Joined: 11/05/2012 23:24:34
Here's a way to accelerate your improvement by comparing your tennis to the pros on YouTube.
Learn the pros' strokes on YouTube.
A month ago I committed myself to learning the two hand backhand. I was not looking forward to the awkwardness and frustration of learning something new . And where would I find the time? You have to hit around 10,000 balls to feel confident in a new stroke. But with video analysis, I think I've cut that number in half. Here's how.
Step 1: Identify a technically "perfect" stroke on YouTube.
We'll call this the "control" video. It should be of a pro hitting in slow motion with a good view of the player from head to foot. This video of Thomas Berdych's 2 hand backhand is perfect:
Step 2: Film 3-5 of your sessions on a ball machine.
Set up a camera on the baseline. It doesn't need to be my VolleyCam, or anything expensive, but high definition will be a big help. Hit a few hundred balls at a time and return home to compare your stroke to your "control" video (in my case, Berdych hitting backhands). Identify one thing to work on during your next session (ie, shoulder turn, extension of left hand into court, etc.). Keep it simple, and focused: you can't learn it all in one session. With each session, compare videos and "check off" each element (shoulders, knee bend, footwork) until you have a fundamentally solid and repeatable stroke.
Step 3: Real world testing. More video.
Find a partner or instructor good enough (and patient enough) to isolate your new stroke. You're about to find out the vast difference between "ball machine" confidence and "real world" confidence. The ball will be coming at a varied pace, angle and height. You will struggle. It will be frustrating. At this point, some players give up and return to their flawed but familiar strokes. But if you're diligent about filming, comparing to the test video, and working on just one thing at a time, you're reducing a large problem into a series of smaller, more manageable problems. And you have the benefit of video to verify your progress.
Conclusion: It isn't right, until it "looks right."
If you're going to learn a new stroke, or radically change a stroke, don't just practice until it "feels right" or the ball goes in reliably. Your work isn't done. If you make the extra effort to have the most mechanically efficient form possible, you're arming yourself with a major advantage on the court. You aren't working as hard, and you're working with far more margin for error. You become one of those players who wins without seemingly trying.
Full article on learning the backhand from my blog.