HOFER TENNIS
Tip of the Week Archive
RACQUET HEAD SPEED

  A regular reader of my tennis tips, Al from Florida, asked me what is â
€œracquet head speedâ€� and do you get it. Let me first explain that in tennis, at
the moment of impact during a shot, the racquet tip or head is moving faster than
the rest of the racquet or any part of the body. So the real question is how to
maximize racquet head speed and how to control it.
   To create maximum racquet head speed we must look at the kinetic chain or
what in kineseology is called “body segmenting�. It simply means each
body segment delivers force and then transfers that force to the next segment.
   The serve motion is the shot where we see the most body segmenting. In
tennis power comes from the ground up. The legs are the 1st in the kinetic chain.
The legs bend, straighten, rotate and stop. The hips pick up the speed of the legs
by rotating forward and then stop their rotation. The shoulders take that speed
and continue to twist forward until they are stopped by the left arm (for right
handers), which comes across the body. The elbow picks up the speed and
extends until it stops, transferring all it’s momentum to the wrist. The wrist
snaps forward and upward then stops to make the racquet head whip through the
contact of the ball. You’ll see pro’s finish with their elbow up and the
racquet arm on the same side of the body it started on.
   Now let’s look at the forehand ground stroke. The legs bend, straighten
and twist forward. The legs then stop their forward rotation and extension. The
stopping of this segment increases the speed of the next body segment which is
the hips. The hips are rotating forward until they too come to a stop, accelerating
the shoulders. The shoulders are rotating forward and they too will come to a stop
with the help of the left arm (for right handers). The stopping of the shoulders
speeds up the next segment, the elbow, then the wrist, then the racquet and
finally the racquet tip. The subsequent stopping of each body segment
accelerates the speed of the next segment. So if we stop the elbow from going
forward and upward, it will speed up the rolling over (pronation) of the lower arm.
When the lower arm stops, the racquet head whips up behind the ball with
tremendous topspin.
   So “racquet head speedâ€� on the forehand is usually referring to the
topspin motion of the racquet head. You’ll see pros finish a forehand swing
with their arm across their stomach and their racquet by their left hip (for right
handers). Not exactly the form tennis pro’s want to see.
   The serve motion is the shot where we see the most body segmenting. The
legs bend, straighten, rotate and stop. The hips pick up the speed of the legs by
rotating forward and then stop their rotation. The shoulders take that speed and
continue to twist forward until they are stopped as the opposite arm comes
across the body. The elbow picks up the speed and extends until it stops,
transferring all it’s momentum to the wrist. The wrist snaps forward and
upward then stops to make the racquet head whip through the contact of the ball.
   Racquet head speed means a powerful serve and super topspin on
groundstrokes. With the in today’s tennis, achieving maximum racquet head
speed, means to gain power and to control it with spin.

Doug Hofer, USPTA                          February 28, 2005
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