Hunters of the Fall
Going in Search of the Falling Ball
If you flick back through every stroke on this site, you’ll find the Connect 3 principles in evidence (though Thomas Muster’s previous curve-ball tests the boundaries of forwardness).
Lower balls are easier for beginners and for that reason, these 3 frames of the Yevgeny Kafelnikov forehand have relevance.You can see that contact is…
1 powerfully (and invitingly) forward of his body/hitting shoulder…
2 at (or just below) waist height and…
3 some way to the side of his body, to give the shot room to flourish, which is confirmed by a racket roughly parallel to the ground:- too close to your body, and a parallel racket is impossible.
Ah, but when to make this perfect contact?
On the ball’s way up from the bounce?
Or when it is on the way back down to earth?’
For beginners and other learners, waiting until the ball falls from the top of its bounce is the better option, and developing strokes is easier on shorter, lower bouncing balls (kindly ‘fed’ to you by a helpful practice partner or family member).
In this animation, Jimmy Connors shuffles up the court to hit one of these easier, shorter balls.
Obviously, some balls never rise up to waist height. But, rather than droop the racket head, Jimmy lowers his waist – via bendy legs and absorbent knees – to maintain as parallel a racket as this set of circumstances allow.
We also see another example of Jimbo’s no-fuss forehand technique.
Also, by backing off behind higher-bouncing, deeper balls, and allowing it to fall to a more manageable height, players – like Kafelnikov in the animation below – give themselves more time (and space) to concentrate on building their stroke/s.
Another major plus in seeking out the falling ball is that it encourages movement, because you must engineer your perfect contact by moving back or shifting sharply up the court – you can’t develop good tennis technique by standing around and swiping at whatever arrives in your comfort zone.
Just ask Steffi…