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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Coaches Q and A: What's a Heavy Ball, and How Do I Hit One?

In this month's session of Coaches Q and A, Andy Brandi and Tom Downs of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida discuss hitting a heavy ball.

One of the most common phrases in tennis today is 'hit a heavy ball'. So what is a heavy ball?

One of the definitions in the dictionary for heavy is of great force. So a heavy ball has great force. Another word that has to be brought into the picture is momentum. A heavy ball has a lot of momentum. The word momentum is defined as force or speed of movement.

A heavy ball can be a serve, a backhand or forehand. For example, Boris Becker has a heavy serve. Rafael Nadal has a heavy forehand. Lisa Raymond has a heavy slice backhand. A heavy ball can be a flat as well, such as Andre Agassi’s heavy hits. They do not have as much spin as those of Rafael Nadal.

To create a heavy ball, the stroke must have acceleration and it must have body weight behind the shot. In today's game, a lot of shots are hit with the player in the air jumping into the ball. The body weight is transferred into the shot.

A heavy ball really takes effect when it bounces. The ball jumps through the court. It has a lot of momentum and if the opponent does not get a clean hit, his or her racket will turn in their hand. Secondly, they must get their feet in position to counter the momentum. If they do not, it will be like a bowling ball hitting a pin in a bowling alley.

In order to hit a heavy forehand, a player must hit up and through the ball. The forearm pronates into contact which gives it topspin. The forehand is a double rotation motion. The hips lead and the racket lags behind and catches up to the torso and shoulders at contact. The torso is what brings the racket through. The swing concept has changed. From the slot, the swing structure is inside out and up and through. The momentum of the swing is what carries players off the ground and this makes the ball heavier. They do not jump intentionally, rather the energy they build up from the ground up causes them to come off the ground.

So to summarize, a heavy ball is a combination of speed, trajectory and spin.

Hope this helps in your search for hitting a heavy ball. Happy Holidays and best of luck!

If you have a question for Andy Brandi or Harold Solomon, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches Q and A in the subject line.


Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of ZooTennis, with all of its positive affirmations and controversy; however most topics of controversy prevail with comments. So, I thought I might comment on the uncommented, but well described and written definition of “The Heavy Ball” by Coach Solomon and Coach Brandi. Every coach and player that enjoys Collette’s great site should make a copy of that perfect description. Put in your bag, your lessons plans or make copies and hand them to your friends. It says everything about the technical process of hitting a tennis ball, short of watching the ball. Player’s sometimes focus about the result (the where) of a shot and pay too little attention to the process (the what, when and how) of a shot. You will be helping our U.S. player’s at every level of the game. Happy New Year, to all of you.