This is one of those posts that you can quickly check out on. While blogs have been compared to diaries, they are clearly different. The obvious public nature of a blog means that entries that are generally of little interest to anyone except the author would not likely see the light of day. Even so, blogs record content, so it does satisfy the need to have it etched somewhere semi-permanent. And you never know, someone might actually care enough to read it.
Basically, I've been trying to revamp my forehand, with some success. The first clue I was doing something "majorly" wrong occurred end of May when I finally made a video of me hitting tennis balls (I want to say "videotaped", and technically, I am using tape, mini DV to be precise, but I wish there were a better verb than this. The best one I've thought of is video'ed or video recorded).
In particular, I've generally fed the ball (that is dropped it in front of me so I could hit it) very near my right foot. This was because it was easy and convenient. However, because it's convenient, it was leading to a bad habit. In particular, I would get cramped hitting my forehand. Now, I never noticed this, not knowing any better.
Furthermore, I would have a few other bad habits. Rather than turn my shoulders, I tended to just reach back with my arm. To get a sense of this, raise both arms to you side, until you look a bit like a cross. Now, with one arm or the other reach back behind you as far as you can. You might manage 30 degrees or so.
In general, you should never have to reach back at all. Your arms should be roughly to your side, and instead of reaching back, you should turn your shoulders.
I'd also flip my grip in a funny way. Normally, as you take the racquet back (for a righty), the side of the racquet you hit the ball on will face to the right fence (the right fence is the fence to your right as you stare at the net). If you were to open your fist, your palm would face to the right fence.
Instead, I manage to contort my arm so my racquet face was aimed at the left fence. To imagine this, stand with your arms to your side like a cross. Have your right palm facing forwards, with your thumb up. Your fingers on the right hand should point to the right fence. There should be be no bend in your wrist.
Now bend your wrist backwards so that the fingers now point to the back fence and your palm now faces the right fence. Your hand and forearm now form a 90 degree angle.
Now (and this will be a little challenging). flip your hand upside down so the thumb points down. The back of your hand will now face the right fence, and the palm to the left. This is awkward, but easier if you begin to reach your arm behind your back.
This pretzel move is what I had discovered I was doing, and it came naturally after years of ingrained practice. Originally, my fix for it was to repeat the correct motion over and over.
While it worked whenever I wasn't hitting a ball, it failed miserably when I tried to hit the ball. Then I realize my hand orients the racquet, so I just had to think about the orientation of my hand. Even so, this was not a natural adjustment, and I would frequently have to think of my hand, palm faced outwards to the right fence.
Anyway, a week or so ago, I thought I had fixed this issue, and was working on a different problem I noticed.
When you swing a tennis racquet, there is several phases. There is the takeback where you prepare and then ultimately bring your racquet back to point to the back fence behind you. Then, there is the swing until contact. That is when the racquet makes forward progress to hit the ball.
Finally, there is the follow-through. This is after hitting the ball until the racquet's momentum stops typically over the shoulder or with the arm wrapped around your other arm's biceps.
Although there are three phases to talk about, the entire swing consisting of threee parts should be one fluid motion throughout.
I had spent a fair bit of time on the takeback. This involved two or three things. First, I needed to stop pulling my arm behind my back. Second, I needed to orient my palm outwards and not flip the racquet. Third, I needed to rotate my shoulders more (which is related to the first point). The second part was the hardest to achieve.
When I swing, I often let muscle memory take over, and just focus on hitting, but when you're trying to retrain the mind to do something else, you have to consciously think (or in this case, consciously feel) the change. And it takes lots of repetition, and so far it hasn't felt completely natural.
I felt I had made progress on this, and was starting to focus on the follow-through, rather than the takeback. My follow-through has a bit of a herky-jerky movement, mostly due to the result of how fast I hit my windshield wiper forehand.
A windshield wiper forehand is a style of hitting the forehand where the trajectory of the racquet head (and the forearm) in the leadup to hitting the ball and follow-through looks like a windshield wiper, where the elbow acts as the base of the wiper.
The problem with that analogy are several. First, the elbow should not be stationary. This is more like a two-part windshield wiper. Imagine your windshield wiper is not a straight arm but has a bend in the middle (i.e., like your elbow).
There are two moving parts. The elbow serves as the base of the wiper (in a sense), and the shoulder moves the entire arm, including the elbow. It's tempting to just hit the ball with the forearm and leave the rest of the arm stationary.
Furthermore, people view the windshield wiper as symmetric. The path that starts the windshield wiper (at least, up until the racquet points face up) is mirrored on the way down. That is untrue.
The motion on the way down is complicated by the elbow also moving (to the left). Furthermore, once the racquet has moved so that the wrist straightens out (it starts at a 90 degree angle), then the wrist, more or less, stays straight. This is really hard to describe without a picture.
The result, in any case, is that most pros finish the follow-through to the left of their body (for a righty). In a sense, it's much like a comet whose path around the sun is severe near the sun, but elongated at other parts of the orbit. The follow through is most arced at the beginning, and the arc stretches out at the end.
I was working on that (somewhat unsuccessfully) when I noticed the takeback had broken down and I had regressed to hitting my old forehand.
Alas, it's disappointing, but at least I am aware of it.
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1 month ago