With Wimbledon in full swing, it's the time of year when often-deserted tennis courts are suddenly teeming with players.
If you’ve dug out a racket and some dog-nibbled balls from the garage, we hope you enjoy every second of getting back into this lovely sport.
And to give you a bit of help on your way, we’ve collected some tips together from some of the world’s best tennis brains. They are Patrick Mouratoglou, coach of Serena Williams; Darren Cahill, ex-coach of Andre Agassi, and currently Simona Halep’s mentor; and former Wimbledon semi-finalist Tommy Haas. They’re all ambassadors for the Slinger Bag tennis ball launcher, who’ve kindly shared their wisdom here.
‘Warm up is one of the most overlooked and sometimes ignored part of tennis (and many other sports for that matter),’ says Darren Cahill.
‘If you want longevity in tennis, warming up, stretching and resistance training are key elements helping avoid injuries, which are often related to your muscles and joints not being properly prepared to perform.’
Darren suggests that 10 minutes should be enough — and if you think it’s too much, remember that most pros spend 45 minutes to an hour on warm-up. A skipping rope is ideal, he adds: ‘It may be one of the oldest forms of footwork and coordination training but it’s still one of the best,’ says Darren. ‘Always have one in your tennis bag or Slinger Bag. Jump rope to replicate tennis points and climb up and down the ladder with your times. For instance, start at 10 seconds on with 10 seconds break. Move to 15 seconds on with 15 seconds break and so on.’
After skipping, Darren suggests using an elastic exercise band. ‘Wrap it around a pole or the net and engage in repetitive open-close kinds of movements with arms and legs. Start very light, but with enough resistance to engage your muscles! 30-60 seconds should be a good start.’
Perfect serves and great grips
Serving just isn’t easy — and yet it’s crucial, says Patrick Mouratoglou. ‘The serve is often regarded as the most difficult shot to execute, mainly due to the high level of coordination required,’ he says.
‘Go continental and keep it simple to start. If you’re just starting, make sure to hold the racket in a neutral or continental grip – basically like a hammer. If you already learned to serve and do not hold the racquet like that, take the time (frustrating, I know) to learn to hit a serve like that.’
Equally fundamental is the toss. ‘If your toss tends to go all over the place, you can forget about training any other aspect,’ says Patrick. ‘If your toss tends to go all over the place, you can forget about training any other aspect.’ Practice by putting your racket on the ground by your feet, tossing the ball up, and trying to get it to land on the strings every time.
As for the serve itself, keep your feet shoulder width apart, have your hips pointing to the net, and remember the key: ‘The serve is nothing more than a type of throwing motion,’ Patrick explains.
Hitting a ball cleanly with topspin isn’t easy, but Tommy Haas has some suggestions. Make sure you’re in the right place, he says: ‘You want to be at a good distance from the ball so you can swing effectively through.’ As for the height, ‘in general terms, you want to contact the ball between your hips and shoulders.’
Don’t obsess with trying to get the ball out of the very centre of the racket. ‘In reality you want to make contact slightly higher than that,’ Tommy explains. ‘Contact the ball right in front of your hips so you can rotate through the ball and generate good power from the whole body.’
Patrick Mouratoglou, Darren Cahill and Tommy Haas all work with Slinger Bag, a portable tennis ball launcher that lets you fire away in practice without needing someone on the other side of the net. See slingerbaguk.frameworksports.com for more details.
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