(This article first appeared in the September 13, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
The US Open may be over but after watching a few matches I became inspired. Sure, I played tennis growing up and made the varsity team in high school (oh so many years ago), but when trying to think of the last time I actually practiced I drew blanks. All of my baseball and golf swinging was sure to be a hurdle I’d have to overcome. Thankfully, Dennis Ferrando at East Hampton Indoor Tennis gave me an hour lesson to brush up on my long-lost skill set.
Ferrando has been a certified USTA instructor with EHIT since 1996, about the same time I swung my first racket. He claims the key to success with the sport, as with most things in life, is to simply enjoy it. After an hour of running around the court, relearning the proper basics, I fell in love with tennis all over again (love one, love all — my tennis motto from back in the day).
Here are some tips for beginners, or those wanting to get back in the swing of things.
Don’t worry about the power, it’s about good contact. The racket mimics what your hand does. Hit it right.
When you swing, make the racket go from your lowered hand to your opposing shoulder — always make sure to follow through.
Keep your opposing hand on top (left for righties, right for lefties).
Move the moment the ball has been hit by your opponent, not after it has bounced in your court.
- On the Court:
When at the baseline (the back of the court), always keep center. In moving toward the ball, maintain the Shuffle Step (quick motion that faces your opponent while quickly preparing for the next shot). Always stay on the balls of your feet. Two shuffle steps on either side will cover entire base line, so always return to center!
When at the service line, or midcourt, if an overhead ball (also called a smash) comes your way be sure to prepare your stance the same way you’d serve the ball. Turn sideways and point your opposing hand toward the ball for a more accurate motion.
When hitting from the midcourt always follow your ball and the line of the ball. There’s over a 90 percent chance the ball will come back to that spot.
Up at the net for a passing shot, the forceful motion keeping the ball out of reach of your opponent, position your opposing foot at a 45-degree angle. Always keep the racket strong, parallel to your foot, and your eyes at the back of the racket (not where the ball is going).
- Equipment Recommendations:
For the ideal racket, try an adult Wilson, 27 inches long and weighing in at 9.9 oz – 10 oz.
Practice on a clay court, which grips the shoes where it’s easier on your legs. Try and stick to tennis shoes, indicated by the flat bottom.
To progressively get better, or stay consistent with your current level, make sure to play — or take a lesson — two to three times a week
In addition to taking a lesson, enjoy cardio classes or “tennis aerobics” with Ferrando, an hour-and-a-half of drills and skills in this up-tempo clinic. Who knows, you could be the next Sloane Stephens or Rafael Nadal!