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October 2, 2008
Should you take the racket back quickly?


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Remember the basic principles for learning tennis with my system is to develop a 'feel' for different strokes along with developing mental skills through REPETITION.  Repetition of simple procedures create that 'feel' NOT an over emphasis on the technical skills and mechanics.  Click here for an article that I wrote on 'feel' vs 'mechanics' in April 2001

Tom's Online Tennis Lesson
Should you take the racket back quickly?


There were many e-mails of concern from Hurricane Ike. I read them all, but there were too many to respond to. I wanted to thank everyone for all those great e-mails; I really appreciated them. Slowly Houston is coming back to normal, but there is still more to go. Many people still have their electricity out and some traffic lights are not working. Debris is still in the process of being picked up. Certain areas had more damage than others but there are tons of working crews from all over the country helping out. Another month and Houston should be in better shape. Galveston and surrounding areas will take much, much longer but will recover.



Congratulations Roger Federer! You have completely confused the news media. You are supposed to be finished, having frustrating times and losing all your confidence. I guess you did not agree with their assessment! Maybe they should have asked you. You won Grand Slam number 13, so maybe it was not all that bad of a year. Way to go, Roger!


QUESTION: On your groundstrokes, should you take the racket back as soon as the ball comes your way?

ANSWER: Absolutely not!

Some of you still fall prey to this false information about taking the racket back quickly. If you hit the ball late and miss, you immediately think that you should have jammed the racket back sooner. Here is my question to you. If you have the habit of immediately taking the racket back then what are you going to do when the ball comes at you rocket-fast? There is no time to take a big back swing. You must modify your stroke quickly. But how can you when the racket is all the way back as commonly taught? There is just not enough time to then shorten up the swing for the faster balls! This means you should learn instinctively to prepare differently for different shots.

The one-size-fits-all type of backswing will not work, so stop thinking about jamming the racket back when the ball is coming to you. This is too mechanical and robotic. You must learn to be more instinctive and automatic. How? Take the racket back when you are about to hit the ball, not while you are running to hit the ball. Preparing the racket just before or after the ball bounces is more natural. Better yet, do not even think about the backswing and just let it happen. With practice your timing will improve and so will your backswing.

Do you think I have gone wacky? Not so! At least not in the way you think. Here is another question for you. Have you ever seen a pro take his racket back then proceed to run with the racket hanging behind him? Watch the pros the next time and see what you think.

You will be surprised to discover the racket goes back as they are about to hit. They may have a slight turn in the direction they are running, but the full swing begins when they are about to hit. It is time to begin playing more like a pro. Do not fall for the rigid conventional method of taking the racket back like a robot. I'm not sure where this came from, but it's a myth. This technique does not hold up under true playing application.

One of the reasons the pros take the racket back later than you would have expected is because it is more natural to run to meet the ball with the racket in front of you rather than wagging behind. Running fast with the racket dangling behind is just too awkward. I usually demonstrate to my students how silly it looks to run to meet the ball with the racket already back. Then I ask if they have ever seen a pro look like that. They usually laugh. The pros may take a slight turn in the direction of the ball, but the racket does not go all the way back until they are ready to hit the ball.

Another reason the pros wait to take the racket back is because the backswing is part of the timing and rhythm of hitting the ball. The timing and rhythm are essential for power on their groundstrokes. If the racket is back too soon the pros become too mechanical and will lose the rhythm, the feel, and the power. Unbeknownst to most players tennis is more a game of timing and rhythm than of perfect mechanics. That's why John McEnroe with his totally unconventional strokes was number one in the world!

The lesson here is to stop over-thinking taking the racket back. As I said earlier, if I were you I would not even THINK about taking the racket back, just let it happen naturally. The more you practice letting the racket go back naturally, the better your timing and rhythm will become. That's right, you must practice, there is no shortcut. Players all around the world are being taught to take their racket back immediately, but they are still hitting the ball late! Why? Because timing is not a technique, it's acquired by many hours of practice. You may have the racket back before the ball arrives in your hitting zone, but with poor timing this is meaningless. Do not fall prey to the traditional advice of jamming the racket back quickly. You will improve much faster, have one less thing to think about and avoid paralysis by analysis!

Your Tennis Pro,

Tom Veneziano



Hi Tom!

I'm a competitive tennis player and only yesterday I discovered your web page. As I read your articles, especially the Tennis Myths, it made so much sense to me, because I feel it every day I go to the Tennis Club to practice. You say, "Conventional methods try to fit you into a mold that is not natural and can hamper the instinctive, automatic, and spontaneous play that is the signature of a champion." This couldn't be more true. For example, for me, it's much more instinctive on the forehand to prepare the racket down instead of keeping it high. My shot is much better like that, but my coach always tell me that I'm doing wrong, is not supposed to be like that, etc. It seems that tennis coaches want everyone to play the shots equal. I have a friend who has a two-handed forehand and he quit tennis lessons because his coach wanted him to play a "normal" one-handed forehand like everyone else, which wasn't natural to him.

Thank God that coaches cannot talk with players when we are playing in tournaments. That way, we can play instinctive tennis that feels much better than technical tennis. When I go to a game, I like to think and feel instinctively and tactically, not technically. When I think technically during a game, all goes wrong.

Thanks for your attention, I look forward to reading your book.

Lisbon, Portugal


ADDENDUM:  I teach a total system of thinking in regard to stroke production and mental attitude which I cannot explain in one email.  Although each lesson can stand alone you will derive tremendous physical and mental benefit by understanding the total philosophy.  These emails, my web site, books, and tapes are part of a course in tennis, not just isolated tennis tips.  They all fit together into a system.  A system that once understood can help you not only learn tennis at a faster rate, and develop mental toughness, but also give you the knowledge necessary to help guide you and your children to a better understanding of the developmental process.

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