points. Again, this is a setup shot rather than a power serve. Also, remember that you want to be on the baseline or inside it after your serve to respond to a potentially weak reply. Don't serve and back up. Once you know that your slice is well-placed, make sure you're in an offensive position so you can take advantage of it. INTERMEDIATE

OBJECTIVE: Incorporate more power sources and move your serves around.

Things can get a little complicated at this stage. Although you don't want to adopt a pure-power mindset, to be effective you do need to put some pace on the ball. But you have to balance that with consistency and accuracy. At the beginner level, players tend to rely mostly on their arms to get power on the ball. Now you have to start using more of your body and incorporating big muscle groups into your motion. Start with shoulder rotation. Turn away from your opponent during your backswing and uncoil toward your target as you move your racquet to contact. Then try to focus on getting your legs to drive you up and into the court. Tapping into more power sources while maintaining the fundamental mechanics of the service motion will give you controllable and consistent power.

As your serve develops, so should your tactics. Diversifying your locations will keep your opponents off-guard and open up opportunities on your second ball. Serve and volley occasionally, or, if you've started to use one, hit a kick

on your first serve up high to your opponent's backhand- these plays will disrupt his return rhythm. And when you get to a big point, it's a smart play to serve to your opponent's more vulnerable side, as this will put pressure on him to come up with a big reply. ADVANCED

OBJECTIVE: Set up your strengths and practice hitting to locations.

Ironically, sometimes serving at advanced levels can require less thought than serving at other stages of development. If you're a pure server with a huge delivery, many times you can rely on that skill to overpower your opponents. They know what's coming, but it's tough for them to do anything about it. Still, there aren't many rec players with this ability, so I think it's important to structure a strategy that plays to your strengths. For instance, let's say you have a formidable forehand that you like to use to control rallies. A good, hard serve up the middle or into the body in the deuce court is a difficult shot for your opponent to pull back toward your backhand. You now have an opportunity to step around the ball and hit your favorite shot. Using a high-bouncing kick out wide in the ad court is another way to set up the forehand. But beware of your location on wide serves. Whereas beginners often have trouble with this serve, if you give advanced players a lot of angle and don't put them on the defensive, they'll hurt you with the return. In other words, placement, more than pace, is key.

Much of your success will revolve around hitting spots with your serve. If you can't do that at this level, your opponents are going to zero in on your serves and take advantage of your inconsistency. Practicing your location by setting up targets wide, into the body, and down the T is a reliable method for improving the accuracy of your serves. Make sure you can hit different spins to each location, too. Just like a pitcher in Baseball, you wA big forehand can help you climb to the top of the club ladder. To hit the runaround forehand, remember to backpedal quickly and keep your racquet up high as you move into position. Once there, be sure to swing out and give the ball a ride.

Adding a weapon, no matter what the stroke, can significantly elevate your game. When you have a shot that you can use to dictate points and that your opponent is afraid of, you're going to win a lot of matches. One of the best shots to develop, and possibly the easiest, is a dominating forehand. The first step in this development is to learn to hit the runaround forehand. That's where you move into position to crack a forehand from your backhand side. So if you're right-handed, you're hitting your forehand while standing in the ad court. The one thing you must do when hitting a runaround forehand is give it a ride. You're leaving a lot of room open on your forehand side, so you can't be passive with this ball. Too many players push this shot and get burned. I know from experience because I used to do that myself. Here's one good drill, which I used to do often with Andy Roddick: Have someone feed you a series of four to six floating balls that land several feet from the singles sideline on your backhand side. Run around your backhand, smack the forehand hard, and move back to the center. Make sure that as soon as you've hit the forehand you slam on the brakes and work your way back to the middle. Remember to move your feet quickly and keep your racquet up as you get into position. Players tend to go inside-out with the runaround forehand because the net is lower going crosscourt, there's a bigger target area to hit into, and it's generally to an opponent's backhand. But don't neglect the down-the-line forehand from this position. Practice both shots so you don't get predictable. Once you can rip five to six penetrating runaround forehands in a row, then you can progress to the next step. When you're successful with the runaround forehand, you can catch your opponent by surprise and get a short ball out of it, so you must learn how to move up and take advantage of this by hitting the next forehand with direction and purpose. Have your coach or partner feed dozens of short balls that you can drive from inside the court. I remember seeing Jim Courier practice once when he was No. 1 in the world. He hit nothing but short forehands because that was his money shot. If you want to feel confident about finishing points with your forehand, that's what you have to do. You won't turn your forehand into a hammer overnight. I'm still working on it, and I'm 43. But if you're patient and dedicated, it's one of those shots that, with some simple practice, can eventually bring you huge dividends. The best way to practice your runaround forehand is to stand in the center of the court and have a practice partner feed a series of soft floating balls to your backhand side. Move into position and rip the ball inside-out or down the line. ant to be able to spot the ball with each of your serves to keep the returner guessing. An effective slice can add some much-needed variety to your game. In today's game, and you see it all the time at the professional leve, players are most comfortable when they're in a routine of hammering balls back and forth. They like to exchange shots hit from their strike zones, which is between thigh and chest height, and use some degree of topspin on a majority of shots. You can be successful playing this style, but it makes your game pretty predictable. If you work a dependable slice into your repertoire, though, you'll add some variety to your attack.

A slice is effective for many reasons. If you're stretched wide, the slice can be a safe, defensive shot that will get you back in the point. When hit as a rally ball, the backspin slows the pace of the shot and keeps the ball low and out of your opponent's strike zone. And when you're inside the court, you can be more aggressive with the slice by driving a deep, low, skidding shot that you can follow to net. It's also the spin you need to be successful with volleys and drop shots. Here's a quick lesson on the slice for all skill levels. BEGINNER OBJECTIVE: Learn the proper swing path and keep your wrist firm.

