Tennis Strokes – Chop Stroke, Slice Shot, Half-volley And Court Position

Knowing your tennis strokes makes all the difference. Learning how to play tennis can be fun and rewarding. Tennis is a great game once you have mastered the basics but in the initial stages developing control and technique takes some practise. This article teaches a few basics.

Chop stroke.

One of the most important teniis strokes to master is the chop stroke. The chop stroke is a shot where the angle towards the player and behind the racquet, made by the line of flight of the ball, and the racquet travelling down across it, is greater than 45 degrees and may be 90 degrees. The racquet face passes slightly outside the ball and down the side, chopping it, as a man chops wood. The spin and curve is from right to left. It is made with a stiff wrist.

Turning the chop into a slice.

The slice is one of the tennis strokes that requires a deft touch. The slice shot merely reduced the angle mentioned from 45 degrees down to a very small one. The face of the racquet passes either inside or outside the ball, according to direction desired, while the stroke is mainly a wrist twist or slap. This slap imparts a decided skidding break to the ball, while a chop “drags” the ball off the ground without break.

Footwork for the chop and slice shots.

The rules of footwork for both these shots should be the same as the drive, but because both are made with a short swing and more wrist play, without the need of weight, the rules of footwork may be more safely discarded and body position not so carefully considered. As with any tennis strokes, proper execution calls for a commitment to practise and training – a one hour coaching lesson can pinpoint your weaknesses and let you know which areas of your game to work on.

Strategic use of the chop and slice shots.

Both these shots are essentially defensive, and are labour-saving devices when your opponent is on the baseline. A chop or slice is very hard to drive, and will break up any driving game.

It is not a shot to use against a volley, as it is too slow to pass and too high to cause any worry. It should be used to drop short, soft shots at the feet of the net man as he comes in. Do not strive to pass someone at the net with a chop or slice, except when there is a large open side.

The drop-shot is a very soft, sharply-angled chop stroke, played almost completely by action of the wrist. Look to drop the ball within 1 to 1.5 metres of the net for your shot to be effective. The racquet face passes around the outside of the ball and under it with a distinct “wrist turn.” A full shoulder swing is not required for this shot. The drop shot should not be confused with a stop-volley. The drop shot is a wrist shot whereas the stop-volley shot is played with the wrist locked.

Use your short game sparingly.

Use all your wrist-action shots such as the chop, drop shot and slice sparingly. These are the tennis strokes to pull out of your hat at opportune times. They are to complement your main game as opposed to your game being built around them. You still need to make your power and strength drives and a strong serving game the mainstays of your tennis. Use your wrist variations only as an auxiliary for the purpose of upsetting your opponent’s rhythm by varying the pace and spin on the ball.

Saving points with the half-volley shot.

The half-volley shot requires precise timing and extreme accuracy. Practising this shot is important if you want to be able to call on it in a pinch. The margin for error is less than with virtually any other tennis shot, and an ill-timed or executed half volley is almost certain to lose you points. However, getting it right will give you a definite edge and can save points just when your opponent is on the attack.

It is a pick-up. The ball meets the ground and racquet face at nearly the same moment, the ball bouncing off the ground, on the strings. This shot is a stiff-wrist, short swing, like a volley with no follow through. Gym training focusing on wieght training with help develop your wrist strength – crucial in these tennis strokes. For the half-volley, the racquet face travels along the ground with a slight tilt over the ball and towards the net, thus holding the ball low; the shot, like all others in tennis, should travel across the racquet face, along the short strings. The racquet face should always be slightly outside the ball.

The half volley is essentially a defensive stroke, since it should only be made as a last resort, when caught out of position by your opponent’s attacking shot. It is a desperate attempt to keep the ball in play when otherwise the point would be lost. If at all possible, try to move in closer for a full volley shot – relying on the half volley when other options are open to you is unwise.

Positioning Yourself on the Court.

Familiarize yourself with the dimensions and geometry of the tennis court and learn where to be to play an effective game. Playing good tennis strokes while out of position is a sure way to open yourself up to attack.

A tennis court is 39 feet long from baseline to net. In general play while waiting for the ball from your opponent, you should be in one of only two places. These are:

Either standing about 1 metre (3 feet) behind the baseline, centred between the sidelines or 2-2.5 meters (about 6 to 8 feet) behind the net and inline with the ball.

The former is the position for all baseline players and the second is the standard net-play position.

Whenever you are forced or drawn to play a ball away from these areas it is important to return to them as soon as possible. Failure to do so will leave you wide open to your opponent’s attack.

Standing in no-man’s-land after your shot (the area between the baseline up to 3 metres back of the net) will leave you vulnerable, and is basically asking your opponent to drive right at you. Making the effort to get back behind the baseline will pay off in saved and won points. It is much easier to come forward again for the next shot if required than to try to play the ball as you are chasing it backward.

If you cannot get back then shift to the net position and prepare for avolley – try to turn defense into offense.

Stay on the move, rather than standing and watching your shot. Every tenth of a second counts, and you need to get back into position as quickly as possible. Strive to attain a position so that you always arrive at the spot the ball is going to before it actually arrives. Do your hard running while the ball is in the air, so you can steady yourself prior to playing your stroke.

It is in learning to do this that natural anticipation plays a big role. Some players instinctively know where the next return is going and take position accordingly, while others will never sense it. It is to the latter class that I urge court position, and recommend always coming in from behind the baseline to meet the ball, since it is much easier to run forward than back.

Should you be caught at the net, with a short shot to your opponent, do not stand still and let your opponent pass you at will, as they can easily do. Pick out the side where you think they will hit, and jump to it suddenly as he swings. If you guess right, you win the point. If you are wrong, you are no worse off, since he would have beaten you anyway with his shot.

Your position should always strive to be such that you can cover the greatest possible area of court without sacrificing safety, since the straight shot is the surest, most dangerous, and must be covered. It is merely a question of how much more court than that immediately in front of the ball may be guarded.

A well-grounded knowledge of court position saves many points, to say nothing of much breath expended in long runs after hopeless shots. Many of the top players have spent many hours doing positional drills – practising the art of moving back into position as soon as they have played their strokes. Sharpening your skills and honing your reflexes will pay out in the long run.

It is a good idea to get some more indepth guides and coaching manuals for insights on the game from professional players. The main thing is to keep practising. Sometimes strains and sore muscles can put you off your training but often working through them is the fastest way to overcome them and increase your strength. Remember that building your aerobic fitness and strength will make it easier to play your tennis strokes with precision and control.

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