As you can see in the accompanying image, I have finished preparing my racket — note my compact prep — precisely at the moment my opponent’s shot has landed on my side of the court.
I have accomplished this in a singular, unhurried motion that is always linked to the speed of the approaching ball, and is in concert with the hip and shoulder turn. This creates a connected sense of rhythm, and initiates a positive sequence of events regardless of whether the pace of the incoming shot is fast, slow, or somewhere in between.
Notice that my left arm is simultaneously in a balanced position — appearing as if I’m going to catch the ball — along with a slightly forward trunk posture and a lowered center of gravity compared to my normal standing height. In short, I’m coiled-up and primed to then take the necessary adjustment steps in order to position myself both laterally and longitudinally (forward-back) as necessary according to how I intend to play the ball.
Club players are notoriously guilty of preparing the racket late, often finishing well after the ball has already bounced. In some instances there are well intentioned individuals who unknowingly bring it back to their preferred position in two separate motions, first approximately three-quarters the way back, then, at the very last moment, back again. This better known as a “hitch” and leads to difficult-to-manage, late racket-on-ball impact points, quick hiting, short follow throughs that brake to a sudden stop — the primary cause of tennis elbow — and diminished power.
Start monitoring a timely take-back in each and every warm-up, day in and day out — that’s assuming you’re not initially standing in such close proximity to your warm-up partner that it becomes impossible to utilize the intended full range stroking motion. Improving this component will set the tone for consistently smooth ball striking off either wing right out of the box, and in time become a positive muscle memory conditioned response.
Jak Beardsworth (USPTA) is based at the Crowne Plaza-Lake Placid Club. He can be reached by e-mail at JB1tennis@comcast.net, by phone at 941-626-0097, or through his website JakBeardsworthTennis.com.
Timing the Take-Back
Photo by Shaun Ondak