When players first learn the slice, they sometimes start by drastically swinging down on the ball. Although the basic motion is from high to low (opposite of the low to high you're first taught for your ground strokes) and back to high, it's actually fairly subtle. If you hack down severely on the ball, you may put a great deal of underspin on it, but the resulting shot will float and have little pace, penetration, or consistency. You never want to lose that feeling of hitting through the ball. The other thing to stress is keeping your wrist firm. Many players snap or flip their wrists, trying to get pace and spin on the ball, and end up suffering the same problems as those who chop down when they swing. For a penetrating slice, use a swing that moves gradually from high to low and back to high. This way you hit through the ball instead of chopping at it. In fact, the swing path of the slice is almost parallel to the court. One way to think of the motion is to compare it to that of a karate chop. You start with your arm bent, and you straighten it out toward contact with a gradual reduction from high to low, keeping a slightly open racquet face. That way you're still driving the racquet through contact. INTERMEDIATEOBJECTIVE: Incorporate your bigger muscles into the shot and learn to cup the ball.

Players who use their whole bodies when they swing are generally more consistent with their strokes. Take the serve as an example: A player who gets good body rotation and uses his shoulders and legs is going to have a more effective serve than someone who just uses his arm. Using the big muscle groups will sustain consistency for the course of the match, whereas using only the smaller ones will cause fatigue (which will lead to inconsistency). With the slice, it's no different. To better control the ball's flight path and add pace to your slice, cup the outside edge of the ball. If you cup the inside, the ball will float with sidespin. At this point in your development, you understand the proper swing plane of the slice. You can repeatedly use good technique, but if you're relying on your arm and hand to power the shot, your slice will never have adequate bite or penetration, and late in a match, when you get tired, it could break down. So stepping into the slice with your legs and stretching your arms out (with your hitting arm moving toward the contact point and your off arm behind you) will involve your quads, chest, and back-your best power sources. Besides using your whole body to hit the slice, you also need to have good feel and control. That's where "cupping" the ball begins to become important. When you cup the ball, you cut under and around the outside edge of it. If you're a right-hander, you're trying to cup the left corner of the ball (the opposite corner for lefties). This helps control the flight path and adds zip to the shot.

If you hit the inside part of the ball, that means your wrist is ahead of the racquet face, which will result in more sidespin than backspin on the shot. It takes great talent to control this type of slice because the ball has a tendency to sail. Cupping the outside of the ball is a much more reliable technique. ADVANCEDOBJECTIVE: Develop your shot awareness and begin to use your slice as a weapon.

As I've mentioned, slice affords a player variety because there are several different ways in which you can hit it. At this level, you can call upon all your options, and understanding your positioning and status in the point will help you determine which slice to use. For example, being on the dead run and far behind the baseline would call for a defensive slice. In an even backhand rally from the baseline, you may choose to use the slice as a change of pace to throw your opponent off. And inside the court, you can move forward and use your slice to attack. This is what I call shot awareness- having a clear grasp of what's coming at you and what shot to use in response. From this perspective, you can use your slice to create openings by getting your opponent out of position. For example, if you're in a backhand crosscourt rally and you get a ball that lands short, hit a deep, skidding slice down the line to open up the court. Or from the same position you can carve a short, sharp angle that forces your opponent up and wide into an uncomfortable position- almost like a drop shot, but with more pace and less arc. If your opponent has to attack off that, you'll have a good look at a passing shot. And if he tries to retreat to the baseline, you'll have an opening on his forehand side. Players with versatile slices, like Roger Federer and Tim Henman, often use this tactic against clay-courters who are leery of coming to net. During a backhand rally, a sharply angled slice can throw off your opponent's rhythm by drawing him off the baseline and wide of the court. Whether you play singles or doubles, here's a drill that will improve your return of serve. Most players spend plenty of time working on their games by doing various drills to develop their strokes or simulate point play. Yet for some reason one of the most crucial shots in the game, the return of serve, is largely neglected. When I ask my students how often they practice the return of serve, they usually admit that they only hit returns during matches. But to improve as a player, in either singles or doubles, it's vital to spend time working on your return. Often I would spend my entire practice time trying to perfect it. Here's an easy way to hone your return for whichever game you prefer to play:

For singles, practice your return of serve to these four spots:

1. Deep down the line

2. Deep crosscourt

3. Short down the line

4. Short crosscourt SINGLES:

Start on the deuce side and have your practice partner hit serves to your forehand. Hit each of the following four returns, not moving onto the next one until you successfully make the shot: (1) deep down the line, (2) deep crosscourt, (3) short down the line, and (4) short crosscourt. After completing the series, repeat it at least one more time. You can implement variations such as hitting hard drives, soft spins, and high or low shots over the net. Then do the same returns on your backhand side. Once you complete at least two turns with the backhand, move over to the ad court and start over there. DOUBLES:

Have your partner serve to you on the side you normally play. Start with the forehand crosscourt return. Your target should be your opponent's service line. Hit at least five solid returns and then move on to the backhand return. Next, have your partner serve to your forehand again, but this time hit the return down the line. Again, you're looking to hit a minimum of five good returns. Then switch to your backhand down the line. You can also add variations, such as the lob return and the chip and charge. Perhaps you've played against someone who doesn't hit the ball hard but nonetheless makes you feel more hurried than normal. That's the effect of your opponent hitting on the rise. Most players hit their ground strokes when the ball is descending. That's because the longer you wait to hit the ball, the more it slows down, making it easier to time your point of contact. But the downside is you give your opponent more time to prepare. And by choosing to hit the ball farther back along its flight path, you have to position yourself deeper in the court, which means you'll need to work harder to get your return deep. By contrast, players who hit on the rise give their opponents less time to react to their shots because the ball comes back sooner and has less distance to travel. Although it's a relatively advanced way of striking the ball, intermediate players should practice hitting on the rise, especially off less challenging shots and particularly on their stronger side. One easy way to practice this skill is to hit against a backboard. Playing smart doubles is about trying to gain good court position and control the net. Yet many recreational doubles players unwittingly hinder their teams by standing near the alley as their partners serve. Although this might prevent you from getting burned down the line, it also makes it more difficult for you to intercept the most common return (the one down the middle), while at the same time making it easier for the returner to execute the crosscourt return. Also, by standing near the alley you leave your serving partner to cover the equivalent of an entire singles court. This may result in your partner having to hit volleys from difficult positions, and the opposing net player will be there to pick off all but his best shots. The smart choice is to place yourself in the position that increases your chances of having a play on the most common shots. When your partner is serving, stand smack in the middle of the service box. This is the right location because it puts you in good position to volley weak returns, poach, cover lobs, and handle all but the best returns directed down the line. ou can improve your volleys and passing shots with this tough 2-on-1 drill Patience isn't necessarily a quality one associates with doubles. There's usually an urgency to go for your shots to try to make something positive happen. Yet when you're playing against two opponents who cover the net well, it's not wise to try for too much on your passing shots. You're better off hitting with more placement and less pace to create a bigger opening in the court. Otherwise you'll have to go for high-risk, low-percentage passes, which generally result in more errors than winners. Remember, two good shots accomplish the same thing as one great shot, but with much less risk. Practicing something I call the "Five Misses Drill" is a fun and competitive way to improve your passing shots in doubles matches. The objective of the Five Misses Drill is for the baseliner to create an opening in the court so he can hit a clean winner past the net players. Put one player on the baseline and two others at net on the opposing side (being short a fourth person means more exercise for everyone). One of the players at net feeds a ball to the baseliner and the point is played out. The baseliner scores one "miss" for each point that he loses. If the net players, who are both working on their volleys, miss a shot, it doesn't count as anything. But if the baseliner hits a clean winner (a shot that neither net player can get a racquet on), his miss count resets to zero. Once the baseliner gets to five misses, the players rotate. This not only teaches the baseliner to stretch his opponents out to open up passing lanes, but also not to rush the point--or the errors will pile up quickly.

