Check out tennis coach Florian Meier's youtube video on the importance of developing a straight hitting arm in the one-handed backhand topspin groundstroke. It enhances your accuracy, power, reach. Florian talks about the slot position to produce a solid swing path. Some people think they're hitting with a straight arm when they're not, so Florian recommends you film yourself and see (or better still get a coach to check out your shots!).
Before long you will have a backhand more like Roger Federer's. Once you've mastered this technique, it becomes a more simple shot than the topspin forehand groundstroke.
The first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open in Melbourne Park, Melbourne, is upon us with two weeks of great tennis starting Monday 16 January and finishing with the men's final on Sunday 29 January.
Men's final: Roger Federer v Rafa Nadal, epic 5 set match won by Roger Federer. The level of play was possibly better than any match I've ever seen, and an amazing achievement for Roger considering he is now 35 years old.
Women's final: Venus Williams v Serena Williams, the younger sister Serena won the title.
What an amazing climax to the Australian Open, with champions who met up regularly in finals 10 years ago meeting up again in this years Australian Open.
Check out this blog post about tennis player James Ward, a Londoner with a bright future in tennis.
Great to see disciplinarian Ivan Lendl back in Andy Murray's corner. Lendl is a stickler for rigorous training and mental discipline. Andy has a strong team around him, not least his long-time assistant coach Jamie Delgado.
London has literally hundreds of amazing tennis coaches (many are here in London from abroad, bringing with them all their international experience).
So where should you start in your search for a tennis coach? And which coach is right for you?
Simply click on my directory of tennis coaches in London. This directory also includes dozens of tennis courts and tennis clubs in London, with full contact details. Let me know if there are any errors or omissions. Is your favourite tennis coach in London missing from my directory? Let me know and I'll add them!
Who is the best tennis coach in London ? Do you have a coach who has transformed your game? Let me know and I'll interview him/her for this website.
Question: If you're a right-handed player, is it better to get a right-handed coach? (also if you're a left handed player, should you get a left-handed coach?). Let me know what you think. It's a contentious issue and creates some lively debate in tennis circles.
If you need a tennis buddy in London, or tennis partner in London, why not join Fitness Buddy? It's Fitness4London.com's social network, and it's totally free to join and use, and always will be. Check out this blog post about finding a tennis buddy.
Quick checklist of things to consider when you're deciding which of London's hundreds of tennis clubs to join:
- friendliness and informality (there are still some clubs which insist on predominantly white clothing! Thankfully not as many as there were back in the 1980's.)
- enough opponents at your level and just above - if you want a regular tennis partner in London, or ideally several, you need a club with a decent level of membership
- price (consider how much you're likely to use the club, and also consider extra costs like floodlighting. Most clubs have a coin-operated system of turning on the floodlights, some provide this for free)
- convenience (if the club is not near your home, how likely are you to use it regularly?)
- number of courts (go and check out the club, and see how busy it is at the times you want to play)
- social events and clubhouse (some tennis clubs have a great social network, The Hogarth Club springs to mind as a great example, also The Park Club)
- booking system (if it's fiendishly hard to book a court, is it worth joining? Some clubs have a large wipe-board, like a timetable for the week, where you write up your booking on a first come first served basis)
- quality of tennis courts (go and visit, check the nets, the court surface, the lines - are they visible? Also the perimeter fencing, really annoying if it's curled up at the bottom so your balls roll out into the shrubbery every 5 minutes)
- tennis coaches (you might want some coaching, so check out the club coach and see if you'd get on with them, see how much they charge. Tennis coaching fees vary enormously in London, from £20 - £50 an hour.)
- background noise (if the courts are near a major road, you might find this distracting, particularly when you have tennis lessons and can't hear your coach speak)
Before discussing tennis errors, check out the video clip above. It's a fantastic example of tennis instruction at its best, produced by a tennis coach in the States called Christophe Delavaut who has a growing number of tennis instruction video clips on YouTube. After watching this clip several times before my regular Saturday tennis match, my topspin backhand improved immediately, almost by magic. When you've seen the video, click the link to his TennisOxygen site where there's an enhanced membership for a small annual fee.
Watch as much tennis on TV as possible. The French Open is on at the moment, on ITV4. See what errors the players make, and work out what went wrong. Were they unforced errors, in which case what caused it? The more you watch and analyse, the more you'll learn.
So how do you avoid errors? Here are three top tips:
Hit the ball high (a good 3-5 feet) over the net with topspin. This avoids you hitting the ball into the net. Sounds obvious, but easily forgotten.
Aim the ball comfortably inside the lines with cross-court shots to maximise the length of 'runway'. This avoids hitting the ball out. And if you hit over the middle of the net, you're less likely to hit into the net, as the net is lower at the centre.
Watch the ball like a hawk, right onto your racket strings, hit out in front, and keep your head still through contact. This avoids you miss-hitting the ball, or missing it altogether. It also ensures your contact point is the optimum for power, visual feedback, and balance. A still head is the centre of stability around which the racket arm revolves, to produce greater accelleration and accuracy.
And create plenty of lateral space between you and the ball. This avoids you becoming too cramped when you make the shot.
To play great tennis, you need a combination of strength, speed, agility, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. And the power of concentration and mental toughness.
Why not hire a personal trainer in London who can boost all these aspects of your fitness? You'll almost certainly win more matches as a result, and get a lot more fun out of the game. And just as important, you'll reduce your chances of injury.
While you're at it, hire a tennis coach to improve your technique, and you'll avoid getting tennis elbow, a painful condition that often results from bad technique. What do I mean by bad technique? Forcing your shots with over-reliance on your arm to do all the work, rather than rotating and driving forward your whole body into the shot. Another common error is late contact on the ball, which puts a lot of strain on the elbow tendons over time. There are lots of great tennis coaches in London who can explain this far better than I can.
Because tennis demands a lot of sudden changes in direction, it's worth strengthening the muscles around your knees and hips. So make sure you're strong and flexible in the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps, as well as calves. Nothing worse than a calf tear, and calves can be stubborn muscles to stretch, so make sure you stretch after every game.
Tennis is also a game that demands rotation of the trunk, particularly in the serve, and forehand/backhand groundstrokes. Strong back muscles are a good insurance against injuries of the lower back and spine. Work on strengthening the lumbar muscles (quadratis lumborum, ilio costalis lumborum), as well as the postural muscles which run up the sides of the spine (the spinal erectors). This will enable you to exert more power in rotation, while minimising risk of injury.
If you're a member of a tennis club in London which prides itself in maintaining its courts to a high standard, you're in a fortunate position.
Many Londoners have to contend with public tennis courts in parks and recreation grounds, and more often than not, the quality is pretty poor.
Main gripes are:
- the back fence has so many holes (and gaps at the bottom) that tennis balls get lost all the time.
- the net is too low, and there's no way of adjusting it
- the tennis court surface is so uneven that bad bounces occur every minute.
- the lines on the tennis court are so faded that it's hard to see when the ball is in or out, particularly from the other end