Introduction – The Courtesy Stroke
As an introduction to the forehand drive, the courtesy stroke should be learned. This stroke is a forehand volley with a half swing, used to start the ball for a rally or to get it back to the opponent before service. It allows the player on the opposite court either to catch it in his hand on the first bounce, or to get it into play for the rally. The ball flight of the “courtesy stroke” is an upward arc over the net. The ball is not hit forcefully, and will land nearer the service line than the baseline. A tennis player has use for this stroke from the first day he wields a tennis racquet to the last day of his tennis career.
Champions, warming up before a match, start the ball to their opponents with the courtesy stroke. Coaches use this stroke in setting up the balls for their pupils. Since ball boys are a rarity in most tennis matches, the courtesy stroke assists the players in getting the balls back politely to the server before each point.
Note – It is decidedly impolite to start the ball, or retrieve it by tossing it up in front of the face, and hitting it in a downward direction over the net. Too frequently the ball will not clear the net, and if it does, the bounce is usually difficult for the opposite player to handle.
The technique of the courtesy stroke will aid the beginner in learning the true forehand drive, for they have the following points in common:
2. Body position.
3. Horizontal racquet swing.
4. Body moving toward the net as the stroke is made.
The points of difference, which do not affect the learning of the true forehand drive, are:
1. The length of racquet swing is cut down. The racquet is swung back only to a position opposite the right thigh.
2. The ball is hit on the volley (before it has bounced).
3. The ball is started with a toss by the player, instead of coming from the opposite side of the net.
4. The ball is hit when it is farther forward toward the net, and slightly lower than it is in the usual forehand drive.
5. The ball flight is slightly more in an upward direction.
6. The ball is hit with less force.
Technique of The Courtesy Stroke
1. Stand with the left side toward the net and the racquet held out horizontally opposite the right thigh.
2. Hold the ball in the left hand, pointing in the direction of the right net post.
3. Toss the ball out toward the right net post, about two feet from the body, at thigh-height (half way between the knee and waist).
4. Immediately step toward the net on the left foot, letting the racquet swing forward to contact the ball before it has dropped to knee-height.
5. Let the racquet finish at shoulder height, out in the direction of the ball flight.
The simplicity of this stroke allows for good results in accuracy of ball placement as long as the ball toss is correct, and the racquet swings in a horizontal plane. Most beginners can master the stroke during the first tennis practise. Pupils having difficulty will be found to be tossing the ball badly; taking too wide a back-swing; or not lining up the center of the racquet with the ball. Often these pupils will prefer to let the ball bounce before hitting it. This is not advisable, since the bounce should be reserved for the true forehand drive, wherein a full backswing is taken, and more force is applied to the ball than should be used on a courtesy stroke.
Practise on the courtesy stroke is worthwhile, for once it is mastered, it will never be forgotten. Learners should use this stroke continually for starting a rally, and in sending the balls back to the server before each point. Mastery consists of the ability to place the ball accurately to the forehand or backhand of the opposite player for rallies; or to place it so that the server can catch it in his hand on the first bounce without moving.
Forehand Drive Analysis
Grips for the forehand drive.
A – The eastern grip. The hand is on the back of the racquet handle. The knuckles slant across the handle and the fingers are slightly separated. Make sure that your first knuckle toward the top edge of the back plate of the handle.
B – The western grip. The hand is underneath the handle, with the X position of the first knuckle low on the back plate of the handle. Beginners use this grip incorrectly for serving and elbow action strokes. Good tennis players do not use this grip for any stroke.
1. Grip (Eastern)
a. Hold the racquet as though shaking hands with it, grasping the handle near the butt.
1′. The first knuckle of the index finger is near the top of the back plate of the handle. Thus the palm is on the back of the handle, with knuckles in a slanting position.
2. The fingers and thumb are wrapped around the handle, with the fingers slightly separated.
Note. The western grip consists of holding the handle with the palm on the lower plate, facing upward, and the first knuckle near bottom of back plate. It necessitates a very strong wrist and is effective only on shoulder high balls. It is considered obsolete and is not used by good tennis players.