Fluid, powerful, and accurate strokes are the combination of many factors. But it all starts with how you hold the racquet.

No matter how much time you spend finding the perfect frame to beef up your game, the most important part of your racquet just might be your grip-not what the handle is made of, but how you hold it. Although they're largely overlooked, grips are the foundation of all the strokes in tennis. Where you position your hand on the eight-sided handle has a huge impact on each ball you hit. Your grip affects the angle of the racquet face, where you make contact, and ultimately the pace, spin, and placement of your shot. The difficulty with grips is choosing the right one for a particular stroke. The fact is, there is no perfect grip; each has its advantages and limitations. But some are clearly better-suited for certain strokes and styles of play than others. This guide will help you to (1) learn to grasp the racquet for each grip correctly, and (2) determine the best uses of each of the common grips. FINDING THE GRIPS

There are various ways to explain how to find a certain grip, but the simplest and most reliable is to use the base knuckle of your index finger as the main reference point. The diagrams for each grip show the bottom view of a racquet handle (where the butt cap is attached), which has four main sides and four narrower bevels between the sides. CONTINENTAL GRIP The Continental is the one grip that you can use for every shot, but that hasn't been standard practice since the days of long pants and skirts. The Continental is used primarily for serves, volleys, overheads, slices, and defensive shots. Find the Continental by putting the base knuckle of your index finger on bevel No. 1, which puts the V created by your thumb and forefinger on top of the handle. Lefties put the knuckle on bevel No. 4. PLUS:

Hitting with the Continental grip on the serve and overhead is standard, as it allows your forearm and wrist to naturally pronate through contact. This results in a more explosive and versatile shot with the least amount of stress on the arm. It's also the preferred grip on volleys since it provides a slightly open racquet face for underspin and control. Since you need quick hands at net, having the same grip for forehand and backhand volleys is also crucial. As mentioned, your grip affects the angle of the racquet face. The more closed the face, the higher and farther in front of your body your strike zone should be for proper contact. Since the racquet face is relatively square on a Continental grip, for ground strokes the strike zone is low and to the side of the body. That's why it's helpful for defensive shots, low balls, and wide balls that you're late on. MINUS:

You can hit flat or with slice using the Continental, but it's tough to put topspin on the ball. That means hitting with power and keeping the ball in play requires you to aim the shot just above net level, leaving you little margin for error. And without that safety spin, returning a ball out of your strike zone can be difficult. So lack of consistency is often a problem.

PROS WHO USE IT:

Virtually all of them, on serves and volleys.

EASTERN FOREHAND GRIP Place your hand flat against the strings and slide it down to the grip; put the racquet flat on a table, close your eyes, and pick it up; or shake hands with the racquet. These are just a few of the tricks you can use to find an Eastern forehand grip. The more technical way is to hold the racquet in a Continental grip and then turn your hand clockwise (counterclockwise for lefties), so that the base knuckle of your index finger slides over one bevel. PLUS:

This is generally considered the easiest grip for learning the forehand. It's versatile, allowing the player to brush up the back of the ball for topspin or flatten out the shot for more power and penetration. It's easy to switch quickly to other grips from the Eastern, making it a wise choice for players who like to come to net. MINUS:

The strike zone is higher and farther out in front than with the Continental grip, but it's still not a great option for returning high shots. An Eastern forehand can be very powerful and penetrating, but because it tends to be a flatter stroke it can also be inconsistent, making it difficult to sustain in long rallies. It's not the best choice for players looking to put a lot of topspin on their shots and outlast their opponents. PROS WHO USE IT:

Tim Henman, Lindsay Davenport SEMI-WESTERN FOREHAND GRIPMoving your knuckle one more bevel clockwise (counterclockwise for lefties) from the Eastern forehand grip puts you in a semi-Western grip. This has become a prevalent grip for power baseliners on the pro tours, and many teaching pros encourage their students to use it. PLUS:

The semi-Western allows a player to apply more topspin to the ball than the Eastern forehand grip, giving the shot greater safety and control, especially on lobs and short angles. Still, you can drive through the ball with this grip to hit a flat drive for a winner or passing shot. It also affords a player the option of taking a bigger swing at the ball since the topspin will help keep it in the court. With a strike zone higher and farther out in front of the body than the Eastern forehand, it's good for controlling and being aggressive with high shots. MINUS:

You can run into trouble returning low balls. Since the grip naturally closes the racquet face, forcing you to swing up from underneath the ball, it can be difficult to return lower shots. This, along with having to make a significant grip change to get to the Continental for a volley, is why so many power baseliners are uncomfortable coming to net. PROS WHO USE IT:

