The Joy of Hitting

It’s fun and productive to spend time hitting with a partner with or without points. Some of my most memorable times on the court have not been competitive based. One example is the opportunity I had to hit with Eduard Shevardnadze, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Soviet Union, prior to his address to the United Nations. As it turned out Shevardnadze, who later became President of Georgia, was crazy about tennis at the time and was animated and fun on the court. Here are ten reasons to get on the court to hit.

  1. Hitting is a great way to improve your consistency. Counting the number of your consecutive shots in play (regardless of what your partner is doing) is a good way to maintain your focus and provide a gauge on how you’re doing keeping the ball in play. To keep things more interesting, establish different parameters. Ideas include hitting only cross court, hitting to a specific target area, hitting with all forehands (backhands), etc.
  2. The goal of a rally, much like Aikido, is to blend your shots with the shots of your partner (adjusting the tempo and flow as necessary) to ensure you and your partner have success getting the ball back in play, maintaining the length of the rally and avoiding the need to pick up balls. Developing the ability to manage your controllable variables (pace, spin, depth, trajectory, direction and net clearance) to establish and maintain a rally with players of different skill sets, playing level, mobility, etc. is arguably one of the best skills you can establish as a player. It ultimately defines your ability to dictate and control the pace and flow of the rally in a point situation.
  3. Hitting helps to improve your rhythm and timing. Rhythm and timing involves the three main components of tennis – eyes and mind (ball recognition), feet (footwork and balance) and hands (stroke production).
  4. Hitting provides an ideal opportunity to work on your technique for all your shots.
  5. Hitting provides the repetition necessary to develop and hone skills.
  6. Hitting provides an opportunity to experiment and try different shots. In cooperation with your partner, use your hitting time to hit outside of your normal comfort zone. Experiment by hitting with more or less spin, pace, depth, net clearance and trajectory. In his complete four-hour hitting session, Roger Federer works on every possible hitting pattern and shot in his repertoire (including specialty shots).
  7. Hitting can offer a productive and beneficial conditioning workout providing an opportunity to hit more balls than possible in a match.
  8. Hitting provides an opportunity to interact with a friend in a shared interest. The non-competitive format allows for more dialogue and interchange. What better way to get to know someone better.
  9. The cadence and rhythmic construction of a rally can share similar characteristics to music and much like music can serve to rejuvenate the mind and spirit. A rally and the process of a rally can be a very engaging activity requiring intensity and focus. It’s also possible to hit in a more relaxed state of mind without major deliberation and concentrated focus with the goal of establishing a performance zone of effortless hitting (in other words, hitting without thinking).
  10. Hitting is fun. It’s fun to hit the ball the ball back and forth regardless of the quality and length of the rally.

Steve Gallagher

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