2. Wrist Action
a. The wrist action present in the stroke is a hyperex-tension on the backswing coming to a locked wrist position of extension as the ball is hit. The wrist action insures that the racquet is meeting the ball squarely, and adds speed to the ball.
3. Body Position And Action
a. The body is at right angles to the net, with the left foot and shoulder toward the net, and the right foot and shoulder away from the net. The sideways position is parallel with the flight of the ball, feet about eighteen inches apart.
b. The knees are slightly relaxed or flexed, with the body weight carried on the balls of the feet.
c. Body action consists of weight transference to right foot with backswing of racquet and trunk rotation away from the net. The weight is transferred forward and the trunk is rotated toward the net as the racquet swings forward to meet the ball. Right shoulder follows the flight of the ball forward.
d. The left arm swings in opposition to the racquet arm to aid in the body balance.
4. Backswing Of Racquet
a. Racquet is swung back in line with the sideways position of the body, elbow well away from body.
b. Height of the racquet in the backswing depends upon the height of the ball. Racquet is taken back to a point in line with which the ball is to be hit.
c. There are two types of backswing, the circular and the straight. The circular lift back of the racquet is more rhythmical and keeps the elbow away from the body. It is harder for beginners to line the racquet up behind the ball, however. The straight backswing, advocated by Mary K. Browne, is preferable for beginners, because it is simpler. In either type of backswing the racquet head is held slightly above the wrist.
d. There should be a pause at the end of the backswing before starting the forward swing to aim the racquet at the ball and insure good timing. A hurried stroke is seldom a good stroke, and the racquet should go back long before the arrival of the ball.
Note.—It is difficult for the beginner to slow up the circular backswing after the racquet is back. The windmill swings that result from not detaching the forward swing from the backswing are very ineffectual, and often result in missing the ball altogether. However, if the beginner learns to start the racquet back in time for a pause before starting the forward swing, the circular backswing may be developed without difficulty.
5. Forward Swing
a. A continuous sweep of the arm and racquet involving four or five feet of forward racquet movement.
b. The swing causes the path of the racquet to be a straight line pointing slightly upward, when viewed from the side.
c. The racquet head must never drop below the level of the wrist, and should be slightly above it.
d. The arm and racquet swing out away from the body to meet the ball.
e. At the impact the face of the racquet is flat and the grip very firm.
f. The body weight shifts from the right to the left foot, keeping racquet in contact with the ball and traveling in a straight line forward.
g. The student should use body rotation forward with the stroke as well as a transfer of weight. The right shoulder points in the direction of the ball flight on the follow through.
h. The follow through consists of the racquet following the ball forward as far as it can to insure proper direction of the ball. The racquet may assume a slightly closed position at the end of the follow through, the whole arm rotating slightly inwardly, elbow relaxed.
i. The height of the follow through should be above the shoulder.
6. Position Of The Ball At The Impact
a. The ball is opposite the forward (left) foot at racquet’s reach from the body.
b. Waist to knee high balls are easiest to stroke and beginners should take the ball on its downward drop, so that more time is available to get ready to stroke. Intermediate players may take the ball at the top of its bounce, and advanced players hit the ball as it comes off the ground, on the way up.
c. Beginners should stand about five feet back of the spot where the ball lands and to the side of it to insure stroking it when it is waist high, well away from the body.
Common Faults Of Beginners
1. “Hitting” the ball rather than “stroking” it, caused by jabbing at the ball and stopping the racquet half through the swing.
2. Taking racquet back too high, and following through too low. Result is a netted ball, or a chop stroke.
3. Getting too close to the ball so that a cramped elbow action swing is taken.
4. Taking the backswing too late, so that the forward swing is made hurriedly.
5. Starting the forward swing too soon, so that the ball is hit before it is opposite the body.
6. Dropping the racquet head below the wrist, a scoop stroke resulting.