Marat Safin, Svetlana Kuznetsova WESTERN FOREHAND GRIPFrom a semi-Western grip, shift your knuckle one more bevel clockwise (counterclockwise for lefties), and you've got a full Western grip. Looking down at the racquet, your knuckle should be on the very bottom of the grip. This puts your palm almost completely under the racquet. Clay-court specialists and players who hit with heavy topspin favor this grip. PLUS:

This is an extreme grip that puts a lot of action on the ball. The positioning of the wrist forces the racquet to whip up the back of the ball severely, generating tremendous topspin. You can hit the ball well above net level and it will still drop into the court. The resulting shot will usually have a high and explosive bounce, pushing your opponent behind the baseline. The strike zone is higher and farther out in front than all other forehand grips. The ability to handle high balls is what makes this grip so popular with clay-courters and juniors. MINUS:

Low balls can be murder. That's why professionals with this grip generally don't do well on faster surfaces, where the ball stays low after the bounce. Also, you need tremendous racquet-head speed and wrist strength to generate adequate pace and spin. Otherwise, your shots will land short and your opponents can attack them. For some, it's also difficult to flatten shots out, so putting balls away becomes a problem. And just as with the semi- Western, transitioning to net and hitting an effective first volley is a major challenge. PROS WHO USE IT:

Rafael Nadal, Amelie Mauresmo

EASTERN BACKHAND GRIP

From a Continental grip, shift your knuckle one bevel counterclockwise (clockwise for lefties) so that it's on the very top of the grip. If you drilled a nail through that knuckle, it would go right through the center of the grip (just don't try that at home). PLUS:

As with the Eastern forehand, this is a versatile grip that provides good stability for the wrist. You can roll the ball for some spin or hit through it for a more penetrating drive. Some players can slice with an Eastern grip, but if not, a subtle grip change over to the Continental is easy enough to do. This grip also can be used for a kick serve, and it makes the transition to net for volleys a relatively smooth one. MINUS:

While solid for handling low balls, an Eastern backhand grip is not ideal for hitting topspin shots from around the shoulders. It can be difficult to control these balls, and many times a player is forced to slice them back defensively. You see this most often when players return kick serves that jump up high in the strike zone. PROS WHO USE IT:

Roger Federer, Lisa Raymond

EXTREME EASTERN OR SEMI-WESTERN BACKHAND GRIP The backhand's answer to the Western forehand (a reason some refer to this as a semi-Western backhand), the base knuckle of your index finger moves one bevel counterclockwise from the Eastern backhand (clockwise for lefties). It's an advanced grip that only stronger and more accomplished players tend to use. PLUS:

Just as with the Western forehand grips, this is a very popular choice with clay-court players. It naturally closes the racquet face more than a regular Eastern backhand and moves the strike zone higher and farther out in front of you, making it more conducive to handling high balls and returning them with topspin. Some of the most powerful backhands in tennis are held with this grip. MINUS:

Its limitations are similar to those of the Western forehand. It's not well-suited for low balls, and because it's a rather extreme grip it's difficult to make quick changes for a transition to net. Players with this grip usually have long, elaborate swings and prefer the baseline. PROS WHO USE IT:

Gustavo Kuerten, Justine Henin- Hardenne TWO-HANDED BACKHAND GRIP

There's no doubting the popularity of this grip, but there is some debate about the ideal way to position both hands. One of the most accepted ways is to hold the racquet in your dominant hand with a Continental grip. Then take your nondominant hand and put it above your playing hand in a semi-Western forehand grip. PLUS:

This is an excellent choice for players who aren't strong enough to hit a one-handed backhand. A more compact stroke than the one-hander, the two-hander relies on shoulder rotation and an efficient swing to provide power. That's why it's particularly effective on the return of serve. It's also good on low shots, and the extra arm lets you power through on balls that are at shoulder level. MINUS:

Because both hands are on the racquet, the two-hander limits a player's reach. So doing anything with wide shots can be tough, especially since it's difficult to rotate your upper body when stretched. Also, two-handers can become dependent on topspin. Hitting an effective slice calls for extending through the shot with a steady front shoulder. This is unnatural for two-handers, who are taught to open their hips and rotate their shoulders. Taking the nondominant hand off the racquet to hit the slice or volley is also troubling for many twohanders; it's the reason why they're generally not comfortable at the net. PROS WHO USE IT:

Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova Having a strong serve means more than just hitting aces.

Most players think of the serve as a power shot. But that's shortsighted. Sure, hitting aces and service winners are desirable results, but it's not realistic to rely on such shots. To be an effective server, you need to learn to use your serve in an offensive way to construct a point. It's a different philosophy from trying to serve your opponent off the court. To me, there's a subtle art to moving your serve around to different parts of the box and mixing up your pace and spin so you can be aggressive from your first shot. It's using your serve as a setup shot rather than a finisher. Here's how to get it done. BEGINNER

OBJECTIVE: Develop a consistent toss and learn the slice.

When you're starting out, learning to hit different locations on a regular basis starts with a consistent ball toss. If your toss is regularly in the right spot, you can get away with some idiosyncrasies in your motion. Your first goal should be to keep the toss out in front of your body-just about in line with your hitting shoulder- and make contact at full extension. Once you can control the toss, concentrate on placing the serve. The slice out wide is an effective delivery to add to your game. For a right-handed player this means using that serve in the deuce court (ad side for lefties) and dragging your opponent into the doubles alley. Toss the ball around 1 o'clock (11 o'clock for lefties) and hit the right outside edge to create slice. The spin naturally pulls the ball off the court. If you're successful with this serve, you'll have a great one-two punch: go out wide, then hit into the open court. Forcing a beginner to hit on the move will win you many points. Again, this is a setup shot rather than a power serve. Also, remember that you want to be on the baseline or inside it after your serve to respond to a potentially weak reply. Don't serve and back up. Once you know that your slice is well-placed, make sure you're in an offensive position so you can take advantage of it. INTERMEDIATE

OBJECTIVE: Incorporate more power sources and move your serves around.

