In an classic Star Trek episode named Obsession, Kirk sees a cloud monster that killed most of the crew that he was a part of when he was an ensign. When Ensign Garrovick, the son of Kirk's then-captain freezes and is unable to kill the cloud monster, Kirk blame Garrovick much as he blamed himself 11 years earlier.
Kirk is so determined to kill the monster that he is willing to let people who need critical medicine risk death, so he can chase the creature down. McCoy accuses Kirk of being obsessed with something that has haunted him since youth.
My current obsession is figuring out the Federer forehand. I could have picked any other forehand. Agassi has a nice forehand. So does Nadal. Although Federer is pretty amazing, you can't say his forehand is as dominant as say, Lendl's forehand during his prime, or Agassi at his prime (I'd put Becker's and Sampras's forehand up there too). Even so, people are so in love with Roger Federer and his apparently effortless mechanics, that they've taken a lot of pains to figure out what he does.
I have to admit that I'm in this camp too.
For weeks now, I've been looking at his forehand trying to figure out what he does. Occasionally, I'll get on court and feel I am doing the right thing, and occasionally, I feel I'm regressing back to my old ineffective style.
A while back, I noticed that Federer hits his forehand more in front of his body than most any player I know. Lately, though, I haven't given it much thought. I went back to the article by John Yandell in the latest Tennis magazine and saw that he made a point of how far in front of his body Federer hits the ball.
Then, I also recall something mentioned in a tennis lesson I had with a guy named Joel. Joel's a big fan of the idea that the racquet wants to move in a certain way, that there is a natural motion. Although this sounds like animism in the biggest way (i.e., even inanimate objects have a spirit), there is something to be said about this idea. He claims you should throw the racquet.
I've been thinking about this idea in relation to the Federer forehand. One thing you notice, if you stare at the slow motion video is that his hand accelerates a lot, once the racquet has reached the palm-down stage. How does he accelerate so fast?
I think one way to visualize this is to imagine holding a spear, and throwing it sidearm as hard as you can. This spearing is a kind of "throwing the racquet" idea. The only caveat is that you don't let go of the racquet. You hold the racquet as long as possible, and at the point where'd you have to release it, that's where you go into a windshield wiper movement, partly because your arm can't go any further out.
By thinking of it this way, you end up accelerating the racquet very quickly, and furthermore, you end up having the racquet far in front of the body. You want to time it so that you "spear" the ball when your arm is as far in front as you can reasonably manage.
I've yet to try this idea on court. I realize that this is also timed with body rotation, wrist laid back, and so forth, but I'm hoping this is the final piece of the puzzle.
In the end, I hope, much like Kirk, I can finally put this obsession to rest.
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1 month ago