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The Passing Shot
I enjoyed watching Monica Seles from her debut til her last Tournament and if there's one thing about her play that comes to mind, it would be Monica's ability to find 10 inches of real estate in which to hit the ball towards that would find her opponent wondering how did she get that pass me (?)
How many times have we seen Monica hit amazing passing shots by some of the best, like Navratilova, Novotna, Garrison and great Chip & Charge Players like Sabatini? But what you never saw was Monica hit the Lob. Even when the Lob seemed to be the perfect shot for that moment, Monica would still prefer to strike a blazing passing shot by you.
So how do you become a good Passer? Well you've always heard Players say, "I love a Target" meaning when someone is standing at the Net, that somehow gives them a target to judge by. Well that may be a good method however I would prefer you think of your Opponent as an Obstacle that you must pass.
Well let's consider the Math. You basically have 27' of Real Estate to hit within, which is the width of a Tennis Court (Singles Play). A 6' person will have an approx. 6' Wing Span and the average Tennis Racquet is approx. 27" long, which then becomes around 99" or a little over 8' of stretch. But when you factor in leaning to one side or another, you can easily figure a 6' person can cover 9' on both sides from the center strap. If you times that by 2, you have 18' of Net coverage to intimidate you by. 18ft sounds like a lot of coverage and it is actually but don't forget, you're still working with 27ft of space which means, you still have 9ft of space to play with. And when you consider it this way, you begin to understand that 9ft is a lot of room to pass a person by.
If you're playing a Right Handed Player, you're instincts will be to pass on their left side because in your head, their stretch is lessened when they are forced to turn (pivot left) for a backhand Volley. And to some degree that is accurate however I've learned you will get your best results by passing on the right side of a Player [IF] you employ the following:
1. If hitting extremely hard is what you wish to do, then I'd suggest going for the Right Side, making sure you use lots of Top Spin to dip the ball downward. This will take them by surprise and hopefully force them to open the face of their racquet which will make the ball spring from their strings.
2. If you're having to hit a backhand passing shot, Try one of two things:
a. Hard and Flat down the line to their Forehand side will earn the biggest reward.
b. Soft angled topspin to their Backhand side dipping away from them out to the side court, will work wonders for you.
The Key to any good passing shot is Time. The time to set your feet i crucial and if you have the time, go with your first reaction, Do Not Second Guess Yourself.
3. If you have good ball control, try holding onto the ball for as long as you can until they commit to one side or the other. * You've undoubtedly heard Commentators say, "He/She held that ball for days before they passed". Well all that really means is, as the ball is coming towards you, instead of meeting the ball out in front, you track the ball until it's almost equal to your Side and then roll your racquet over the ball causing the ball to dip downward as it crosses the Net.
4. Never ever think of the Lob as a weak shot, actually the Lob is in fact a passing shot. Only instead of going to the side of your Opponent, it goes overhead. If you decide to strike a Top Spin Lob over your Opponent, please remember to follow it in. In other words, come to the Net while your Opponent is chasing it down because chances are, they will get to the ball and hit a return. If you're standing at the Net, you can them knock it away but if you're still standing back at the baseline watching how nice of a Lob you just hit and they get to the ball and return it, unless you're ready to volley it away, guess what? You're back into a rally again and all of that was for nothing.
Next time you're having hitting practice, try working on your passing shots. Don't just hit the ball straight back at your partner. tell them you want to work on passing shots that way, they know their job will be to Volley it away and yours will be to avoid that results.
The only acceptable loss is when your opponent was better than you on that given day.
It is never acceptable to lose when your opponent was not.
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