by Federico Coppini
The great champions usually have a shot that characterizes them and gives them an
extra edge over their peers.
Andre Agassi had his tremendous return, Jimmy Connors hit his backhand like few other players in the world and Goran Ivanisevic got countless free points from his serve. And Stefan Edberg and Martina Navratilova used their serve-and-volley tactics to devastating effect.
There are many other examples, of course, but these are just a few instances where great players had shots that will forever be associated with them.
After falling to Ivanisevic in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 1992, a frustrated Stefan Edberg summed up the Croatian’s devastating strength: “In the fifth set I got a break point which he saved with an ace. Then at 5-3, 15/40 he hit two more. Then I got another and he hit another ace. Usually you hope to play some break points on a second serve, but Goran does not work that way.”
Similarly, Jimmy Connors always built his famous comebacks on his devastating backhand, while Jim Courier put blind faith in his forehand when things got tight.
While a club player can never hope to develop a weapon quite as magnificent as that of a pro they can, given sufficient time and commitment, hone one of their shots to the point where it can dominate their opponents in good times, and keep them in the match in bad times.
First you need the objectivity to be able to recognize which of your shots can be honed into just such a weapon. You might think you have a great backhand, but in reality it might be your forehand that has the most potential.
Once the shot has been selected, you can train it with care so as to eliminate any technical problems and increase your confidence in its offensive capabilities. The preferred shot must be kept under constant review. That does not mean you have to neglect other areas of your game, but you must make sure that you keep your best shot in tip-top condition at all times. This will not only keep it sharp, but will give you the psychological assurance that you can rely on it.
Assuming that your chosen weapon is your forehand, here are some tips:
1) Practice rallies using low and medium pace to get a “feel” for the ball, favoring fluidity of movement, the correct point of impact and the transfer of your body weight to the ball.
2) Practice all variations of the shot. There are three main types: A = Low (impact below the knees) B = Middle (impact between the knees and shoulders) C = High (impact above the shoulders). You must focus on hitting the ball to all areas of the court from these three main heights. Training should also include practicing at these heights from all areas of the court: far behind the baseline, on the baseline, on the service line and at the net. Also practice running around your backhand to hit a forehand.
3) Try to hit the ball on the rise.
4) It is important to remember that your best shot may not be a powerhouse, but it can still win you a lot of points. Not everyone is strong enough to hit winners off of almost any ball, and you might need to use your trump card shot to move your opponent around so that you can hit an easy winner, or even draw an error from your opponent. The mental aspect of this shot is as important as the physical and technical components. It might not seem to theoutside world that you have a weapon in your forehand, but you know that you do and that it can win you matches. One need only look at Emilio Sanchez, who rose as high as 7 in the world rankings, for proof of this. He didn’t have any overwhelming weapons, but used to his speed to position himself perfectly for each shot and outmaneuver his opponents. Power comes in many different forms, and you need to find the form that works best for you.
(Source: Tennis World)