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Mini-tennis sharpens your game

Many tennis players like to hit ground strokes as hard as they can when they are drilling or warming up. However, most spend little or no time practicing shots near or at the net.

This is where "mini-tennis" enters the picture. The drills are designed to improve your touch on the court, improve your volleys, and get you warmed up before playing.

Mini-tennis has some similarities to golf in as far as you're warming up. Most golfers will start on the practice green hitting short putts from 1 to 5 feet. They will then gradually move back to try longer and more difficult putts.

With mini-tennis, you and your partner should be in the middle of the court on opposite service lines, alternating shots that must be placed within your respective service boxes.

Each shot should be hit softly with a lot of control. The back swing should be abbreviated and you can hit any type of shot you want, such as flat, slice or topspin.

However, be sure to use your regular follow-through.

Your goal is to keep the ball in play as long as possible. In addition to providing consistency, you are loosening up your muscles and working on the problem areas such as your shoulders, elbows, ankles and back.

Being so close to the net, you can work on your touch and control shots that will give you a great feel for the ball. In addition, you'll improve your game in the forecourt.

When you do move to the baseline to hit your shots, you will be surprised by your control and consistency. In addition, you'll reduce your risk of injury.

There are some excellent drills in mini-tennis. One is to place a ball on the top of the net. Whichever side the ball lands on, the player on that side will start the rally. He or she will have to hit a really delicate drop shot to initiate the rally.

After that, each player has to keep the ball in play in his opponent's service box area. Both players may dink the ball, lob or angle the shot. However, they may not hit any shot with a great amount of power. The word is "consistency."

A drill that will really get your blood flowing is to hit all of your shots cross court from the service box area while your partner hits all of her shots down the line. This will greatly improve your accuracy and movement to the ball.

This drill can also be used on the baseline. However, you must really be an advanced player to keep up with these shots.

Mini-tennis is helpful in improving your volleys.


Richtand honored

Art Richtand, 84, received the Professional Tennis Registry Eastern Section's President's Award on Saturday at the United States Tennis Association's registry awards dinner in White Plains.

Richtand is one of the oldest teaching tennis pros in the United States. In addition to being honored for his teaching prowess, he is a former Canadian National Senior Doubles champion, and Muny Open Men's and Mixed Doubles champion.

He was also the captain of Buffalo's Marsh Cup team for 13 years.


Zaher nets big win

Sherif Zaher, UB's men's tennis coach, took an early lead in the race for WNY's No. 1 men's player for 2007 by beating Niagara University star Eric Garcia, 6-4, 7-5, in the final of the recent Village Glen tournament. Zaher pocketed first-place winnings of $450 in a tournament that featured leading players from Buffalo, Rochester, and Canada.

The upset of the tournament occurred in the second round when Ari Binder defeated No. 2 seed Ross Nwachukwu, 7-6, 6-7 6-4.


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