Friday, February 10, 2012

A Roadmap to a Hall-of-Fame Forehand - Part 5: Transition - The Second-Most Important Phase of the Forehand Stroke

In recent posts, we have alluded to the importance of a particular phase of the tennis forehand stroke that strongly influences the power and control of the resulting shot.

This critical phase of the forehand occurs at the point where the backswing ends and the forward swing to impact begins.

From this point on, let’s refer to this “switch-over” from backswing to forward swing as TRANSITION, or “FHT”, for short.

After careful observation of high-speed video footage showing the FHT used by hundreds of competitive tennis players from all levels from Grand Slam champions to NTRP competitors, we have concluded that there are essentially two fundamental types of FHT used by this vast range of competitive tennis players.

In this post, we will show you pictures of key stages within FHT that we think most clearly illustrate the characteristics and attributes of these two fundamental types of FHT. In the very near future, we will also begin posting high-speed video clips of these same players on our YouTube channel so you can observe the actual movements in actual motion.
(NB: The behind-the-baseline perspective is the optimal viewpoint to observe the key events of any player’s FHT.)

At this point, you should focus on observing very carefully the positions of the racquet hand and forearm, as well as the orientation of the hitting surface of the racquet each player demonstrates during this critical phase of the forehand stroke.

Then, after familiarizing yourself with the images, try to begin "connecting the dots" with the following questions in mind:
1) Can you describe what you see using the anatomical terminology introduced in the last post?
And,
2) What similarities, differences and trends can you identify from these still images extracted from high-speed video footage of the players shown?

TENNIS FOREHAND TRANSITION TYPE 1 ("FHT-1"; MORE COMMON)

M. SHARAPOVA


Y. WICKMAYER

NCAA PLAYER 1

NCAA PLAYER 2

TENNIS FOREHAND TRANSITION TYPE 2 ("FHT-2"; LESS COMMON)

R. NADAL

M. SAFIN

T. BERDYCH

F. VERDASCO

OK, you might be wondering if there’s any reason why we only showed female players using FHT-1 mechanics and only male players using FHT-2? Are we implying that gender influences FHT mechanics?

Not at all... Look at the following FHT sequences:

ATP PLAYERS WITH FHT-1 MECHANICS
J. CHARDY (HIGHEST ATP SINGLES RANK: 31)

ATP TOP 500 SINGLES/(FORMER) NCAA D1 PLAYER

WTA PLAYER / GRAND SLAM SINGLES CHAMPION WITH FHT-2 MECHANICS
S. STOSUR
 
So, what’s the take-home here?
Well, for one thing, we’ve noticed that each FHT type is strongly correlated to a player’s ability to effectively create the wide range of shots that players confront in a competitive tennis point, especially at the highest levels of the sport.
One of the two Transition types appears to be strongly correlated with higher topspin production, higher ball speeds, greater trajectory control and maybe what’s as important to pro players, lower incidence of chronic injuries to the racquet arm and shoulder.
So, not only does one FHT type appear to deliver higher performance, but also delivers higher performance with greater safety to long-term player health.
After looking at such a large number and wide range of forehands and the FHT used by their owners, we've come to rezlize that the movements that players use during FHT have a profound and fundamental influence on how you control your racquet in the Impact Zone.

What happens in the Impact Zone, most would agree, is the most important phase of the forehand as this is where the ball, strings, body and racquet interact directly. It is in the Impact Zone that the proverbial "rubber meets the road". Now that we realize that how the racquet arrives in the Impact Zone is so strongly influenced by what happens during FHT, around here, we have come to consider FHT as being the second-most important phase of the forehand.
Tune in next time and we’ll begin exploring the reasons that explain which type of FHT delivers higher on-court performance.

TTFN!
P.S.... Quick Quiz: Based on the information presented here, which FHT type - Type 1 or 2 - is used by Mr. Roger Federer? How about Mr. Novak Djokovic?

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