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Bending Your Knees

Myth - You should bend your knees on all of your strokes.

Truth - Again, if you have read a number of these myths you should begin to see a pattern.  Most top players do what is necessary for a particular shot.  If the ball is low they bend their knees more, if the ball is higher they do not bend as much.  Some players dip the racket head down instead of bending the knees quite as much.  Some pros bend more from the waist on certain shots than would be accepted in conventional wisdom.  Actually if a top pro were to take a conventional tennis lesson he would be completely incorrect in most of what he does.

I tell you what, I’m not going to tell him, you tell him!!!

Now, can't you just hear the conventional lesson given to a top pro?  You know Pete, you have a few problems here.  You jump off the ground on most of your shots, you swing upward instead of outward, you hit entirely too much with the open stance, your racket preparation is much too late, you are not staying still and balanced on each shot, you definitely are not staying down through the stroke, you are hitting too many times with your body weight moving backward, your knees are not always bent, your racket head drops below your wrist too many times, and you are rolling your wrist on your groundstrokes just about every time. In short, you are a mess!  I think you need about ten hours of lessons a week for the next year to straighten all of this out.

Pete Sampras answers, "but I just won Wimbledon!"

Yes, sometimes you bend your knees and sometimes you do not bend quite as much. Avoid the pitfall of making bending the knees this rigid axiom that has to be followed before you can play tennis well. Play relaxed and look like an athlete bending naturally and where necessary. Oscar Wegner in his book "You Can Play Tennis in 2 Hours" hit it right on the nose when he said "Combined with stay down through the stroke, only bending the knees makes players look like broken puppets. Bend naturally - waist, knees, arms - looking like an athlete, not like a stiff marionette."

Personally I rarely tell any of my students to bend their knees.  Actually, I believe it has been years since I have uttered the words "bend your knees."  I have discovered that in time most players begin bending their knees automatically and naturally without having to mention it.  So, I leave them alone and let the natural process teach them when to bend a little and when to bend more.  It works!

Think about it.  Did you ever approach a low ball when playing tennis and think to yourself, that ball is really low, I believe I will stand straight up to hit it.  Of course not!  If you know the ball is low the tendency would be to bend down to reach it.  The problem is most players, especially beginners, intermediates, and some advance players do not know the ball is low until they get close to it.  As time goes on and you practice and play you will recognize that the ball is going to be low ahead of time and begin bending automatically.

How’s that!  One less thing to think about.  Stay with me and we will have you playing relaxed, automatic, and instinctive tennis in no time.

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