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CAtennis is a passionate discussion for serious tennis players, parents and coaches looking for something different. No talk about technique, no talk about useless theory, no gimmicks; just practical advice from first-hand experience on how to improve your tennis. Kick back, drink the content, bounce ideas, and pitch articles (or friend us on Facebook).

Unless otherwise noted, all articles are authored by the founders of CAtennis.  Enjoy!


Entries in Creative Practice (81)


Steal This Drill: The Rainbow Drill

It is said that great minds think alike. As evidenced by the following drill, the same thing can be said about lesser minds as well (just kidding). The following drill is a collaboration between CAtennis.com, Karl Rosenstock and Roy Coopersmith. As it happened, and out of pure coincidence, the three parties discussed covering the following drill on exactly the same date. 

Here's a little background on our co-conspirators:

Karl Rosenstock: Karl is currently the official tennis X-mo cam videographer for USC Tennis and a Contributing Editor for CAtennis.com where he provides video content and articles. These days, Karl is most well known as the tennis slow mo guy insofar as he provides X-Mo cam high speed videography for tennis coaching and keepsake purposes for college tennis, tennis clubs and tennis tournaments. Karl has been a USPTA tennis teaching professional and professional television producer. He has specialties in producing, multi camera studio production and directing, lighting design and studio and remote camera operation. For more information regarding his services, please contact Karl at 415-794-5250.

Roy Coopersmith: Roy is currently the Tennis Director at Pine Bluff Country Club in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. With a tennis career spanning over 4 decades, Roy has done it all and seen it all. He was an accomplished professional, college, open as well as senior player (#6 in Germany in U40s) and, as a coach, he has had the opportunity to coach an impressive list of players including: Philipp Kohlschreiber, Lisa Raymond, Tom Shimada, Jelena Jankovic, Jamea Jackson, Christian Weiss, Toma Walter, Maja Palaversic,  Christina Singer, Kim Couts, Roko Karanusic, Helena Vildova, Nguyen Hoang (2009 Orange Bowl Champion), Josip Mesin, etc. Currently, however, his main focus is on developing the game of his daughter - Niki Coopersmith. Nevertheless, if going to the next level is your goal, Roy has the technical, tactical, mental and physical expertise to assist you.

Rainbow Drill:

Here, at CAtennis.com, we are huge fans of situational-based practice. We feel that if the players have experienced certain pressure situations in practice they will be able to relax and think more clearly in the heat of battle. In the Rainbow Drill, one of the players starts with his racket on the net chord and the other is on the baseline. The coach (or the baseline player) feeds a deep lob over the net-player. The lob should bounce somewhere close to the baseline (even slightly outside of the lines). The net player chases it down and either hits a baseline overhead or a groundstroke. The baseline player must let this ball bounce and the point starts immediately (i.e., if the net player misses the "feed" he loses the point). This drill is not only a fun variation on the ol' baseline game, but it also teaches the players how to hit overheads from less than optimal positions and, also, how to regain the advantage after having lost it. This is particularly important for juniors and female players bacause they may lack the put-away ability from the net. That is, sometimes players get to the net but fail to capitalize on the situation and are forced to "restart" the point if the opponent comes up with a decent lob. This drill will, hopefully, teach the players that losing the upper hand mid-point is not the end of the world. One can regain the advantage with a well placed shot...a shot that must be practiced and mastered. 


Steal This Drill: Switch!!!

Here's a variation of the 1-on-1 drill known as "corners" where one player stays in one corner and moves his paractice partner side to side. In the standard corners drill, one of the player moves side to side until he tires and then the roles switch allowing the dictating player to move as well. We find the standard drill to be somewhat artificial in that the dictating player's energy level is usually ratcheted back while the other player is moving.

In our version, every 3-4 shots the dictating player yells out "switch!!!!" and the moving player has to direct the shots to the open corner. The dictating player then moves to the open corner from where the game continues. Then, after 2-3-4-5 shots (or even 1), the dictating player yells "switch" again and the moving player directs his shots to the open court. The benefit of this drill is that both of the players are moving and that the moving player is forced to constantly shift the angles of his shots while on the run. The dictating player gets to move as well so this drill is usefull in maintaining a high level of excitement for both players. Furthermore, with both players being forced to move and change the direction of the ball, the drill is a lot more realistic and practical than your standard corners drill. 

A second variation of the corners drill is where the moving player (or coach) yells "switch" and the roles change in the middle of the rally. For example, wherever the moving player happens to be when "switch" is called out, that's his corner and the player who was previously dictating the play is now the runner (hitting all of his shots towards that corner. This is a great drill for practicing in a team format where 3-4 courts can perform the same task and the coach's directive ("Switch") controls all the courts at the same time. 



Active Tennis Watching

How many of you like to watch tennis? Do you prefer to watch it live or on TV? How many of you watch tennis "with a purpose"? In other words, rather than people-watching and oohing and aahing about someone's monster serve or impossible gets, do you watch tennis to learn and improve your own game? I have found that most people, even crazy tennis players such as ourselves, don't watch tennis with the right attitude. We watch to be entertained but not to improve our own level of play.

