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Friday, August 19, 2022

Loosen up if you want to hit with more power

Rafael Nadal, of Spain, practices at the Citi Open tennis tournament, Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Guest Columnist

There are many different ways you can increase power throughout your tennis game.  On groundstrokes the very first suggestion is holding the racquet as loose as you can.  When you squeeze your grip, you are less likely to get racquet head speed.  Therefore, the looser you hold the racquet the more racquet head speed you can generate.  If you watch a recreational player and a professional player, one of the biggest differences is the racquet head speed the professionals generate.

How do we get more racquet head speed? As mentioned above, first hold the racquet looser.  I like to say hold the racquet like you are holding a baby bird.  Firm enough that it cannot fly away, but loose enough you won’t hurt it.  Another way to get more power but also stay loose is to use your legs.  When the ball bounces you want to bend your knees so you can accelerate up and push off with your legs.  This is called loading up.

You are generally going to think you are hitting the ball harder when you hit it flatter.  Stepping into the ball causes the ball to be flatter while an open stance naturally creates more topspin.  Regardless of your stance to get more power you want to rotate your hips.  It is imperative to maximize your lower body usage in order to get more power.  You literally want to push off starting with the big toe, bending the knees, turning the hips, and then follow through.  You want to follow through until your racquet stops against your back or shoulder.  If you slow down your swing, don’t follow through, or jab the ball you will also lose power.

Many times recreational players worry about hitting long.  If you are going to miss the worst thing you can do is hit the ball into the net.  Don’t worry about overhitting.  It is much easier to learn to control the ball or put spin on it to make it stay in. Therefore, one of the best drills to work on racquet head speed is to have a pro or ball machine feed you and from the baseline try to hit the back fence.  This works on racquet head speed.  Oftentimes when I do this drill I find not only do my clients not hit the fence but they end up hitting the ball beautifully a few inches from the baseline.  You have to trust the racquet and let it go.  Another great drill to work on racquet head speed is rallying with a friend from 10-15 feet behind the baseline, or again having a pro feed you, but you stand as close to the back fence as you can.  These drills really help improve racquet head speed. Racquet head speed=power!

Most of the aforementioned suggestions also apply to the serve and overhead:  be loose, accelerate, turn your hips, and use your legs, however there are two more tips to get more power on your serve and overhead.  On your serve and overhead you want to hold the racquet a little lower than you would on your groundstrokes or volleys.  When I go to serve I generally have my pinky and or my pinky and ring finger off the racquet.  This keeps me looser and generates 10-20 more miles per hour.  If I want to hit a more conservative serve I keep my hand in the same position as I hit my groundstrokes.  Holding the racquet lower allows you to snap your wrist more efficiently which will also generate more power.  Similarly to the groundstroke drill, I often recommend having clients serve into the fence to work on racquet head speed.  For overheads I work on snapping the wrist so the ball will bounce in and then go over the fence.  On overheads that can not be smashed over the fence, work on hitting your overhead through the court where it only bounces once.  You know you are getting good power on your overhead if it hits the fence after only bouncing once.  I hope these tips help you continue to develop and improve your power game.


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