In tennis, everybody wants to hit a “heavy” ball. What does that even mean...?
Say you were trying to apply force on an object, there’s a difference between a “slap” and a “punch” even if your hand is moving with the same velocity. A slap clearly has no weight behind it, while a punch drives through the target at impact. In a serious fight, my guess is you'd rather be throwing punches.
In physics, they say force = mass x acceleration. A lot of coaches emphasize racquet head peed, but it’s not the actually pure swing speed that you’re looking for. Sometimes a slower swing might produce a heavier, more powerful shot. Hitting “heavy" involves you engaging your legs and core strength through the ball, giving the ball weight/mass that slapping at the ball does not.
Amazing to see how Fed puts the squeeze on his opponent. Before you even look up, he's on top of the ball smacking it the other way. Kudos to his excellent recovery footwork and seamless transition inside the court. When you take the ball early by two feet inside the court, that's two feet less the ball travels toward you and two feet less toward your opponent. Take away four feet of total distance traveled by the ball - now that's serious damage
The contact point is crucial to everything - power, accuracy, and stability. Your entire muscle system works to generate momentum, but that energy has to culminate at a very specific moment in time, hence your contact point. Striking the ball too close to your body means that your swing did not reach it’s peak momentum. Striking the ball too far away from your body means your energy dissipated into thin air before it could reach the ball.
At your optimal point of contact, you should feel the racquet almost “snap” through the hitting zone like a whip cracking and releasing the built up energy. It’s the same “snap” that Mike Tyson gets on his uppercut or Barry Bonds with his baseball swing, where every ounce of energy is unleashed upon a precise target at a single moment in time.
I recently saw a coach teaching students to lean forward on the transition volley split step, so if someone touched their back, they'd almost fall flat on their face. The reasoning was to hit out in front and cut off angles.
This is ridiculous.
What about a ball hit to the left, right, or lobbed..? The entire point of the split step is to move in any direction, and that can only happen if you're balanced. With your weight falling forward, you're basically saying, "pass me."
That's the difference between Andy Roddick barreling into net and Roger Federer transitioning gracefully with pristine balance and posture.
Generally speaking... high ball - strike the inside quadrant of the ball. Mid ball around the torso - strike the back of the ball. Low ball - strike the outside quadrant of the ball.
It's so fundamental... but most players don't hit their split step on time during transition volleys.
It's hard to tell in real time but in slow motion there's a big difference between hitting a split (meaning your feet hit the ground) when your opponent makes contact with the ball and being suspended in the air when your opponent makes contact with the ball... time is oh so precious