If you’re taken by the excitement that Wimbledon brings and are looking to begin tennis, we’ve asked our resident Vitality tennis coach to run through a few of his top tennis tips that will put you in good stead for your assault on the SW19 title next year.
Below is a guide onto how to hold your racket, serve, hit your groundstrokes (forehand and backhand) and getting the correct footwork in place.
There are a number of different grips that provide you with different ways of hitting a tennis ball. This is how we create spin on different shots.
Typically the grips you’ll need to know are:
This is used for the serve and is important to use properly as incorrect serve grips can lead to tennis elbow. This grip is unusual in that if you are to swing it naturally you will end up hitting the ball with the frame of the racket, so instead we need to twist our wrist as we swing towards the ball, this is known as pronation.
Right Handed Continental/Chopper Grip
The Eastern grip is the easiest to master for the beginner – it results in leaving the racket face open so while this will not generate spin on the ball, it does provide the simplest and easiest way to get the ball going consistently over the net.
Right Handed Eastern Grip
The semi-western grip is used typically by more experienced club players. This grip involves turning the racket in the hand so that it is more ‘closed’. This is how we start to generate top-spin and this also allows for more clearance over the net.
Left Handed Semi-Western Grip
This is the toughest grip to master and is what your Wimbledon pros will be using. This generates a lot of top spin and shows a closed face of the racket. You need to be strong to pull off this shot, look at the likes of Rafael Nadal for a Full-Western grip.
For the serve you should be using the continental (aka chopper) grip.
For beginners, start with the racket behind your head rather than trying to take a big swing from the very start.
Practise the ball toss by trying to throw the ball around 2-3 metres above you and a metre or so in front of you. This ensures that you are reaching up at full extension and moving forward into the court to generate more power.
Keep your non-playing hand up as long as possible to help you stay tall and on balance. You’ll be looking to create a shape similar to the Nike ‘Swoosh’ with the racket up and your non-playing hand extended.
As you become more confident, you can start to add a backswing to the serve.
The forehand typically is people’s strongest shot. The technique is relatively simple – using any of the grips above (for beginners start with the Eastern grip) you should start with the split step.
As the ball comes towards you, turn side on so you are facing the side of the court. Use your non-playing hand to track the ball as it makes its way to you.
Start with the racket down low and then look to finish the shot up high and over your opposite shoulder.
The contact point, where you hit the ball, should be about half a metre in front of your body.
The backhand uses a similar technique to the forehand stroke. You should still look to start the racket low and finish up high over the shoulder (the same one as your playing hand) brushing up the back of the ball as you make contact around half a metre in front of your body. Whether you hit a single handed or double handed (double is easier for beginners), the basics remain the same.
Footwork and Split Step
These are the basis of any tennis players game. Good footwork enables you to be in the correct position for every shot no matter how high, low, angled, fast or slow it is hit.
The key to good footwork is the split step. It’s incredibly simple yet easily forgotten and involves a small jump just before your opponent hits the ball.
This results in being in the best possible start position with your knees slightly bent, racket in the centre of your body. From this position you are ready to receive any shot your opponent could send your way. It ensures you are balanced and capable of hitting a forehand, backhand, volley or smash.