It’s strange to me that we often think about movement to the front and back of the court, rather than concentrating on movement around the middle of the court first.
As much as we’d like to think the standard of our play (and our opponents) means we will always be moving into the corners, the reality is we are more often than not moving around the middle.
There are three areas I would like to cover in this blog:
- Forehand side
- Backhand side
- Right down the middle!
As with all movement patterns, and especially on this topic of movement, being prepared to move is crucial to getting into position correctly. There is less time when the ball is coming around the middle and adjustments are tough once an incorrect movement is made. At the same time, being prepared to move doesn’t mean you actually move.
Follow these steps to get into a consistently good position when the ball is around the middle of the court:
- Watch your opponent hit the ball
- Stay still and take a split second to judge where the ball is going
- Make your first movement (which may be away from the ball)
Putting this thought process into your movement practice may seem a little silly, as there is no opponent or ball, but practising this technique will help you when you implement into a situation with both a player and ball!
For either movement laterally from the T or slightly behind the T, I would always think about using my left leg to lead when striking the ball. My right leg moves in a small area around the T preparing me to lunge with my left leg into the shot. This probably constitutes an area 1 foot to the left of the T and 2/3 feet back from the T – you could almost think of it as a small rectangular box. I am really careful not to let my right leg go too far across to the left wall as this would immediately cause me to be too close to the ball.
Moving forward to the ball I always use my left leg to lead into a counter drop or cross-court lob. For any other shot I still get my right leg forward as I feel this gives me more power and control over the shot without wasting time getting into position. With both of those movements, the back leg rarely moves and immediately pushes me forward into the shot. This means I get onto the shot directly and therefore much quicker.
My personal issue with these short and quick movements is getting my shoulders turned as I go into the shot. I do not have quick enough hands or racquet head speed to allow me consistency from a less prepared position.
For movement laterally from the T or slightly behind the T, I use either my left or right leg to lead when striking the ball. I used to always use my left leg, which would get me into some fairly contorted positions and also limit my shot selection considerably. My thought process now is always to lead with the leg that feels most comfortable, something more important than ever due to getting stiffer and older!
I think of the backhand movement in this area in relation to transfer of weight, and in particular being able to transfer my weight forward and into the shot. This is due to having a weaker backhand swing and requiring that transfer to gain the power needed.
Similarly, the leg used to push off into the shot stays in and around the T in the same rectangular box as on the forehand side. Only this time it could be either leg.
I also try now to never ever cross my left leg over my right, twisting my hips to face the back wall. My hips are always at the most facing the sidewall, which allows me to hit a greater variety of shots from the same position. Try to notice these small impediments when you are practising the movements as they make a huge difference.
Moving forward I nearly always think about using my left leg as this gives me the rotation I need to hit the ball consistently. I have always found using my right leg on short movements forward on the backhand to be awkward and would only use this leg to lead on short movements and shots very close to the middle.
Right down the middle!
This is more about practising creating space and being ready to hit the ball rather than actual movement. I break it down to either a slight movement forward/towards the ball or a slight movement backwards/away from the ball.
Let’s consider moving onto the ball first. If you are thinking about the ball being close to your body, any movement practice would have to reflect very little foot movement and much more focus on transfer of weight through the hips and upper body. Try to keep your weight over the hips and the transfer goes forward and through the ball strike.
If you need to move away from the ball slightly, the hips again play an important role in maintaining control of your body and then striking the ball. When moving back, try not to let your upper body fall backwards in isolation and instead pull your hips back in line with your upper body. This gives you the balance and ability to transfer through as you swing, rather than continuing to fall backwards.
To get the most benefit of practising this movement or more aptly named transfer of weight, I would always integrate this with the other ghosting movement patterns. So come from ‘hitting’ a shot in the corner, get to the T and then imagine a ball is coming down the middle and adjust, play the shot and move off the T again into another pattern. Keep repeating until your movement back to the T and then subsequent movement around the middle feels comfortable and stable.
With all of the movement around the middle of the court, my biggest focus is to have a solid base with an aggressive and controlled transfer of weight – gone is the flowing easy transfer and recoil of other movement practices. This helps me engage my muscles better and also be prepared to take advantage of any ball that arrives in this area.
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