Various Groundstrokes Demo

Here’s a demo reel of hitting groundstrokes at different places on the court. Check out things like balance throughout the shot, head movement, leg movement, body rotation, extension through the ball, shoulder turn, and contact point.

Unfortunately I cut out a lot of the footwork, but wanted to upload this anyway in case it’s at all helpful for anything.


Shot Selection

Knowing and having proper technique is extremely important, but without proper knowledge of shot selection, you will still struggle to hit the ball consistently. You can have perfect technique on your forehand, but if you try to hit the ball low, deep, and down the line when you are running back and out wide, you will almost certainly lose the point due to poor shot selection.

Understanding what shot to attempt to hit at any given time and position on the court is contingent upon your understanding the risks involved with each position, and the subsequent risks you may face should you decide on a certain course of action. Understanding your own risks translates to understanding the risks of your opponent, and you can maximize your chances of success while minimizing theirs.

So to get into the risk of each shot, there are many factors at play.

  • The net is actually 3-4 inches lower in the center than at the sides. By hitting crosscourt, you are hitting the ball over the middle of the net, and gaining a few inches of leeway from the net.
  • The diagonal distance from one corner to the other is several feet longer than the distance hitting down the line. A crosscourt shot takes more time to travel through the air and to travel the longer distance. This can be good for you if you need time to recover after being stretched out wide, and the extra distance means more margin of error if you hit the ball long.
  • Most people who watch the pros think that they are hitting every ball hard and low over the net back and forth. This is not how good players actually play. They typically hit the ball a good 5-6 feet over the net with heavy topspin. This takes the net out of consideration, and the topspin makes the ball drop back into the court. Ideally you want the vast majority of your shots to be 5 feet over the net, with topspin, landing within 3 feet of the opponent’s baseline, “Deep” in their court. This type of shot gives you the highest margin of safety while inflicting the most stress on your opponent.
  • You especially want to increase your margin of safety when you are being pulled out wide by your opponent. In instances when you are under stress, you need more time to recover and you are likely off-balance. So typically it is best to hit a high looping ball crosscourt. This gives you the most time to get back into position, and it makes it difficult for your opponent to attack.
  • If you hit the ball down the line, you not only have to recover a greater distance (see basic court positioning) to the other side of the court, but you also have less time in which to cover that distance. You are also hitting the ball over the slightly higher part of the net. So down the line shots are more risky than crosscourt. However, they also give your opponent less time to react, and thus can become winners. One way to mitigate the recovery problems with a down the line shot is to follow it into the net. A down the line shot should usually only be played if you are in a neutral-aggressive or aggressive position for the shot.
  • If you are in the middle of the court, it is difficult to generate any angles with the ball, so it is best to hit the ball down the middle of the court with depth and spin, or to hit the ball to your opponent’s weaker side, taking advantage of any technical problems they might have.
  • Hitting the ball down the middle of the court is typically considered neutral, as you are not forcing your opponent to run. Some players are more comfortable hitting the ball when they are moving slightly out wide though, and for these opponents it can be best to hit down the middle. You reduce your risk and increase their discomfort. There is the additional benefit that your opponent may get impatient and try to hit an overly aggressive shot, and that they will not be able to call your shots ‘out’ since they are nowhere near the lines. Hitting down the middle of the court can be great at the beginning of the match, or during any high tension points. If your opponent is likely feel tight, hitting down the middle gives them a great opportunity to screw up.

Top 10 Most Common Groundstroke Mistakes


If your racquet is down too low when the ball is bouncing high, and you are making contact up above your head, the result is that you have poor extension through the ball, your power declines, you must hit with a high trajectory and/or lots of spin. It is possible that you may hit the ball on the frame of the racquet. Note that this is not necessarily bad if you are intending to return the ball with a high looping trajectory.

If you have the wrong grip (not western enough), you can expect the ball to fly long with no spin, or even over the fence if your opponent is hitting the ball at you with topspin.

If your legs are stiff, you can expect poor power, constantly reaching for the ball, shoulders too open (no splitstep), and that you continually lose points when the ball is hit short in the court or low height.

If your stance is closed off, you will likely hit the ball late, and it will go out wide of down the line. Your hips cannot come through the shot.

If you are consistently hitting the ball too late (going wide down the line), it may be that your swing is too big, you are too slow to turn, or your footwork is too slow.

If your shoulders are too open, you will likely see the racquet going way behind you, the ball flying all over the court / loss of control, and either wide down the line or wide crosscourt.

If you fail to drop the racquet below the ball before swinging, you can expect to hit a lot of balls into the net. This is usually caused by / goes together with poor knee bend.

If you are taking the racquet back instead of doing a unit turn / shoulder turn, your arm may be too straight, resulting in the racquet going behind you, erratic results, poor control, and a slow motion. You will have poor body rotation and poor racquet head speed.

If your leading toe is not pointed in the right direction (towards your opponent), you will be off-balance after the shot, and your body momentum will continue in the direction of your toe – off the court potentially. Your shots will be more defensive in nature and not penetrating.

A lot of juniors get their elbow in too tight to their body, which facilitates a wild take-back of the racquet, and difficulty controling the swing. Instead you want to keep the racquet well out in front of your body in the ready position, and maintain that distance between your elbows and hips throughout the swing.

Try and pick out what things I’m doing wrong in the below two videos! It’s fun being a critic!

And hopefully now you know enough to scoff at other people’s poor technique next time you’re out on the courts.

