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Coaching Tip of the Week: On Short Serves to the Forehand, Challenge the Forehand, Often Go to the Backhand

Coaching Tip of the Week: Elbow Drill

(By Larry Hodges)
Coaching Tip of the Week: Elbow Drill

Playing the opponent’s middle – roughly where the playing elbow, the midpoint between forehand and backhand – is one of the more difficult tactics for players below the advanced level. It’s easier with the backhand, where the opponent’s right in front of you. But below the advanced level most players struggle with this. Instead, they tend to just play the corners. Here’s a simple drill where one player learns to attack the middle, and the other learns to defend against it.

The drill is simple: Player A just serves topspin to Player B’s backhand, and they rally. But B’s job is to move the ball around to all three spots – wide corners and middle – with an emphasis on attacking the middle. A’s job is to simply return every ball to B’s backhand. Once you are comfortable with this drill, do the forehand variation, where Player A serves to Player B’s forehand, and returns every ball there.

Player B should make minor adjustments when going after the middle. For example, some players cover the middle with their backhands, and so their true “middle” is a bit to the forehand side. And vice versa. Once B finds the opponent’s middle, he should put a big X on it and go after it every chance.

When you do this drill, Player A will quickly see how difficult it is to respond effectively to a good shot at the middle. Player B will quickly see how much trouble Player A has with these shots. If they apply this to matches, both will improve.

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