28 February 2020

Why tennis players should make the leap

It's leap year day (tomorrow), a bonus day to try out new things. Making the leap count in tennis is good for your game, and on the serve it's the way you can cross the line


February 29th only comes around every four years and tomorrow is the first time this century it's fallen on a Saturday. Here are some leaps of the tennis imagination to help you celebrate.

If you are playing doubles play on the opposite side from usual. Don't worry about the score; just note what happens and how you feel
Commit to improving your serve (whether you incorporate a leap or not). Recommended by Meet the Player, Rad Swierkowski (who has a great serve) Jeff Salzenstein has an excellent Youtube video on how to change your serve by breaking it down into its component parts, with specific drills to improve each stage. 
Serve and volley for a game You will almost certainly surprise your opponent and if it works, keep going!
Add rotation to your ground strokes The solution for adding power to your ground strokes is rotation says Serve and Volley Tennis. You need to get into the right position before you hit the ball and learn to pivot
Take the ball early This takes time away from your opponent and puts them under pressure. Shorten your swing and if you are practicing, play every ball. Kevin Anderson demonstrates here (but we can't promise the palm trees).
Try doing the opposite of what you usually do If you are known for your slices, make yourself hit top spin; if you never come to the net, volley as many balls as you can; if you run around a shot to hit a forehand, decide this is the day your backhand comes out to play
But whatever you do, don't leap over the net It is against rules to jump the net and into your opponent's court while the ball is in play! But if you also happen to be a secret award-winning high jumper or pole vaulter and can safely leap the net at the end of the match, this could be the day to do it.

Serving must start with both the servers' feet behind the baseline. You cannot start with one foot on the line or, as you try to deliver an ace, step on any part of the line before or while you hit the ball. But you can float above it. So long as your feet are not on the line when you make contact with the ball, you can jump above the line and it does not matter where your feet land afterwards.

Jumping up to the serve is a specialty of the pros (above, Britain's Cameron Norrie). Getting ten to twelve inches in the air when they hit the ball is not uncommon. But lesser (or heavier) mortals may struggle to leave the ground, and if you are in this category, don't worry. The gravity-defying jump is not where the power comes from. People have been taught that bending the knees and loading your weight like a spring is the engine of the serve but it is not true says TopSpeedTennis.com

The speed comes from separating the upper and lower body as you serve, rotating the shoulders and throwing your arm as you come through the ball.

Above, Kei Nishikori grabbing extra height

So why jump? You get higher clearance over the net, and higher clearance means fewer mistakes. However you serve, make it a soaraway success.