Monday, 29 September 2014


Not sure if I have already posted this one, the memory is getting worse as I head towards 50 but I do remember many days on court speaking to my students about the benefit of the 'rally ball'. I don't know if I was ahead of my time or behind as i have seen some rather funny ways of teaching over the past 31 years on court but one thing is for certain. If you can rally, you can win a game of tennis.
I received a comment on my site a while back from a gentleman who has sent me numerous 'ideas' on what he perceives as smart tennis, this one in particular stuck in my mind. "No point in tactics without weapons, gotta have weapons first and foremost ". 
This comment came from a chapter I wrote on tactics regarding the high bouncing ball , Rafa style, as I felt it was a smart way of playing. I believe that the high topspin ball off either side can win free points as it creates many short balls from the opponent unless it is returned precisely. 
I am all for 'weapons' however you have to start somewhere. How do you think Rafa's forehand became possibly the biggest shot in World Tennis ? Did it start from the first ball struck ? I doubt it. I would suspect that after many sessions as a 14 and 15 year old on the clay with mentor Carlos Moya that the 'rally ball' from Rafa was turned into a shot that dictated play. 
It gave me great heart that what I was teaching regarding the 'rally ball' was in fact technically correct after buying a copy of the Andre Agassi book that spoke of the benefits of simply keeping the ball in play. Page 189 of 'Open' is testimony to the fact . "What'd you do that for ? I know it's a killer shot , but every shot doesn't have to be killer. Sometimes the best shot is a holding shot, an OK shot, a shot that gives the other guy a chance to miss. Let the other guy play ".( Brad Gilbert )
Pretty simple stuff hey ? But it's not, the whole perception of teaching the game has changed, it's more about 'pulling the trigger' ala Roger Rasheed style . The guy is obsessed with it as you would have seen with his commentating at the Australian Open . You can't 'pull the trigger' on a ball unless you get it into your hitting zone and how do you get it into your hitting zone ? You set it up with smart play. Smart rallying will do this. 
I had a lesson with a kid last season who wanted to drive every ball within a foot of the height of the net so I asked the obvious question ."So how about your margin for error" ?
Told him that he would have to be technically gifted and as fit as hell to be able to sustain that sort of hitting throughout a match. Showed him the benefits of a slower ball with height to mix up play. On top of that I also pointed out that front foot tennis is not possible on every shot as some kids think. I told him to watch Rafa and Novak on wide balls to their backhand side , front foot tennis is not an option in these circumstances. 
As the great Mats Wilander states on many occasions "The open stance finds you ". Problem is simple, some players , especially kids are only taught front foot play, that's an issue, no player is quick enough to get every ball on the front foot.
Complex game tennis but one thing is for sure, the rally ball can win you a match without you even hitting a winner, just keep it in play, keep it simple........

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