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Tennis fans are amazed when they see players such as Mark Phillippoussis of Australia and Greg Rusedski of Great Britain hitting 140 mph serves.

Racquetball players aren't surprised. They have seen world-class racquetball pros such as Andy Roberts of Memphis and Williamsville's Tim Doyle serve racquetballs at speeds that approach 180 mph. In fact, professional and most Open A tournaments allow only one serve rather than two, due to the speed of the ball.

The racquetball industry recently has followed tennis' lead by introducing extra-long racquets to the public. The racquets are up to 22 inches long and have up to a 104 square-inch head size. The headsize of many racquetball racquets is as large as that of many tennis racquets.

"The new extra-long racquets have a solid feel with added power," said Dave Peck, promotions manager for Ektelon, the world's largest manufacturer of racquetball racquets. "There is more control and reach than with regular racquets. There is also less shock, which is better for your arm."

The message is clear: If you want to improve your racquetball game you should switch to the extra-long racquets. The following suggestions may help if you switch:

First serves

Most of us aren't professional or Open A racquetball players. Therefore, we still have the luxury of having two serves. I would strongly suggest developing your drive and z-serves into weapons.

Most drive serves are hit from the center or slightly to the right of center in the service box (opposite for left-handers). You should be trying to hit a drive serve to your opponent's backhand seven or eight times out of 10. You'll find that you're going to be hitting your drive serve lower on the front wall than you did with your former racquet. This is due to the added power of the extra-long racquets causing the racquetballs to move at a faster pace and trajectory.

You also should be striving to hit your first serves in such a way that the ball bounces twice before it hits a wall. This will cause your opponent great difficulty, as the ball will be traveling at a great speed away from him.

Second serves

A few years ago I would have recommended hitting lob serves as your primary second serve. However, the extra-long racquets allow you to hit with more spin and pace, even on second serves. I would use hard and medium z-serves on your second serves. Most of the serves should be hit deep to your opponent's backhand. An occasional forehand z-serve is also appropriate in a given situation. If hit correctly the element of surprise should result in an outright point for you.

Return of serve, please

Practice service returns against a player who uses an extra-long racquet. At first, you will notice that your reaction time is slower. However, as you get used to the speed of the serve you will find that you will be able to get into a grove in returning the serves.

Ceiling balls are good returns. A word of caution. You must be sure to hit ceiling balls far enough back on the ceiling to ensure that your opponent doesn't have an easy shot to put away. You should aim for a spot 4-6 feet from the front wall on the ceiling to hit the optimum ceiling ball.

Driving the ball cross-court to move the server out of center court is also wise. It allows you to move up to center court and put your opponent behind you.


(Not to be confused with volleying, which means to hit a ball in the air.) With the extra-long racquets you must be wary of your shot selection, even on so-called set-ups. Not only are racquets longer, racquetballs are much livelier than they used to be. Sometimes, this causes a shot to "stay up" (stay in play). This gives your opponent more time to return the shot.

My advice is to work on your passing game. A good passing game will move your opponent out of front court. It could also be an outright point if you can hit the ball parallel to your opponent's body as the ball passes him.

If you're in front of your opponent you should hit the ball as straight and low as you can away from him, on both your forehand and backhand sides.

Most players will do this on their forehand. Yet confronted with the same shot on their backhand, they will hit the ball cross-court to their opponent. This could prove deadly if your opponent is waiting there for the easy put-away.

Increase your foot speed

With the increased speed of the ball off the racquets you will find that you're going to have to react faster. I would recommend doing short sprints on the court, both forward and backward, and side to side.

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