Today I went to my biweekly Alexander Technique lesson with Frances Marsden. We got deep into spirals. Each time you hit a tennis ball, you are spiraling. Well, if you’re not, you should be. I thought I was spiraling but actually I was twisting. What’s the difference? Twisting means turning your entire body quickly like you do when you think you just saw your ex-girlfriend walk down the street and you spin around to look. Spiraling means turning your head then your shoulders then your chest then your waist and so on in a sequence that gracefully rotates the spine. Try it. Stand up and twist your body. Now spiral by turning your head then your shoulders, etc. and see how much farther you can turn.
The further you can spiral, the more power you can impart to a tennis ball.
In the gym I do endless one legged forward and reverse squats with twists and reaches thrown in. There are a few interesting things about this. No, really there are.
Go ahead, get down into a squat on one leg. How do you get up? The easiest thing is to fall over, put your hands down and just kinda get up. A slightly harder way is to throw your arms up in the air to get upward momentun. The hardest way is to tighten your butt and push up through your leg and butt muscles leaving your arms quietly beside your body. Since I have always chosen to fall down or throw my arms in the air, I don’t have very strong leg and butt muscles and this is a very hard habit to for me to acquire.
More interesting to me is how much damn time it takes to even attempt to become a recreational B tennis player. I just wanna become a better tennis player, I didn’t think I’d have to do tedious exercises and change ancient physical and mental habits. I was hoping I could be my same old self and do it. But I can’t because it’s not possible to play better tennis if you can’t play at all due to injury and you have to change your self in you want to change habits.
I was reading an article about Ecuador’s attempt to move from “event time” to “clock time” so that they could be more productive and compete better in the current business climate. What a wonderful thought. What if our lives were run by events instead of the clock?
Dinner would take as long as it takes. A television show would end when the subject had been completely covered. There would be no sudden death overtime in sports. An outdoor stickball game would go until the sun went down. Stores would close when people finished shopping. A trip would end after you had visited everyone.
And I would complete my approach shot when I am rushing to the net. It’s amazing how big a stimulus rushing can be. It’s as if someone is standing on the baseline honking at me to get moving so that I rush through the stroke on my approach in an unbalanced position and keep running forward to the net as the my opponent hits the ball past me because I completely forget to come to a stop.
I’m hitting the ball out of the court – it’s going too far. My physical therapist Andy Choi tells me that I am hitting it too hard because I am using my arm instead of my trunk. If I use my trunk, my swing will be slower and more controlled. The trunk is used for power, the arm for control.
I’m also still dropping the racket head as I approach the ball. This flattens out the racket so that it is no longer in a closed position and hits the ball flatter instead of with topspin, another reason the ball is sailing.
I have been completing my backhand by letting my racket follow through over my shoulder. That follow through can shorten my stroke. If I end my swing high enough so that my arms are almost straight instead of bending my elbows as the racket goes over my shoulder, the ball goes higher.
I have trouble getting my service toss in front of me. It seems to end up over my head most of the time. If I lean forward as I toss, whaddya know, the ball goes forward too. Ever see Pete Sampras serve? Any further forward and he would fall forward.