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TENNIS TIPS: Loading the stick

July 20, 2013
By JAK BEARDSWORTH ( , Lake Placid News

Preparing one's racket to make a ground stroke sounds like a cinch. It's not. Yet it's crucial to your success.

Racket preparation is a whole body movement known for eons as the "unit turn." Common misperceptions of preparation mostly lead to players flinging the racket back randomly or, worse yet, a last second tin-man effort - all arm no body - eliminating any hope of an integrated hip, shoulder, trunk turn. Tennis elbow anyone?

In the accompanying image you can see that, from an initial ready position, I've recognized a forehand opportunity and have initiated this hip-shoulder turn while simultaneously pivoting my lower body. It's all connected.

Article Photos

Photo by Shaun Ondak
Jak Beardsworth demonstrates the progression of steps it takes to prepare the racket to make a successful ground stroke.

With my left hand releasing the racket for the take back, my off-arm (left) begins assuming a position of balance that's maintained throughout preparation, continued through the ball striking moment and into the follow through where the racket is literally caught at rotation's end, then seamlessly dropped back into a ready position in recovery.

As the racket continues to fully load in the shown sequence I'm retaining the ready position's initial forward, over-the-ball forward leaning posture to insure a leveraged point of impact well in front. You can also notice that I'm unweighting my left foot to push off with the right in pursuit of the ball.

In an ideal world, my racket will reach full prep at precisely the time the approaching ball bounces - the rate of the take-back matches the speed of the incoming ball - no matter my court position at that moment, a valuable and underestimated timing device.

(Note: I am not suggesting "running with the racket back," a tired old misnomer that's a close second to the trite "bend your knees, $5 please.")

Now, with the arm, racket, hips and shoulders fully coiled one is able to generate a considerable amount of racket "swing-weight" (versus scale weight) resulting in a powerful kinetic strom with minimal effort that moves the ball quickly through the court without hitting "hard."

Do your best. Always aspire higher. Love the game.


Jak Beardsworth, USPTA, is based at the Crowne Plaza-Lake Placid Club, and is available for adult and junior lessons by appointment:, 941-626-0097,



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