Over the past several weeks of teaching a variety of students (youths to seniors, and all different skill levels), they all seem to share a common challenge: Too often facing the net straight on when contacting the ball.

This is especially true on the forehand and can perpetuate hitting the ball late.

After recently reading through material and watching teaching videos about the geometry of tennis, I believe there’s simply one angle to burn into your brain that will keep you from hitting the ball even the slightest bit late.

That angle is 45 degrees.

Think about this and try it:

• Feed yourself a forehand. Drop the ball with your off-hand at a 45-degree angle to the net.

• Step toward it with your off-side foot, toes at the same 45-degree angle, as it bounces up from the court.

• Contact the ball with the racquet face at the same 45-degree angle to the net.

It’s actually easier and feels more natural to hit your backhand at the 45 because you’ll be more apt to lean into the ball through your hitting motion and lead with your shoulder.

The same goes for volleys: Try to get sideways with your racquet at the 45 on contacting the ball. You won’t have to swing and will have good placement.

As always, the foundation for all of this to take place is rooted in good footwork, maintaining good balance, and being prepared. Regarding footwork, I found an interesting definition for it at dictionary.com:

footwork [foot-wurk] (noun) 1. the use of the feet, as in tennis, boxing, or dancing. … 3. the act or process of maneuvering, especially in a skillful manner.”

So, getting off the mark quickly and moving to the ball, initially, on a diagonal will help you to be positioned at the 45 with your non-dominant side foot on the forehand, and dominant side foot on the backhand.

The serve is also tied into the 45. Your stance should have your feet positioned similar to your forehand. The non-dominant side foot (left if you’re a righty) should be at a 45 to the net.

But, that’s only a tiny portion of a whole other topic for another article.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides custom-hybrid racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. lwmarino@hotmail.com