Creating Stroke Magnetism
Below we have the formidable Jennifer Capriati, who fulfills each of the Connect 3 principles. This is great technique – clean, simple and relevant at every level of play.
Chiefly, what I want you to take note of when clicking through this full sequence is how Jenny’s forward contact helps to draw her efforts through, in the intended direction of the stroke.
The out-front contact creates a kind of magnetism for the swung/flung/thrown racket, which fosters the necessary transfer of power from the driven racket head to the ball.
Obviously, shorter balls make magnetism easier than, say, the high bouncing and deep ball, which Kafelnikov shuffles back for in the previous piece and below. But Yevgeny still manages to engineer a magnetic contact, even after all that side-pedaling backwards (in fact, it is the reason for his side-pedaling).
But at some point you’ll also have to hit balls as they rise up towards the top of the bounce (rather than on their way back down), which is what Jenny is doing, above.
For now, know that the Connect 3 Principle applies irrespective of whether hitting on the up or when the ball is on its way back down to earth.
The main difference is that you have much less time to prepare when hitting a forehand on the rise.
Tennis is a technical game of movement: kinda like golf in motion, and you don’t get to set up and tee-off your strokes from a stand-still position.
Rather, you have to engineer each perfect contact and you do this by reading, reacting and putting in the necessary leg work, to get your stroke to where it needs to be.
I can’t think of many better examples of how to set up to attack a forehand than Steffi Graf, and in these images she‘s engineered a perfect contact on the rise.
Few players could push Steffi Graf onto the back foot (see next 2 sections) and here her intentions are suitably aggressive.
‘How can you tell?’
Because she is inside the baseline and her efforts have been angled in towards the court.
Toggle between 1 & 2 and note that Steffi fulfills the Connect 3 Principle, though she rises to a contact slightly above her waist.
The primary difference between Steffi and Jenny previously is that – whilst Jenny’s forehand is aggressive – Graf is going for all-out attack – she’s out to finish the point here-and-now..
Same Contact: Different Routes
The time available to crank up a full stroke is much less when hitting the rising ball, but Steffi had two of the fastest feet and one of the swiftest loops in the game.
By all means try your arm at hitting on the rise, but do not use hitting a rising ball as an excuse not to move:
Hitting a rising ball should be an aggressive option for the active player, not an excuse for a lazy one.
Easy & Engineered Magnetism?
Might as well take the time for some visual emphasis, so cast eyes upon the animation of the Connors forehand again.
Reacting to this short ball, Jimmy is pretty much forced to hit a way-out-front, Magnetic Contact.
Think of this as easy magnetism or, if you like, involuntary magnetism, because the short ball has done the hard work for you – it would be difficult to hit anything but an out-front connect (but you’ll always find one…!).
By contrast, in the animation below, Steffi Graf has a far more difficult job of achieving a magnetic contact, and she engineers an out front connect by timely preparation and stepping up to meet the ball.
Like I say – Same/Similar Connect 3, achieved via different routes.
It’s worthy of note that – by design – purposefully – Steffi Graf’s forehand preparation was relatively ‘late’ and considered a flaw by those who impose more stereotypical techniques than parent Peter Graf clearly did.
Hence a more generic route might’ve robbed tennis of one of the best forehands I’ve ever seen, for that very ‘lateness’ was a contributing factor to her irresistible forehand power.
This is something else I hope to explore more fully later.