Back in January, while watching the pre-match banter before the Australian Open final, former pro, coach, and now tennis commentator Brad Gilbert made an interesting comment. He said that Roger Federer would win the final over Raphael Nadal if he consistently struck the ball 2.9 feet above the court.
Why he chose to mix imperial measure with metric has me baffled, but I figure that’s about 34 and 3/4 inches.
What Gilbert was referring to is Federer’s perfect contact point height above the court, or where he strikes the ball in the best position for his individual body build.
The great thing here is everyone has this perfect contact point, and when you recognize, remember and constantly strive to get in position to consistently hit the ball there, your tennis will improve.
So, how do you go about finding your unique point?
I suggest you take a ball and stand behind the baseline, like you’re going to feed yourself a forehand (deuce side for righties, ad side for lefties). With the ball in your “off” hand, face sideways to the net and extend your off hand toward the net post about waist high. Now, drop it underhand, step toward the net post (while bending your knee) with the offside foot just after the ball bounces. Then, lean in to catch the ball underhand and freeze.
This will take some practice, but you’ll quickly find the perfect height above the court for you to contact the ball – uniquely yours.
Once you have this reference point and work toward getting in position to use it as often as possible, many other aspects of the game, including footwork, balance and timing will play integral parts, too.
To get in position to hit while getting your body out of the way and moving your weight from back to front is no easy task. At the same time, you’ve got to keep your eye on the ball, and at some point you will have decided where to hit it in the court. Whew! That’s a lot to remember.
Oh, and before all this you’ve got to be prepared (refer to my Boy Scout motto article): racquet back, turn your hips, bend your knees and all that.
By the way, Federer did win that final. Guess he hit plenty in his perfect contact point. I hope this helps you do that, too.
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area.