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Luca Mandalino

The Theory of push lines.

The four unescapable push lines and the five fundamental principles of modern tennis playing technique.

Chapter two.

Concept errors. The laws of physics and biomechanics do not make exceptions.

I am not a physics or biomechanics teacher but allow me to say that “one must always use common sense and submit to reason”. It may seem a stereotyped expression or a common saying but, bearing in mind this expression, we come to think of the impulsiveness, irresponsibility and need to overdo which are often typical characteristics of beginners and young competitive players  who make concept mistakes wasting energies and precious time.

It often happens that you see players hit a low ball from the backcourt and try to win a point with a tight crosscourt in topspin and then, when their attempt fails, curse their bad luck.
Or to see someone keen on playing a drop shot in backspin in return to a slow ball and then be surprised if the ball goes into the net.
You can also sometimes notice players rashly approaching the ball to hit and then, after a short pause, almost as if they wanted to stop time, execute a quick and clumsy movement, which in tennis jargon is called “ripping the ball”, thus losing control of the shot which will quite likely end up with the ball going into the net or beyond the court lines.
These three examples help us to understand that common sense means doing things simply, starting with easy moves, which come to us naturally, realizing in the process that in this way it is possible to obtain incredible improvements without feeling confused or disappointed.
Let us examine in a more specific way the three above mentioned examples in order to understand better.

The player of the first example, who considered himself unlucky, committed a concept error, because the ball he was getting ready to hit was too low.
The topspin stroke he had chosen to use was impracticable with the ball to hit placed lower than  knee level, because the racket face did not have sufficient space to accelerate from bottom to top before the impact, thus failing to rub the ball sufficiently to give it the strong and necessary spin required.
Also the mental attitude is wrong. Considering himself unlucky inhibits in him the process of analysing his mistake, of understanding what caused the mistake, of searching for a solution.  Worse still, it slows down the player’s growth and it makes him give away points to his opponents.

In the second case, the one where the player gets ready to play a drop shot, his is again a concept error, because one should not play a drop shot on balls which arrive at a low travelling speed.
Making a drop shot means cutting the ball speed  and  a drop shot from the backcourt, at a distance of 12 metres from the net is recommended only when the ball arrives at a relatively high speed, otherwise our shot would most probably end up into the net or it would be so slow that our opponent would have no difficulty in chasing down the ball.
The drop ball is played in  backspin because, similar to what happens with the topspin, it is actually thanks to the backward rotation of the ball that you can obtain an arc with an upward effect, having an optimal approach trajectory towards the net and a short rebound.
I would also like to add that it is always advisable to hit drop shots with a trajectory going along the line rather than crosscourt, the distance is shorter, the ball arrives earlier on the other side of the net and gives the opponent less time to react.

The third example teaches that it is risky and counterproductive to exagerate. Quick or even violent moves often cause injuries such as straining, muscle sprains, inflammations, and other inconveniences.
This behaviour as far as the performance on the tennis court is concerned lowers the ability to control movements, it conflicts with the laws of biomechanics  and tends to nullify the famous “feel” of the ball, in other words feeling what takes place between the ball and the racket at the moment of impact.
An extraordinary ability to feel the ball is a typical characteristic of talented players, who for this reason, amaze the spectators with their plastic gestures and at times with catlike agility managing to make extremely difficult strokes seem easy to execute.

Concept errors, which are more difficult to identify than technical ones, are unpredictable and present us with a bitter bill to pay; to ignore them causes damages to the competitive performance.
They find good breeding ground in states of mind full of glory, cockiness and self-importance. The common element,  responsible for these illusions and false hopes, is the ignorance of the laws of physics and biomechanics which make no exceptions.

Previous Article Chapter one.
Next Article Chapter three.
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