Given the current state of technology, we find this to be incredibly tragic. If you care about learning the game - becoming a student of the sport - make active tennis watching one of your top priorities. Remember, you might not end up playing against Federer (or Serena) but you will, most likely, end up playing against someone who is idolizing him and emulating their game after his. Therefore, by knowing the pros you will end up knowing your opponent. 

Here are some tips for becoming a better player by watching tennis with a purpose:

1. Freeze frame the serve. In the picture above, can you guess where Tomic is serving? Can you guess given the score? What about the coiling of the body? Toss? 

2. Spot the patterns. Also in the picture above, I have used two strips of white athletic tape and placed them on the screen so that they would be coordinated with the fixed camera angle on the screen. Try this and see how many shots are hit around the service line. You will begin to notice how hard the players try to keep the ball away from the middle of the court. They are consciously trying to work the point and get an opening through well-placed, high-percentage shots. 

3. Get in on the action. Rather than sitting on the couch and kicking your feet up, stand up, grab a racket in hand and "live" the point. As soon as you hear the ball being struck by one of the players, change your grip to the recipient's groundstroke. Train yourself so that the response is automatic. This is particularly helpful when one of the players is serving. Learn to read the server's motion and see if you can anticipate where the ball will be going. 

4. Match analysis. The stats put on the screen regarding 1st serve percentage and unforced errors are often useless. The numbers will not tell you where the player was serving, what were the circumstances that caused a miss, how the point was set up for a winner. Without this additional information, the stats can be confusing or open to interpretation. Therefore, keep track of the stats but add a comment section further explaining the information. For example, did a player miss 22 forehands? Well that's bad. Oh, wait, did he miss them all from 3 feet behind the service line (i.e., he was in an aggressive position)? Well, that's certainly something that's worth noting. The same concept would apply for serves. For example, if a player is hitting 25 double faults in a match but hits them all at 40-0 or 40-15, the basic statistic is incomplete and possible irrelevant. 

5. Write impressions. During ever changeover, write a quick one- or two-sentence impression concerning the games so far. If you were a coach, what would you tell the players about what's going on? What strategy would you suggest? How is "your" player winning and losing? If it helps you, tweet it or facebook the status. 

6. Rewind. It's OK to rewind even the most mundane points and see if you've missed things the first time around. Build your "rolodex of plays" by actively trying to figure out what exactly is happening on the court. 

After you've watched tennis with a purpose, you will never watch a match the same way again. Furthermore, your whole outlook of the game will change and you will be in a better position to take an active role in your development. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to add your comments below. 



Steal This Drill: Deep Game Variation

Here's a simple drill for improving one's depth on his or her groundstrokes (credit: the original form of the drill was learned from Peter Smith, current USC coach). At the risk of sounding sexist, this is a particularly useful drill for girls/women because they tend to rely more on depth and penetrating shots to win points whereas men tend to create more openings with spins and angles. Nevertheless, all players can be better off by learning how to master deep shots that land just inside the baseline. 

The rules are as follows: a line is drawn/taped about 6ft inside of the baseline. The player practicing hitting deep has 3 opportunities (i.e., 3 balls) to hit 20 shots inside of the "deep" area. For any ball landing in this area, the player get "+1". For every ball landing between this area and the service line, the player gets a "-1". If the player hits inside of the service line, the player goes back down to 0 (this being the variation on the original drill). If the player is already at 0 or in the negatives and hits inside of the service line, that shot is a "-1". If the principal misses wide or deep, the shot does not count [DNC in the diagram]. If the practices partner misses, than the players re-do the point. 

The players rally until either the principal (i.e., the player practicing hitting deep shots) makes it to +20 or -10. In case of the latter, the principal runs a sprint. The practice partner's job is to be steady and consisent. This is not as much of a movement drill as it is a ball control drill. The principal should be given ample opportunities to make the ball so the practice partner's role is to chase down all the shots and put them back deep and with a decent amount of pace. The practice partner should vary his spins and force the principal to aim deep even on the most diffuclt shots. Try this as a warm-up drill and let us know how it works. 



Steal This Drill: Half Court Battle 2

This is a continuation of a previous drill the focus of which is to develop grit and ball control. In this version, the server plays with some limitations. Briefly, points are played by two players. This can be in a set format or another method of keeping score. The receiver's court is divided (red line) slightly off center. The rules are actually pretty simple. When the server serves into the deuce side (in the diagram, the smallest portion of the court), s/he must hit two shots into the smallest portion of the court before "opening up". The receive can hit anywhere. In this regard, the receiver can dominate the point because he knows where the ball is coming. The server must grit it out by relying on his legs, lungs and ball control. If the server hits it out of the small area, s/he loses the point.

On the ad side (in this case, the larger area), the server must hit 3 consecutive shots into this space before "opening up". Depending on the skill levels of the players, the receiver may or may not have an advantage. Again, the purpose is to have the server grit out a couple of shots.

Many times, the server thinks that he has the advantage only to be surprised by the receiver. It is, therefore, important for a player to know how to rely on his head and heart in order to get back to a balanced position in the middle of the point. The server will most definitely be required to hit the ball high and deep in order to give herself more time to recover and to also prevent the receiver from creating a deadly angle. In all this, the receiver is encourage to pound her shots and keep the pressure on the server. After playing a game, the parties should switch roles. When the players feel like they have mastered this side, they can switch the large area, small area and play the same thing on the other side.