Beginner’s Tips for Tennis
Elena Dementieva just won the Rogers Cup in Toronto. So for the last week I’ve been watching more TV than usual and it’s making me want to play a game soon. Here’s an article where Dementieva helps author Jasmine Gardner get a beginner’s grip in tennis. Skip to the bottom if you’re not a tennis fan – Dementieva has a sense of humour!
Step one: The grip
The edge of the handle should be in line with the V between my thumb and index finger and instead of holding the racquet horizontally, I should tilt it upwards and open the face up to the court, slightly angled back.
Terrified of getting it wrong, I’m rigid with tension which apparently makes for terrible tennis. “You’re main problem is that you need to relax,” says Elena — although it’s certainly not my only problem.
Step two: Forehand drive and forehand topspin
Every time I hit the ball it seems to fly past the baseline and into the fence. Elena tells me this is because I’m not following through when I hit the ball. I’m right-handed, so the key is to bring the racquet right around my body to my left side with every stroke.
To get extra control over the ball (and to make things harder for my opponent), Elena tells me to tilt the racquet forward slightly as it makes contact with the ball, so that it sweeps over the ball and gives it some topspin.
Step three: Two-handed backhand
My natural instinct is to hit backhand shots with just one hand, but as a beginner, to improve accuracy and get enough power, Elena says I need to use both hands.
So I bring my left hand onto the racquet above my right, turn my right shoulder towards the net and hit the ball as though I am taking a forehand shot with the wrong hand.
Step four: Volley
Having noticed how ferociously I thwack the ball, Elena thinks the volley will be my favourite shot. She’s right.
There’s no swing, just a short punch of the ball, and my shots are even landing in-court.
She explains that instead of just a flick of the wrist I need to use my whole arm to control the shot. “You obviously have a natural ability,” Elena tells me, to my delight. “You just need to practise every day.” Oh.
Before we leave the court, Elena shows me how to master the most important aspect of every match — the final handshake.
We approach the net and I hold out my hand. She looks me up and down, and with a sneer she gives my hand a non-committal brush, pivots around with a flick of her ponytail and walks off court. If I do lose, Elena jokes, this is how to do it like a pro.