Summer is here, which means it’s time for strawberries, cream and the 126th Wimbledon Championships in London, which starts on Monday June 25. The matches will be screened here on Al Jazeera’s sports channels, but if all that expert action leaves you feeling a little down on your own skills, Dubai-based Mitch Manns of Tennis 360, who has 35 years’ coaching experience, reveals five easy ways to improve your game., whatever standard you’re at.
Ground strokes ‘For both forehand and backhand, there are two things to focus on. First is the early body turn: as soon you know it’s going to be a forehand or backhand, get your shoulders and hips turned in the direction you’re going to be hitting from. The second part is to let your knees have a little bend in them to keep your weight down. Too many recreational players have a tendency to bounce up and down so they look like a jack-in-a-box when they’re hitting – they’ll squat down and then pop up. The swing should be rotational, like a golf swing.’
Play the ball ‘Don’t play the opponent as much as you play the ball. When you play, you’re in three different phases: either a neutral phase, where you and your opponent are on equal footing; a defensive phase, where your opponent has just hit a good shot and you’re trying to get the ball back into play; or an offensive phase, where you’re opponent has just given you an opening that you’re going to take advantage of. In each of those phases there are certain shots available to you, and certain shots that aren’t. If you’re in the offensive, where you can really go for a ball, do it. If you’re neutral, just try to keep the ball in play and wait for that opening, and if you’re in defensive, try to stay in play. This where most recreational players really goof it up: their opponent will hit a good shot, and they’ll try to hit an incredible shot – the impossible shot that only a Federer or Nadal or top player could pull off with any consistency. Recognise what your position is and hit your shot accordingly.’ Return of serve ‘When most people serve, they focus on getting the ball into play or taking the offensive, but the same thing can be done with the return of serve. Most people are afraid of it; they just block it back into play. It would be better for most recreational players to take a more offensive position.’
Serving ‘Focus on the toss. The most critical part of the serve is the toss – if the toss is good, the body will do the right things to hit a good serve naturally. If the toss is bad, you’ll be trying to adjust and it’s not going to work.’
Volleys ‘Keep your elbows in front of your body, and never swing. The volley is just a blocked ball. You create that velocity by moving your feet forward and keeping your arms and wrist firm. Pretend you have a butterfly net and you’re just catching the ball in a net. You don’t swing at it; you just hold the net out there and let it fly in. Imagine your strings are the net.’ Tennis 360 is running indoor coaching and leagues at Dubai Sports World until August 31. Dhs2,250 for ten 45-minute sessions. Dubai World Trade Centre, www.dubaisportsworld.com.
Two more tennis schools to try
Professional Sports Services This school offers one-on-one classes for adults. Dhs200 per 45-minute lesson. Various locations including Repton School, Nad Al Sheba (050 837 6481).
Clark Francis Tennis Academy This academy teaches at locations across Dubai, including The Aviation Club, Arabian Ranches, Wafi and Dubai American Academy. Dhs275 per lesson, Dhs1,600, for 10. Various locations, www.clarkfrancistennis.com (04 282 4540).