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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 four.

Principle number two: “Specular synergy.”

It often happens that you see players who are capable of expressing an excellent game level with forehand strokes from the backcourt whereas they are terribly rough when playing backhand strokes.
The cause of a marked difference in level between the two fundamental strokes are often due to the method by which the player practices in two separate phases forehand and backhand strokes on rebound, ignoring the principle of “specular synergy” which on the contrary indissolubly binds them together in a single group.
This principle is useful as a schematic simplification to optimize learning and practicing all the strokes that can be executed on a tennis court by bringing them all together under only three logical groups:

  1. forehand and  backhand on rebound;
  2. forehand and backhand volley;
  3. serve and  smash.

The principle of “specular synergy” can be easily understood by associating the term “synergy” to the principle of “synergic action of the player having a dynamic effect on the ball” expounded in the previous chapter, whereas the adjective “specular” means the image of the synergic action itself reflected in a mirror.
To follow the dictates of this principle means to apply the same principle both to our right side and to  our left side, whether we play with one hand or two hands.
Exception made, of course, for serve or smash hits, which are strokes played from above with the arm extended and the hand above the head.

An emblematic example is that of an invisible player, with a perfect playing technique, which executes a forehand and a backhand on rebound, in response to two balls arriving at the same speed, trajectory and spin, with the intent to play two shots giving the same dynamic spin to the ball.
The synergic action of his body is invisible and we only see the racket swinging in the air, it is easy to notice the mirror-like symmetry of the two movements when the racket proceeds towards its impact point with the ball and it is difficult to distinguish between forehand and backhand not knowing which hand grips the racket.
The path the racket must cover in the air, during the movement which brings it to hit the ball, to give it a specific dynamic spin, is exactly the same both for the forehand and the backhand.

We will therefore have to submit to reason and shape our technical movements and our grips to place them at the service of the racket.
We can identify three distict phases in the movement of the racket in the air:

  1. opening or preparation;
  2. closing or movement to hit;
  3. end movement.

The first phase is the only one we can personalize and which can present some difficulty as far as the mirror-like symmetry is concerned.
In the forehand on rebound, unlike the backhand, the racket tip needs the rotation of the arm and of the forearm, beside that of the shoulders, to be brought behind the body.
This, depending on the personalization of the player, alters its mirror-like symmetry in the air.

The second phase is decisive for the success of the stroke and it fully adheres to the principle of specular synergy.

The third phase is simply a prolongation and consequence of the second one; the quick movement of the arm and of the racket wears out at the end of the movement with an inertial action.

This principle enables us to obtain in a natural way an equivalent level between the strokes executed on our right and those on our left, with the great advantage  of always being “on the ball” (to be on the ball means to achieve an excellent quality of the strokes played) regardless of whether we are right or left-handed.

Previous Article Chapter three.
Next Article Chapter five.
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