You often hear experienced and competitive tennis coaches advise their players to try to hit the ball early. Before we begin with instruction on how to hit the ball early, it is important to understand the importance and benefits to taking the ball early in tennis.
Benefits and Importance of hitting the ball early on the rise
1. Hitting the ball early takes time away from your opponent.
One of the main reasons why tennis players hit aggressively with a lot of power and to the corners from behind the baseline is to take time away from your opponent. However, in striking the ball very hard and to the edges of the court, you are incurring a very high risk of inconsistency and unforced errors. Taking the ball early or taking the ball on the rise means that you do not have to strike the ball as hard as you reduce significant distance of up to one to two metres each way of the ball travelling to your racquet and out from it, taking away a substantially more time away from your opponent than a hard struck shot can before they can get back to their ideal recovery position. It is simple – the earlier you hit your shots, the less time your opponent has to prepare and react for theirs. Conversely, if you strike a dropping ball, you will have given up too much court and need to strike the ball much harder to have any threat to your opponent to penetrate their court and defence.
2. Hitting the ball early opens up a lot of angles
Being closer to the net allows for you to hit sharper angles to the sidelines. It is simple geometry. Your arc of fire to the sidelines are wider when you are higher up the court, meaning your opponent who already has less time to recover has even more court to cover when you hit diagonal shots. Your opponent will be running corner to corner while you generally control the middle of the court.
3. Hitting the ball early cuts off the opponent’s angles and hence you have less court to cover.
Again it is simple geometry, crosscourt and diagonal balls have less distance to travel wider out the court the higher you are inside the court. Therefore the distance you have to cover from the baseline if you are high up the court significantly lesser over the course of a 4 shot rally and hence a game, a set and a match.
4. Hitting the ball early allows you to focus on good impact and use the balls energy to redirect the ball into the open space or back behind
A ball that is just off its bounce and rising still has significant every before it loses most of its energy by the time it reaches the peak of its bounce. When the ball has more incoming speed into your racquet, it hits your strings with more force and hence you are able to create a much higher rebound speed than a dropping ball whether this is not possible. Many times, if you are able to take the ball early and on the rise, you are able to let the hard struck ball “pocket” into your racquet string bed and redirect it into the open court or behind with good timing ad impact. When you take a ball on the rise, you can make use of your opponent’s pace to generate a lot power, in addition to providing your own – a devastating combination. Conversely, if you strike a dropping ball, the ball is already much slower and you will need to generate your own pace to be offence.
5. Hitting the ball early on the rise against your square contact face creates natural topspin.
A rising ball against a perpendicular surface will create natural topspin. This lends the ball some shape and additional margin of safety. Top tennis players who play high up on the court not only understand this, but take advantage of it to hit the ball harder and even wider knowing that easy access to topspin allows them to a fair margin of safety. Conversely, if you strike a dropping ball, you have to ensure your own topspin so that the ball does not fall into the net or sail long.
6. Committing to hitting the ball early avoids the dread high bounce and shot over your shouder.
Hitting the ball at your hip to chest height is the most ideal for a good range of grips between eastern and semi-western. By committing to hitting the ball in this strike zone, you are able to avoid the dreaded high ball about the shoulder where you lose significant power and control and can likely only brush the ball high back deep.
7. Having this skill allows you to take the return of serve early. You are also not afraid of “heavy” groundstrokes.
When opponent hits a big serve or a massive kick serve, or heavy groundstrokes, taking the ball early and on the rise means that the effect of spin is minimized. This is major on the return of serve, where the various spin serves will be slightly less wicked just as it bounces off the court and you are not pulled too far off the court or be stretched. Hard serves that you connected well early also return to the opponent much faster, often before they can come out of their serve and be set up for the third ball.
How to hit the ball early
- Play with your toes just on the back half of the baseline during rallies.
- Watch the ball come off of your opponent’s racquet very closely and immediately recognize the direction, speed, shape, spin and depth.
- On the return of serve, hop step onto or if you can, inside the baseline.
- Use a shorter and more compact backswing to improve your timing and point of contact.
- Always split step just before your opponent makes contact with the ball and land with a drop step to move in the direction of your opponent’s shot.
- Endevour to meet the ball between hip to chest height on its way up.
- Keep your head still.
- Extend your contact long through the impact zone at least 10-12 inches towards your target.
The TAG International Tennis Academy Definitive Guide Series
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This article is part of the TAG Definitive Guide Series which encompasses the best tennis advice available on the internet. If you enjoyed this article, some other interesting tennis instruction articles you may like:
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If you are looking to improve your tennis, you can look to some of Singapore’s best private tennis coaches such as the tennis coaches from the best tennis academy in Singapore, TAG International Tennis Academy by taking private tennis lessons. We can be contacted at +6598395232, or contact us HERE.
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