Things can get a little complicated at this stage. Although you don't want to adopt a pure-power mindset, to be effective you do need to put some pace on the ball. But you have to balance that with consistency and accuracy. At the beginner level, players tend to rely mostly on their arms to get power on the ball. Now you have to start using more of your body and incorporating big muscle groups into your motion. Start with shoulder rotation. Turn away from your opponent during your backswing and uncoil toward your target as you move your racquet to contact. Then try to focus on getting your legs to drive you up and into the court. Tapping into more power sources while maintaining the fundamental mechanics of the service motion will give you controllable and consistent power.

As your serve develops, so should your tactics. Diversifying your locations will keep your opponents off-guard and open up opportunities on your second ball. Serve and volley occasionally, or, if you've started to use one, hit a kick

on your first serve up high to your opponent's backhand- these plays will disrupt his return rhythm. And when you get to a big point, it's a smart play to serve to your opponent's more vulnerable side, as this will put pressure on him to come up with a big reply. ADVANCED

OBJECTIVE: Set up your strengths and practice hitting to locations.

Ironically, sometimes serving at advanced levels can require less thought than serving at other stages of development. If you're a pure server with a huge delivery, many times you can rely on that skill to overpower your opponents. They know what's coming, but it's tough for them to do anything about it. Still, there aren't many rec players with this ability, so I think it's important to structure a strategy that plays to your strengths. For instance, let's say you have a formidable forehand that you like to use to control rallies. A good, hard serve up the middle or into the body in the deuce court is a difficult shot for your opponent to pull back toward your backhand. You now have an opportunity to step around the ball and hit your favorite shot. Using a high-bouncing kick out wide in the ad court is another way to set up the forehand. But beware of your location on wide serves. Whereas beginners often have trouble with this serve, if you give advanced players a lot of angle and don't put them on the defensive, they'll hurt you with the return. In other words, placement, more than pace, is key.

Much of your success will revolve around hitting spots with your serve. If you can't do that at this level, your opponents are going to zero in on your serves and take advantage of your inconsistency. Practicing your location by setting up targets wide, into the body, and down the T is a reliable method for improving the accuracy of your serves. Make sure you can hit different spins to each location, too. Just like a pitcher in baseball, you wA big forehand can help you climb to the top of the club ladder. To hit the runaround forehand, remember to backpedal quickly and keep your racquet up high as you move into position. Once there, be sure to swing out and give the ball a ride.

Adding a weapon, no matter what the stroke, can significantly elevate your game. When you have a shot that you can use to dictate points and that your opponent is afraid of, you're going to win a lot of matches. One of the best shots to develop, and possibly the easiest, is a dominating forehand. The first step in this development is to learn to hit the runaround forehand. That's where you move into position to crack a forehand from your backhand side. So if you're right-handed, you're hitting your forehand while standing in the ad court. The one thing you must do when hitting a runaround forehand is give it a ride. You're leaving a lot of room open on your forehand side, so you can't be passive with this ball. Too many players push this shot and get burned. I know from experience because I used to do that myself. Here's one good drill, which I used to do often with Andy Roddick: Have someone feed you a series of four to six floating balls that land several feet from the singles sideline on your backhand side. Run around your backhand, smack the forehand hard, and move back to the center. Make sure that as soon as you've hit the forehand you slam on the brakes and work your way back to the middle. Remember to move your feet quickly and keep your racquet up as you get into position. Players tend to go inside-out with the runaround forehand because the net is lower going crosscourt, there's a bigger target area to hit into, and it's generally to an opponent's backhand. But don't neglect the down-the-line forehand from this position. Practice both shots so you don't get predictable. Once you can rip five to six penetrating runaround forehands in a row, then you can progress to the next step. When you're successful with the runaround forehand, you can catch your opponent by surprise and get a short ball out of it, so you must learn how to move up and take advantage of this by hitting the next forehand with direction and purpose. Have your coach or partner feed dozens of short balls that you can drive from inside the court. I remember seeing Jim Courier practice once when he was No. 1 in the world. He hit nothing but short forehands because that was his money shot. If you want to feel confident about finishing points with your forehand, that's what you have to do. You won't turn your forehand into a hammer overnight. I'm still working on it, and I'm 43. But if you're patient and dedicated, it's one of those shots that, with some simple practice, can eventually bring you huge dividends. The best way to practice your runaround forehand is to stand in the center of the court and have a practice partner feed a series of soft floating balls to your backhand side. Move into position and rip the ball inside-out or down the line. ant to be able to spot the ball with each of your serves to keep the returner guessing. An effective slice can add some much-needed variety to your game. In today's game, and you see it all the time at the professional leve, players are most comfortable when they're in a routine of hammering balls back and forth. They like to exchange shots hit from their strike zones, which is between thigh and chest height, and use some degree of topspin on a majority of shots. You can be successful playing this style, but it makes your game pretty predictable. If you work a dependable slice into your repertoire, though, you'll add some variety to your attack.

A slice is effective for many reasons. If you're stretched wide, the slice can be a safe, defensive shot that will get you back in the point. When hit as a rally ball, the backspin slows the pace of the shot and keeps the ball low and out of your opponent's strike zone. And when you're inside the court, you can be more aggressive with the slice by driving a deep, low, skidding shot that you can follow to net. It's also the spin you need to be successful with volleys and drop shots. Here's a quick lesson on the slice for all skill levels. BEGINNER OBJECTIVE: Learn the proper swing path and keep your wrist firm.

When players first learn the slice, they sometimes start by drastically swinging down on the ball. Although the basic motion is from high to low (opposite of the low to high you're first taught for your ground strokes) and back to high, it's actually fairly subtle. If you hack down severely on the ball, you may put a great deal of underspin on it, but the resulting shot will float and have little pace, penetration, or consistency. You never want to lose that feeling of hitting through the ball. The other thing to stress is keeping your wrist firm. Many players snap or flip their wrists, trying to get pace and spin on the ball, and end up suffering the same problems as those who chop down when they swing. For a penetrating slice, use a swing that moves gradually from high to low and back to high. This way you hit through the ball instead of chopping at it. In fact, the swing path of the slice is almost parallel to the court. One way to think of the motion is to compare it to that of a karate chop. You start with your arm bent, and you straighten it out toward contact with a gradual reduction from high to low, keeping a slightly open racquet face. That way you're still driving the racquet through contact. INTERMEDIATEOBJECTIVE: Incorporate your bigger muscles into the shot and learn to cup the ball.

