Editors Notes: This is an article written by one of our expert contributing authors Jason Goldman-Petri. If you consider yourself an expert on the game and would like to write for Tennis Drills HQ, please get in contact with us.
~ Caleb Marshall
The overhead is the easiest shot in all of tennis.
I know what you’re thinking… “Easy for you, impossible for me!” But, if you listen to me and fix these 4 most common overhead errors, you will regain the confidence needed to come to the net, and maybe scare a net player or two in the process.
Error #1: Using The Wrong Grip (might as well hit a swinging volley)
The best grip for the overhead is a continental grip. The further away from a continental grip you are, the harder it is going to be for you to master the overhead. The continental grip works when you are reaching up as high as you can reach. A higher contact point means a better angle for hitting down into the court, less misses in the net, and you don’t have to run as far back to get into position. To hold a continental grip, hold the racquet at the head with your thumb and index finger on either side of the string-bed. Slide your hand down to the handle keeping your hand that way and you’ve got it!
Changing a grip on any shot in tennis is incredibly difficult, but if you are using any other grip besides a continental grip, you will always be limited.
Error #2: Making Contact Too Low (congratulations, you are now a foot shorter)
The best place to make contact with an overhead is as high up as you can reach as we just talked about. But even some players with a continental grip make contact too low. Make sure that your arm is fully extended. You may even want to practice some overheads where you start with your arm out-stretched and just follow-through so you can get a feeling of what it is like to make contact fully extended; anything to get up high.
YOU WANT TO BE HIGH (and not like Michael Phelps, that kind of high will get you in trouble)!
Error #3: Making Contact Too Far Forward (notice it is called an “OVERHEAD” not an “IN FRONT OF YOUR HEAD”)
Most grips, besides the continental grip, work when you make contact in front of your head, but this means you have to run back much farther to be in position. Even players who do have a continental grip end up too far forward sometimes, because they think it will be easier to hit down on the overhead. To feel what it is like to hit an overhead correctly, reach up high and use your hand to face the racquet down. In this way, you can hit down on the overhead, while not reaching forward.
(Just in case you cared, the arm movements necessary to create this are to extend your elbow up, pronate your elbow, and then flex the wrist. This is what most people call a “wrist snap” or “wrist pronation”. Let’s please stop calling it “wrist pronation” though; wrists do not pronate, elbows do).
Error #4: Not Turning To Run Back (let’s have a foot race; I get to run, and you have to backpedal… and GO!)
As soon as you notice that a ball is a lob, you need to immediately turn all the way so that you can begin running back to get into position. Obviously the worst thing you can do is to stay facing forward while backpedaling, but turning a little bit and side-stepping isn’t any good either. The fastest way to get anywhere on the court is to RUN there, so turn and RUN!
(Bonus Tip: Pointing at the ball will prevent you from doing this. Professional tennis players do not point at the ball. If you do turn and run back correctly, your arm will most likely face off to the side, not forward pointing towards the ball. This is also a great way to tell if your pro knows what they are doing. If they tell you to point at the ball, get the hell outta there.)
So there you go. No more botched put-aways. With an error-free overhead, you will have the confidence to command the most dominant court position… I think that is AS GOOD AS AN ACE!