First Fundamental: Understanding the Contact Area

All strokes have a beginning, middle and end. By far the most important of the three is the middle, or the contact. Everything else you do; backswing, follow through, footwork, and concentration is secondary to the moment you make contact. This is true for all of your strokes be it ground strokes, volleys or serves.

Style is not a fundamental. The shape of your backswing and how far you’re taking the racket back is relative only to the spot where you make contact. It is sometimes shocking to see how misinformed players are about this important component. They’ll spend time, and money, adjusting style elements while neglecting this critical piece. The end result? New, fancy moves with the same poor scores.

All strokes should initially be learned from the middle. A lot of times coaches will tell you to “Get your racket back”. This is actually damaging advice. Players who train with extended backswings never develop the feel for good contact. With an extended backswing most of your energy moves in a horizontal swing path across your body instead of a vertical path to the target. This is a waste of energy and time.

Start with your racket very close to the point of contact, hit the ball and extend the follow thru. The area just before contact, during contact and right after contact is called “The Slot”. A long backswing means a short “Slot”. A short backswing means a long “Slot”.  The longer the “Slot”, the better the shot. With practice, you’ll develop your feel for contact and slot length, and increase your backswing.

The best way to correct problems with your contact area is to play mini tennis. You can also do self-feeding drills. Take a ball and drop it right in front of where you feel perfect contact. Start with virtually no backswing and, as you progress through an entire basket, increase the size of the backswing without changing the point of contact.

Watch the video below for an illustration of the point of contact.

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