Players who use their whole bodies when they swing are generally more consistent with their strokes. Take the serve as an example: A player who gets good body rotation and uses his shoulders and legs is going to have a more effective serve than someone who just uses his arm. Using the big muscle groups will sustain consistency for the course of the match, whereas using only the smaller ones will cause fatigue (which will lead to inconsistency). With the slice, it's no different. To better control the ball's flight path and add pace to your slice, cup the outside edge of the ball. If you cup the inside, the ball will float with sidespin. At this point in your development, you understand the proper swing plane of the slice. You can repeatedly use good technique, but if you're relying on your arm and hand to power the shot, your slice will never have adequate bite or penetration, and late in a match, when you get tired, it could break down. So stepping into the slice with your legs and stretching your arms out (with your hitting arm moving toward the contact point and your off arm behind you) will involve your quads, chest, and back-your best power sources. Besides using your whole body to hit the slice, you also need to have good feel and control. That's where "cupping" the ball begins to become important. When you cup the ball, you cut under and around the outside edge of it. If you're a right-hander, you're trying to cup the left corner of the ball (the opposite corner for lefties). This helps control the flight path and adds zip to the shot.

If you hit the inside part of the ball, that means your wrist is ahead of the racquet face, which will result in more sidespin than backspin on the shot. It takes great talent to control this type of slice because the ball has a tendency to sail. Cupping the outside of the ball is a much more reliable technique. ADVANCEDOBJECTIVE: Develop your shot awareness and begin to use your slice as a weapon.

As I've mentioned, slice affords a player variety because there are several different ways in which you can hit it. At this level, you can call upon all your options, and understanding your positioning and status in the point will help you determine which slice to use. For example, being on the dead run and far behind the baseline would call for a defensive slice. In an even backhand rally from the baseline, you may choose to use the slice as a change of pace to throw your opponent off. And inside the court, you can move forward and use your slice to attack. This is what I call shot awareness- having a clear grasp of what's coming at you and what shot to use in response. From this perspective, you can use your slice to create openings by getting your opponent out of position. For example, if you're in a backhand crosscourt rally and you get a ball that lands short, hit a deep, skidding slice down the line to open up the court. Or from the same position you can carve a short, sharp angle that forces your opponent up and wide into an uncomfortable position- almost like a drop shot, but with more pace and less arc. If your opponent has to attack off that, you'll have a good look at a passing shot. And if he tries to retreat to the baseline, you'll have an opening on his forehand side. Players with versatile slices, like Roger Federer and Tim Henman, often use this tactic against clay-courters who are leery of coming to net. During a backhand rally, a sharply angled slice can throw off your opponent's rhythm by drawing him off the baseline and wide of the court. Whether you play singles or doubles, here's a drill that will improve your return of serve. Most players spend plenty of time working on their games by doing various drills to develop their strokes or simulate point play. Yet for some reason one of the most crucial shots in the game, the return of serve, is largely neglected. When I ask my students how often they practice the return of serve, they usually admit that they only hit returns during matches. But to improve as a player, in either singles or doubles, it's vital to spend time working on your return. Often I would spend my entire practice time trying to perfect it. Here's an easy way to hone your return for whichever game you prefer to play:

For singles, practice your return of serve to these four spots:

1. Deep down the line

2. Deep crosscourt

3. Short down the line

4. Short crosscourt SINGLES:

Start on the deuce side and have your practice partner hit serves to your forehand. Hit each of the following four returns, not moving onto the next one until you successfully make the shot: (1) deep down the line, (2) deep crosscourt, (3) short down the line, and (4) short crosscourt. After completing the series, repeat it at least one more time. You can implement variations such as hitting hard drives, soft spins, and high or low shots over the net. Then do the same returns on your backhand side. Once you complete at least two turns with the backhand, move over to the ad court and start over there. DOUBLES:

Have your partner serve to you on the side you normally play. Start with the forehand crosscourt return. Your target should be your opponent's service line. Hit at least five solid returns and then move on to the backhand return. Next, have your partner serve to your forehand again, but this time hit the return down the line. Again, you're looking to hit a minimum of five good returns. Then switch to your backhand down the line. You can also add variations, such as the lob return and the chip and charge. Perhaps you've played against someone who doesn't hit the ball hard but nonetheless makes you feel more hurried than normal. That's the effect of your opponent hitting on the rise. Most players hit their ground strokes when the ball is descending. That's because the longer you wait to hit the ball, the more it slows down, making it easier to time your point of contact. But the downside is you give your opponent more time to prepare. And by choosing to hit the ball farther back along its flight path, you have to position yourself deeper in the court, which means you'll need to work harder to get your return deep. By contrast, players who hit on the rise give their opponents less time to react to their shots because the ball comes back sooner and has less distance to travel. Although it's a relatively advanced way of striking the ball, intermediate players should practice hitting on the rise, especially off less challenging shots and particularly on their stronger side. One easy way to practice this skill is to hit against a backboard. Playing smart doubles is about trying to gain good court position and control the net. Yet many recreational doubles players unwittingly hinder their teams by standing near the alley as their partners serve. Although this might prevent you from getting burned down the line, it also makes it more difficult for you to intercept the most common return (the one down the middle), while at the same time making it easier for the returner to execute the crosscourt return. Also, by standing near the alley you leave your serving partner to cover the equivalent of an entire singles court. This may result in your partner having to hit volleys from difficult positions, and the opposing net player will be there to pick off all but his best shots. The smart choice is to place yourself in the position that increases your chances of having a play on the most common shots. When your partner is serving, stand smack in the middle of the service box. This is the right location because it puts you in good position to volley weak returns, poach, cover lobs, and handle all but the best returns directed down the line. ou can improve your volleys and passing shots with this tough 2-on-1 drill Patience isn't necessarily a quality one associates with doubles. There's usually an urgency to go for your shots to try to make something positive happen. Yet when you're playing against two opponents who cover the net well, it's not wise to try for too much on your passing shots. You're better off hitting with more placement and less pace to create a bigger opening in the court. Otherwise you'll have to go for high-risk, low-percentage passes, which generally result in more errors than winners. Remember, two good shots accomplish the same thing as one great shot, but with much less risk. Practicing something I call the "Five Misses Drill" is a fun and competitive way to improve your passing shots in doubles matches. The objective of the Five Misses Drill is for the baseliner to create an opening in the court so he can hit a clean winner past the net players. Put one player on the baseline and two others at net on the opposing side (being short a fourth person means more exercise for everyone). One of the players at net feeds a ball to the baseliner and the point is played out. The baseliner scores one "miss" for each point that he loses. If the net players, who are both working on their volleys, miss a shot, it doesn't count as anything. But if the baseliner hits a clean winner (a shot that neither net player can get a racquet on), his miss count resets to zero. Once the baseliner gets to five misses, the players rotate. This not only teaches the baseliner to stretch his opponents out to open up passing lanes, but also not to rush the point--or the errors will pile up quickly.

