Good tennis players use depth, angles and spins to take their opponents out of their comfort zones. All of which require a certain level of accuracy. Every club player loves to crush a short forehand or overhead, but the reality is that most shots at this level require greater control than power to end the point. The majority of club players have too much power and too little control. When I refer to club players I am describing loosely those in the 2.5-4.5 range on the USTA Rating system. If you play above this level then you have figured contact angles out already, even if you haven’t realized.
Whether you have your opponent off the court in singles and need a cross court backhand to finish them off, or you have poached on a low volley and need a short angle for the winner, using different contact points on the ball will give you a closer target and better feel on the stroke so that you are able to replicate it more often.
Below I will diagram some common stroke placements and their contact points (the spot the strings meet the ball) using a tennis ball diagram. The contact points I will show are for right handers, so if you are lefty you will have to use the opposite. Keep in mind the different strokes and how they will affect the ball. A topspin stroke with an upswing will lift and dip the ball where a drop shot stroke will be cutting down the back of the ball so the landing is softer. Even though these strokes are completely different they have very similar direction and so, also very similar contact points on the ball. Contact points affect direction primarily, and spin secondary.
Down the Line
Contacting the ball directly at the back on forehands and backhands, serves and volleys sends it straight and gives you the most power, however it limits the amount of angle you can generate. Giving the ball topspin or slice will change the pace and depth of your shot. This contact point is very useful in many situations but shouldn’t be the only one you use.
Contact on the outside of the ball sends it crosscourt. This contact point is used for groundstrokes and volleys in singles and doubles. Good players will apply heavy topspin at these points to pull their opponents off the court with ground strokes crosscourt or to finish the point at net with a carved angle volley.
Lobs and Dropshots
The above contact points are used for both lobs and drop shots. Scooping backspin at these points will generate a soft drop shot/drop volley crosscourt or down the line while lifting topspin will send either a crosscourt or down the line lob. These contact points are very useful in doubles for drop volleys and lobs to get your opponents off the net.
One of the most popular shots in modern tennis is the inside out forehand, used in both singles and doubles. If this is your more aggressive shot you would use this contact point to hit the inside out forehand and make the most of your preferred groundstroke.
Thinking about your ball contact in detail gives you a much more visual target that you can feel and you won’t have to change your strokes to reap the benefits, just your contact points. Improve your ball contact and improve your accuracy.
See you on the courts.
Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego
Sheraton Hotel & Marina San Diego
USPTA Elite Professional