Last night I applied the concept that
Power comes from movement, movement does not come from power.
Something I have noticed repeatedly is that power in tennis and all sport comes through good movement but the reverse it not true. Good movement does not come through great power.
What do I mean?
I’ve been exploring the best way to build my game through a match and also develop my game over time. Two key goals have been to improve my movement and power. The question has been whether I develop these separately or whether they can be combined and whether the improvement, or focus, in one aspect may negate the other.
My experience led to this conclusion and it reflects what I see on tour. The players who rely on power often don’t move particularly well. We see this in players like John Isner, Milos Raonic, Juan Del potro, Nico Almagro, Maria sharapova, Laura Robson, Victoria Azarenka. The reverse end of the spectrujm sees players like David Ferrer, Sara Errani, Gilles Simon, Agnieska Radwanska, Caroline Wozniaki.
There are plenty of players who combine both power and movement, Gael Monfils, Tsonga, Stan Wawrinka, Thomas Berdych come to mind so of course it is possible. My question is whether it is possible or best to work on one aspect before the other or through the other.
Technique relies on positioning
My answer is that good movement sets up good power. When I think about it I realise that all technical coaching relies on the situation being perfect for the proper execution of the shot. The ball, player, court position must all be in the right place. If anything is out of place then power will be lost along with accuracy and at worst injury will be the result.
You can of course not bother to get the ball in and just hit hard. This can develop your ability to generate power but it may also lead to learning bad habits. You will learn to hit power without control which will lose you matches not win them for you. So in order to develop power with control you must learn to repeatedly get everything into perfect position and then play the shot correctly. Thus
movement is the platform on which power can grow
The better you move the greater the power you can exert because the better your ability to get into perfect situations.
Movement to me also means movement of the ball, reading it properly, player, awareness of court position and moving yourself which is how you play the shot, the technique you apply.
What does this mean in practice?
So of course you might be thinking about the many top level players with lots of power but weaker movement. The list I gave earlier is of very good players. They do achieve success yes. My point though is that for each I would say that their great power comes from their good but limited movement to the types of shot they like. They know how to generate power but lose at the highest levels because opponents exploit their lack of movement and reliance on power.
Focus on the situation
A focus on movement means you focus much more on the situation than just yourself. You get your eye in and track the ball properly so you can predict where it will go, you watch your opponent looking for clues on what they will do. It means you identify quickly the opponents response then plan and implement your response quickly. You can get where you need to be fast. Turning, bouncing sliding, whatever is needed. The sole aim is to get your racquet where it needs to be at the right time. If you do this you can see how power becomes easy to generate. If you don’t, you see how you will often be out of position or won’t see the ball soon enough to prepare.
A few months ago I won a match simply because I met this type of player and I have noticed that I don’t struggle against them at all. I say this because I recognised myself in his play. Every so often I get it in my head that more power must be better and I start winning but then quickly start losing as I forget about movement. With this style of play I often get injured and my confidence can go aswell. With the result that tennis starts to feel really difficult.
Players who focus on power thrive on mid court, even deep and wide balls. It gives them a big deep target to hit into with little risk. What they hate is short low balls, junk, like slower, spinning balls that bounce erratically and anything that takes their rhythm away. My answer is to vary everything from spin, to depth and height to pace so they never get to set up perfectly for the shot they crave.
Competition has many aspects
My tactic works because power is really just one aspect of tennis. Without movement, patience, placement, spin, strategy and all the other elements a focus solely on power makes you one dimensional. My opponent didn’t see any other strategy open to him than hitting harder. I knew this because I’ve been there often so I could see the signs. I also knew exactly what he didn’t want, randomness and unpredictability and a human wall and so, of course, that is what I put up.
The result was that he hit the ball so hard I didn’t need to generate any pace instead I just needed to redirect his strong shots using blocks instead of attacking the ball. This meant I kept good position for the next shot. Forcing him to go beyond his limits.
Generate pace and position, not pace alone
The act of generating the pace itself meant he was still recovering from his effort when the ball came back. He just wasn’t prepared. After a set of this I knew I had got in his head. It looked like he was playing really well but losing and I wasn’t very good at all. The fact was that he didn’t make me play because he focused solely on what he could do forgetting that it might not work. That against me the ball will come back and it will be awkward.
If he could move better the result would have been very different but as it was, I didn’t focus on the power I can play with. I focused on movement and so by the end of the match I was seeing the ball well and moving well so power was coming without effort and at the same time he had no confidence or rhythm. In the end I had seen all of his game and he had seen little of mine so as I expressed myself more through my shots I increasingly gained the edge.
The surface was AstroTurf which has become very sandy and slippery to the point that many matches I have lost simply through lack of traction. Until recently I slipped all the time, sometimes injuring myself and the second I slip I know I have lost the point. In this match my focus on movement minimised slipping. I saw the ball earlier and prepared quickly. I got to most balls and did something with them. I found my power later on once my movement and reading of the game improved. From then on I had a complete game.
In all what I learnt that when I ensured that I moved well and focused on reading my opponent I found it much easier to find a solution to his game. I showed that I get power through movement but not movement through power. Reading the ball is key because it gets my eyes trained well on the ball and the situation. Power came later as I read his game and moved better which is when all my shots started coming to me.