The slow-dance choreography of a tennis warm-up is a wordless, polite exercise of ground strokes, lobs, volleys, and serves. It gets the players’ blood flowing and they get to check out the competition. In slow motion, players purposely move their feet in familiar patterns, exaggerate their hips opening to absorb power shots, hold their balance in the follow-through a bit longer, and reduce their speed in any foot take-offs and landings. Muscle memories are re-kindled and sparks start to fire for the explosive shots to come. But, don’t be fooled by the pace of the warm-up. It changes on the very first point. “Love – Love” doesn’t last long.
Game on… the tennis player’s feet are constantly in motion – before, during, and after each stroke. He sets up shots to control the game and will never be caught flatfooted. He has his footwork cut out for him; it will be 5K of chasing down balls in a match. Whether sprinting for a cross court shot, sideways galloping to recover position or hopping for an overhead, a tennis player’s moves are foundational to his strokes.
One of the most aggressive tactics in tennis has a very demure name – ‘The Approach Shot’. It is exciting to watch and to play because it is a potential game-changer.
Footwork of the Approach Shot
The player takes a powerful step forward to get off the baseline and then small, balanced steps bring her to the service line. With shoulders and torso rotated, she is sideways or perpendicular to the net. This helps her transfer weight forward as she hits the approach shot. She takes the short ball high on the bounce or out of the air.
- If she hits it with top spin, she stays low in a semi-open stance and rises up into and through the ball as it slams down the line.
- If she comes into net with a slice, a ‘Carioca Step’ – her back foot goes behind her front leg – propels her forward. As she slices the ball with a smooth cutting motion, her stance is closed with knees bent. The ball plops over the net out of the opponent’s reach.
She split steps to center her gravity, and gets ready to explode at whatever height and direction the next ball dictates. Will she do a put-away volley on a low ball? Or, will she pedal backwards and hit an overhead on a mid-court high ball? Then again, maybe she already got the point with her approach shot.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)
TRAINING – COMPETITION – PODIUM