Fluid, powerful, and accurate strokes are the combination of many factors. But it all starts with how you hold the racquet.

No matter how much time you spend finding the perfect frame to beef up your game, the most important part of your racquet just might be your grip-not what the handle is made of, but how you hold it. Although they're largely overlooked, grips are the foundation of all the strokes in tennis. Where you position your hand on the eight-sided handle has a huge impact on each ball you hit. Your grip affects the angle of the racquet face, where you make contact, and ultimately the pace, spin, and placement of your shot. The difficulty with grips is choosing the right one for a particular stroke. The fact is, there is no perfect grip; each has its advantages and limitations. But some are clearly better-suited for certain strokes and styles of play than others. This guide will help you to (1) learn to grasp the racquet for each grip correctly, and (2) determine the best uses of each of the common grips. FINDING THE GRIPS

There are various ways to explain how to find a certain grip, but the simplest and most reliable is to use the base knuckle of your index finger as the main reference point. The diagrams for each grip show the bottom view of a racquet handle (where the butt cap is attached), which has four main sides and four narrower bevels between the sides. CONTINENTAL GRIP The Continental is the one grip that you can use for every shot, but that hasn't been standard practice since the days of long pants and skirts. The Continental is used primarily for serves, volleys, overheads, slices, and defensive shots. Find the Continental by putting the base knuckle of your index finger on bevel No. 1, which puts the V created by your thumb and forefinger on top of the handle. Lefties put the knuckle on bevel No. 4. PLUS:

Hitting with the Continental grip on the serve and overhead is standard, as it allows your forearm and wrist to naturally pronate through contact. This results in a more explosive and versatile shot with the least amount of stress on the arm. It's also the preferred grip on volleys since it provides a slightly open racquet face for underspin and control. Since you need quick hands at net, having the same grip for forehand and backhand volleys is also crucial. As mentioned, your grip affects the angle of the racquet face. The more closed the face, the higher and farther in front of your body your strike zone should be for proper contact. Since the racquet face is relatively square on a Continental grip, for ground strokes the strike zone is low and to the side of the body. That's why it's helpful for defensive shots, low balls, and wide balls that you're late on. MINUS:

You can hit flat or with slice using the Continental, but it's tough to put topspin on the ball. That means hitting with power and keeping the ball in play requires you to aim the shot just above net level, leaving you little margin for error. And without that safety spin, returning a ball out of your strike zone can be difficult. So lack of consistency is often a problem.

PROS WHO USE IT:

Virtually all of them, on serves and volleys.

EASTERN FOREHAND GRIP Place your hand flat against the strings and slide it down to the grip; put the racquet flat on a table, close your eyes, and pick it up; or shake hands with the racquet. These are just a few of the tricks you can use to find an Eastern forehand grip. The more technical way is to hold the racquet in a Continental grip and then turn your hand clockwise (counterclockwise for lefties), so that the base knuckle of your index finger slides over one bevel. PLUS:

This is generally considered the easiest grip for learning the forehand. It's versatile, allowing the player to brush up the back of the ball for topspin or flatten out the shot for more power and penetration. It's easy to switch quickly to other grips from the Eastern, making it a wise choice for players who like to come to net. MINUS:

The strike zone is higher and farther out in front than with the Continental grip, but it's still not a great option for returning high shots. An Eastern forehand can be very powerful and penetrating, but because it tends to be a flatter stroke it can also be inconsistent, making it difficult to sustain in long rallies. It's not the best choice for players looking to put a lot of topspin on their shots and outlast their opponents. PROS WHO USE IT:

Tim Henman, Lindsay Davenport SEMI-WESTERN FOREHAND GRIPMoving your knuckle one more bevel clockwise (counterclockwise for lefties) from the Eastern forehand grip puts you in a semi-Western grip. This has become a prevalent grip for power baseliners on the pro tours, and many teaching pros encourage their students to use it. PLUS:

The semi-Western allows a player to apply more topspin to the ball than the Eastern forehand grip, giving the shot greater safety and control, especially on lobs and short angles. Still, you can drive through the ball with this grip to hit a flat drive for a winner or passing shot. It also affords a player the option of taking a bigger swing at the ball since the topspin will help keep it in the court. With a strike zone higher and farther out in front of the body than the Eastern forehand, it's good for controlling and being aggressive with high shots. MINUS:

You can run into trouble returning low balls. Since the grip naturally closes the racquet face, forcing you to swing up from underneath the ball, it can be difficult to return lower shots. This, along with having to make a significant grip change to get to the Continental for a volley, is why so many power baseliners are uncomfortable coming to net. PROS WHO USE IT:

Marat Safin, Svetlana Kuznetsova WESTERN FOREHAND GRIPFrom a semi-Western grip, shift your knuckle one more bevel clockwise (counterclockwise for lefties), and you've got a full Western grip. Looking down at the racquet, your knuckle should be on the very bottom of the grip. This puts your palm almost completely under the racquet. Clay-court specialists and players who hit with heavy topspin favor this grip. PLUS:

