Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Five Things All Tennis Players Can Learn from Serena Williams

Although most female tennis players will never possess the inimitable physical abilities of current World No. 1 Serena Williams, the fact of the matter is that Williams hasn’t become a 15-time grand slam winner simply because she can hit a tennis ball harder than any other woman on the face of the planet.

Make no mistake about it, Williams has worked extremely hard to master her craft – and now, tennis players everywhere (not just females) can all take a few parts of Williams’ fantastic skill set and incorporate them into their own respective games.

With that thought in mind, I have come up with an entertaining list of five things that all female tennis players can learn from Serena Williams in an effort to improve their respective games faster than ever.

5. Open-Stance Backhand
Unlike most players that choose to hit either, a neutral-stance or closed-stance backhand, Serena Williams - and sister Venus - both choose to hit anopen-stance backhand and it’s a shot that all tennis players should try to add to their collective arsenals.

While the aforementioned two most common backhand stances are the primary stances for a two-handed backhanders, admittedly, the open-stance backhand is a shot that is used successfully on more than one occasion and a stroke that I believe is necessary in today’s game, a game that is now as much about power as it once was persistence.

The open-stance backhand will allow you to keep up with faster groundstrokes hit to that wing, though you may initially struggle to generate the same kind of power you do in either the closed or neutral stance backhands. However, once you master this shot in both power and accuracy, you’ll likely notice a spike in your victory total as well.

As you can see from the video, Williams gets her body set and weigh transferred forward just before making contact with the ball, increasing her power exponentially, like only she can. However, this is again, a shot that all tennis players should add to their backhand repertoires.

4. Forehand
Again, casual tennis fans may think that Serena Williams hits the ball harder than all of her counterparts because of her immense physical gifts. However, the fact of the matter is that Williams is so technically sound mechanically, that her natural power becomes augmented by the fact that she uses correct technical footwork, spacing and swing shape.

Watch Williams lay into one of her now infamous forehand ‘tracers’ and you can see that Williams has a picture perfect racquet take-back before planting her outside foot (right) and getting her entire body weight moving forward before taking a ‘healthy’ swipe at the ball.

Williams’ balance increases her ability to create topspin or flatten balls out whether going cross-court or down the line. Examine Williams’ forehand here and incorporate what she does into your own game – and you’ll likely experience instant improvement on your forehand stroke.

3. Serve

Most casual tennis fans may think Williams simply hits the ball harder than any other female on the planet, but the fact of the matter is that Serena Williams’service mechanics are textbook perfect and allow her to maximize every ounce of energy and power she possesses to its fullest extent – all without trying to bash the felt off the ball.

If you watch Williams’ entire service motion from beginning to end, you’ll see that she has every part of her body working toward one goal, powering up – and through – the tennis ball.

First, Williams gets that familiar ‘rocking motion’ of hers shifting back and then forward as she begins her swing take-back. Next, the younger tennis-playing Williams sister begins her service toss motion as her body weight begins moving toward the net. Williams then brings her feet together and takes a fantastic knee bend that all players need to copy whether male or female. With her weight shifted and her knees bent significantly and left arm still pointing up, Williams literally explodes upward toward the ball while her racquet head drops as her right elbow stretches up toward the heavens.

Now, with her body launched in the air, Williams reaches up for the ball and just before striking it, she pronates her wrist, arm and racquet as she powers through the ball as only she can. While there’s only one Serena Williams, I can attest that any player that tries to incorporate some of Serena Williams’ key service techniques will undoubtedly experience improvement in their own serves.

2. The Toss
I always tell my students that if ever a tennis player’s toss could be called ‘graceful’ then it would undoubtedly be Serena Williams! Before you can ever begin serving like Williams (or trying to) you need to learn how to toss theball consistently – and copying Williams’ distinctive toss – is a great place to start.

Players can easily see that Williams’ has an absolutely perfect service toss, beginning with a straight left arm. Williams’ grip around the ball is clearly very loose and not in the palm of her hand, thereby eliminating the errant, spinning service tosses that many beginners or recreation players possess.

Last but not least, all players can copy Williams’ release point on her toss, which, again, is also picture perfect as she correctly let’s the ball fly right as her left hand reaches shoulder height. Make no mistake about it tennis fans, Serena Williams is the proud owner of the best service ‘toss’ in the game and it’s something all tennis players should try to emulate.

1. Attitude/Intimidation
The No.1 attribute that Serena Williams possesses that all tennis players should emulate is her unparalleled ability to intimidate her generally overwhelmedopponents.

Sure, while Williams owns an almost unprecedented power advantage in almost every match she plays, the fact of the matter is that Williams just carries herself in a ‘menacing’ type of way that assuredly causes many of her opponents to beat their own selves well before the match ever begins.

If you’re old enough to remember Mike Tyson before he ever lost his first fight to career journeyman Buster Douglas, then you probably remember the way he mentally psyched out a string of overwhelmed opponents well before the opening bell. Williams does this to her opponents as well with a forcefully positive body language, game-face expressions – and most of all – the occasional decibel-moving screams of ‘come on’ following a well-played point. As you’ll see from the video, a well-timed ‘intimidation’ scream can go a long way toward affecting your opponent and no one does it better than Serena Williams.

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