Some people think that hitting on the ball machine is a waste of time, because you perfect a stroke that will almost never happen: a shot where you don’t have to run and set up.
There is, of course, truth in that critique, since my recurring joke is that there are two kinds of tennis players, those that won’t hit the ball to you, and those that can’t hit the ball to you.
Either way you are on the run.
Even so, I believe it has value to try and stabilize a forehand (or backhand) that you can TRY to apply to most situations by hitting the split step on their stroke and then moving into as standardized a position as possible to hit yours.
Today’s post, however is not designed to stick up for the ball machine.
I just wanted to comment on how sometimes I get ideas for how to optimize my groundstrokes while I’m hitting on the machine.
Right now there is a sort of delightful possibility that is emerging in my game, which is the idea that I will soon have FEWER options when the ball comes at me over the net due to my having a very clear sense of how I plan to hit both groundstrokes.
As a tennis tweaker I am often fiddling with my game in a spirit of optimization. Sometimes that results in a situation where I have several versions of the forehand or backhand that I am trying out.
On the serve having multiple options is more easily managed, since you inaugurate the action. But on groundstrokes there is so much going on that is out of your control, and if you have to decide which backhand you are going to hit, under pressure, it’s a fragile situation.
Right now, however, I seem to be homing in on a sort of “floating” racket head preparation, where the racket sticks up more or less straight out of my hand on both sides. This allows for a wonderful fall and rise of the racket on the stroke, a loose wrist (adds power), and more or less the same shot in as many situations as possible.
Even on the serve return I can sort of float the racket straight up and get rapid head movement into the shot.
Note the photos below. One new thing is that the face of the racket is pointing to the side of the court on both strokes,
I’m having some luck with this on the ball machine, and hope that it will translate into actual play
Note: Disclaimer: I broke a string today so the shot prep you see below is totally staged