This is an extreme grip that puts a lot of action on the ball. The positioning of the wrist forces the racquet to whip up the back of the ball severely, generating tremendous topspin. You can hit the ball well above net level and it will still drop into the court. The resulting shot will usually have a high and explosive bounce, pushing your opponent behind the baseline. The strike zone is higher and farther out in front than all other forehand grips. The ability to handle high balls is what makes this grip so popular with clay-courters and juniors. MINUS:

Low balls can be murder. That's why professionals with this grip generally don't do well on faster surfaces, where the ball stays low after the bounce. Also, you need tremendous racquet-head speed and wrist strength to generate adequate pace and spin. Otherwise, your shots will land short and your opponents can attack them. For some, it's also difficult to flatten shots out, so putting balls away becomes a problem. And just as with the semi- Western, transitioning to net and hitting an effective first volley is a major challenge. PROS WHO USE IT:

Rafael Nadal, Amelie Mauresmo

EASTERN BACKHAND GRIP

From a Continental grip, shift your knuckle one bevel counterclockwise (clockwise for lefties) so that it's on the very top of the grip. If you drilled a nail through that knuckle, it would go right through the center of the grip (just don't try that at home). PLUS:

As with the Eastern forehand, this is a versatile grip that provides good stability for the wrist. You can roll the ball for some spin or hit through it for a more penetrating drive. Some players can slice with an Eastern grip, but if not, a subtle grip change over to the Continental is easy enough to do. This grip also can be used for a kick serve, and it makes the transition to net for volleys a relatively smooth one. MINUS:

While solid for handling low balls, an Eastern backhand grip is not ideal for hitting topspin shots from around the shoulders. It can be difficult to control these balls, and many times a player is forced to slice them back defensively. You see this most often when players return kick serves that jump up high in the strike zone. PROS WHO USE IT:

Roger Federer, Lisa Raymond

EXTREME EASTERN OR SEMI-WESTERN BACKHAND GRIP The backhand's answer to the Western forehand (a reason some refer to this as a semi-Western backhand), the base knuckle of your index finger moves one bevel counterclockwise from the Eastern backhand (clockwise for lefties). It's an advanced grip that only stronger and more accomplished players tend to use. PLUS:

Just as with the Western forehand grips, this is a very popular choice with clay-court players. It naturally closes the racquet face more than a regular Eastern backhand and moves the strike zone higher and farther out in front of you, making it more conducive to handling high balls and returning them with topspin. Some of the most powerful backhands in tennis are held with this grip. MINUS:

Its limitations are similar to those of the Western forehand. It's not well-suited for low balls, and because it's a rather extreme grip it's difficult to make quick changes for a transition to net. Players with this grip usually have long, elaborate swings and prefer the baseline. PROS WHO USE IT:

Gustavo Kuerten, Justine Henin- Hardenne TWO-HANDED BACKHAND GRIP

There's no doubting the popularity of this grip, but there is some debate about the ideal way to position both hands. One of the most accepted ways is to hold the racquet in your dominant hand with a Continental grip. Then take your nondominant hand and put it above your playing hand in a semi-Western forehand grip. PLUS:

This is an excellent choice for players who aren't strong enough to hit a one-handed backhand. A more compact stroke than the one-hander, the two-hander relies on shoulder rotation and an efficient swing to provide power. That's why it's particularly effective on the return of serve. It's also good on low shots, and the extra arm lets you power through on balls that are at shoulder level. MINUS:

Because both hands are on the racquet, the two-hander limits a player's reach. So doing anything with wide shots can be tough, especially since it's difficult to rotate your upper body when stretched. Also, two-handers can become dependent on topspin. Hitting an effective slice calls for extending through the shot with a steady front shoulder. This is unnatural for two-handers, who are taught to open their hips and rotate their shoulders. Taking the nondominant hand off the racquet to hit the slice or volley is also troubling for many twohanders; it's the reason why they're generally not comfortable at the net. PROS WHO USE IT:

Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova

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Q: How do you play tennis what are the rules and what equipment do you need?
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What equipment to you need to play tennis?

The basic equipment you need to play tennis is a tennis court with net, a tennis racket. and some tennis balls. You also need shoes that are comfortable when running, or tennis shoes.


What is the equipment for tennis?

Well when you play tenis you obvisuoly need a tennis racket, preferbly 2 balls, and a tennis court,


What types of table tennis equipment should I get?

Table tennis is a fairly basic sport when it comes to the equipment. You'll need a regulation size table, a net, table tennis balls and a set of paddles to play.


What equipment do they need in table tennis?

To play the table tennis game we require table tennis table, tt bat, tt ball and net with net stand.


What are the rules to table tennis?

to play the game


What equipment do I need to play tennis?

You'll need to bring a pair of tennis shoes (sneakers, as long as they're appropriate to run in, work fine) as well as tennis balls and tennis rackets. Bring water, too, as you'll need it after a few sets.


Equipment for tennis?

All you need is: Tennis balls (one or more - usually 3 is good) A Tennis Racket A Tennis court (with proper measures, marks and net) A partner - or 3 if you want to play doubles :)


Why do they have rules in table tennis?

Because rules are needed to play any type of game.


What is tennis equipment?

all you really need to play a tennis match is a requet and 2 tennis balls. but you most likely want tennis clothes, tennis shoes (shoes made for playing tennis, NOT running shoes, they mess up the courts), extra grip tape, and other supplies


What equipment do you need to play road tennis?

Paddles, 2 to 4 depending if you play singles or doubles, 9 inch net and a flat playing surface, 10 feet wide and 18 feet long. Balls are similar to tennis balls but the fuzz has been eliminated. Road tennis is very popular in Barbados. Now where can you buy the equipment?


Equipment of table tennis?

To play table-tennis, you would require a fairly large sized room with a table tennis table. You need a net and either 2 or 4 (singles or doubles) wooden bats with a red and a black table tennis rubber fitted on each side. Finally you need a few table tennis balls.


What do you need to play tennis?

Well... Tennis Racket Couple balls Sneakers opponent

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