Neutral Stance Baseline Drill

This is where you step directly into the court with your left foot in the lead, and your toe pointing towards your opponent.

It is important you roll your front foot from the heel to the toe in order to keep your momentum moving that direction (through the ball).

You keep your shoulder turn quick, the racquet goes straight down to just below the ball, and you rotate your body as you hit the ball. After you hit, your back foot should swing right around your body to end up in front.

There should be no wrist involved. There should be almost no arm movement involved. It’s all legs and body rotation.

The best drill for the shot is shadows without a ball, practicing technique. Then you can practice dropping a ball in front of you and stepping into it with full body rotation.

Open Stance Forehand

Hitting Demo

1) Grip

2) Ready Position

3) Split Step

4) Shoulder Turn

5) Loop / Drop the tip of the racquet below the height of the ball.

6) With the butt-cap pointing towards the ball/your opponent, swing through the ball and upwards for spin.

7) Use your left hand to help turn your body, and then rotate your body 180 degrees as you hit.

8) Make sure for your last step, you roll your foot from heel to toe. This keeps your movement fluid.

9) Make sure your right toe is pointed toward your opponent. This is vital because it allows your hips to rotate through the shot, for maximum power. If your toe is pointed to the side of the court, you will not be able to hit through the ball, but rather the tendency will be for your body’s momentum to carry you towards the side of the court. This will also leave you vulnerable for your opponent’s response.

The direction of your right toe is even more important when moving wide or back, as in these instances you must move quickly and then reverse your body momentum as you hit.

10) After you hit the ball, recover back to the proper recovery position near the center of the court.

11) Your head should remain level throughout the entire stroke. As you move to the ball, you should be approximately 1 foot lower in height than your resting height, and as you hit the ball, your head stays at that same low level froms start to finish.

Analysis and Instruction

Common errors to avoid:

1) Allowing the racquet to float behind you. This means that on your swing through, your contact zone becomes a contact point, meaning the chances of your hitting the ball cleanly are reduced dramatically.

2) Having a big looping swing. This makes your swing slower, and you are more likely to hit the ball late.

3) Both error 1 and 2 are generally caused by unnecessary arm movement. Using shoulder and hip rotation should generate more than enough power for your shot. Arm movement only adds an extra ingredient of complexity.

4) lazy footwork and not rotating your body through the shot 180 degrees.

5) Stiff legs. Stiff legs make it impossible to explode through the ball. It makes it harder to maintain balance, and harder to move dynamically.

6) Poor balance, or moving your head.

7) Letting the ball come to you instead of moving towards the ball and hitting it as it is rising. Ideally hitting the ball higher in its arc after it bounces means that you are able to hit down on the ball and attack it. If you wait for the ball to drop too low, then you have fewer options of how to hit it. So always move in to attack when possible.

8) Never hit with a closed stance. That is for old fogies and losers.

9) Pointing your right toe to the right side of the court instead of at your opponent. The basic concept is that wherever your toe is pointed, that is the direction your body’s momentum will want to travel. Since you want to get your bodyweight behind the shot, you want your toe to be pointed toward it! If it is pointed to the side, it’s very difficult to rotate properly.

Good drills: Hitting against a wall, doing shadow strokes, using a ball machine, playing mini-tennis, swinging in front of a mirror, take a vide of yourself and analyze your swing.

This series of 3 videos reviewing Federer’s forehand are solid except for the nonsense about the grip being eastern. Ignore that.

Neutral Stance Backhand

Hitting Demo

Analysis and Instruction (Slower)

  1. Splitstep
  2. Shoulder Turn
  3. Move to the Ball
  4. Step directly into the court with your right foot, making sure to point your toe towards the net as much as possible, and rolling from heel to toe with this last step.
  5. Swing is initiated by pushing off with your legs, rotating 180 degrees with your shoulders, and then hips and legs.
  6. Recover to the proper court position

Open Stance Backhand

Hitting Demo

  1. Ready Position
  2. Turn Shoulders
  3. Stutter-Step if necessary
  4. Step out with left foot, point toe at target, roll from heel to toe. In the below video my toe is not pointed all the way at my target, and it is pointed a bit too much towards the sideline. Because of this, you can see how my body momentum carries me to the side instead of right through the shot, and my rotation is not perfect.
  5. Rotate body with left foot landing in front, sideways to the court
  6. Maintain good balance throughout whole shot. Look at my minimal head movement up and down in the below video.

Edit: In the video above at one point I say ‘I take shuffle steps to get into position’. What I mean to say was “I take stutter steps to get into position”. The reason to take short steps at the beginning when you move to the ball is that your acceleration is faster when you are taking many short quick steps. Many coaches use the analogy of using 1st gear on a bicycle for rapid acceleration, and then you can use longer strides (10th gear) for maximum speed. It’s the same thing with sprinting – right after the starter’s pistol, you aren’t taking huge leaping strides. You have to take many small steps in rapid succession to accelerate, then as you build speed your stride length increases.

Contact Point

(Backhand view)

(Forehand view)

If you are having trouble controlling the ball on the court, it may be related to where you are hitting the ball relative to your front foot. If you are hitting the ball too far in front of your front foot, it will zoom out crosscourt. If you hit the ball too late – too close to your body, it will spray out down the line. If you feel like your contact point is always off, but you can’t help it, then it’s probably due to bad footwork. Practice taking lots of little stutter steps before you hit the ball, and visit the footwork section for drills.

Next Lesson: learn to carve up your opponents by mastering spin.