When you think about the mechanics of your strokes in tennis, you may spend a lot of time thinking about your grip, your racquet position, your contact point, even your footwork. But most of us don't spend much time thinking about our follow through. And I think that's because the follow through is what happens after we've already hit the ball. Failure to think about or care about the follow through is a really common error among beginners. But it can also affect advanced players. So let's talk about the follow through – what it is and why it's so important.
What Does “Follow Through” Mean in Tennis?
Once the ball leaves your tennis racket, you're in the follow through stage. The follow through is the finish to your stroke and, even though you've already hit the ball, the follow through is extremely important to ensuring that you hit the ball properly.
Follow through is what your tennis instructor means when he or she tells you to finish with the racket in front, or finish with the racket high, or finish with the racket up and over your shoulder. The fact is – there are lots and lots of ways to follow through on your strokes, depending on what stroke your hitting. Whether its your forehand, your backhand, your volley or your serve, every stroke has a follow through that is a critical part of that stroke.
Why is Following Through Important?
Now, you may think, well, once I've hit the ball, I'm no longer having any effect on the ball. So why do I care where my racket goes or what my body does after I've made contact with the ball?
The fact is – what happens after you hit the ball is vitally important to the quality of your shot. First, by continuing your stroke motion all the way through, even after you've hit the ball, you ensure that you've hit the ball solidly and you've directed it where you want it to go. By making this solid contact, you are able to put the most power and spin possible on your shot.
Second, by following through, you ensure that you more accurately direct the ball to its target. By lengthening your hitting zone, you can reduce the effects of small timing errors you might make as you hit the ball while aiming at a specific target.
Finally, proper follow through can actually reduce your chance of injury. After you've hit the ball, your racket is still moving at a pretty high rate of speed. By following through, you give yourself a longer distance in which to slow your racket down, reducing some of the strain on your arm. You can imagine that a short and sudden stop of your motion would be much harder on your arm than a smooth, long finish.
The bottom line? If you stop short after you've made contact with the ball, if you don't complete your motion with the proper follow through, you will not make solid contact with the ball, you will not be able to put maximum power, spin and direction on the tennis ball and you increase your risk of injury to your arm.
How Can You Make Sure You Follow Through on Your Tennis Strokes?
So, if the follow through is so important, how can we make sure we're doing it?
As I said earlier, there are lots of ways to follow through on a stroke. It all depends on what stroke you're hitting. And any one stroke may have numerous ways to follow through. On the forehand, for example, you might finish up and over your shoulder. You might follow through up and then down around your waist. You might even follow a high to low swing path, finishing down lower to apply slice. So there is no one correct way to follow through.
But you can become more aware of your follow through on every shot by exaggerating that motion. On your forehand, for example, if your follow through should be up and over your shoulder, you can catch the handle or grip of your racket in your non-hitting hand to make sure you really get that racket up and around. You can also try holding your finish position after hitting the ball, for just an extra split second or so, to see just what your follow through looks like. I'm not saying you should do this in a match, but you can definitely try it in a lesson, drills or in a practice match. Finally, if you are taking some kind of lessons or getting some tennis instruction, talk to your instructor about the follow through to make sure you understand it, to make sure you're doing it correctly and to get any tips or pointers he or she might have to make your follow through even better.
That's it for this week's Tennis Quick Tips. If you're interested in learning more about stroke fundamentals, like the follow through, I have a great resource to recommend. It's a book called Tennis Fundamentals by Carol Matsuzaki and I have an Amazon link to it below.
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE:
Click for Amazon link to: Tennis Fundamentals by Carol Matsuzaki
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