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Charlie Garfinkel’s racket sports: Crosscourt shots can help when you need a lift

In continuing our tennis tips from two weeks ago, we offer more insight into making you a better tennis player:

Hit crosscourt when in doubt: Changing your shot just before you hit the ball is perfectly natural. If your opponent is out of position, slipped, or you have an easy shot to put away, you are pretty sure that you have an easy placement to put the ball away. However, if you are in a long rally and aren’t sure where to hit your next shot, your best option is to go crosscourt.

The following are reasons to hit a high percentage of your ground strokes crosscourt.

1. The net is lower at the center of the court at three feet high. The sidelines of the net are at 3½ feet. Therefore, you have a higher margin of error to clear the net.

2. The court is longer. The length of the court from one corner to the other, up the line is 78 feet. If you hit a ball crosscourt from one corner to the other, the distance is 85½ feet.

3. One of the hardest things to accomplish in tennis is changing the direction of the ball. If your opponent hits you a ball crosscourt, the easiest way to return the shot is to hit crosscourt. When you try to change the direction of a shot and go down the line, your footwork and timing have to be impeccable. Hitting deep and crosscourt when you’re in doubt, will enable you to take advantage of the next shot that is hit to you.

Using targets to improve your ground strokes: A great way to improve your consistency is hitting at targets that are on the court. Beginners should make their targets large. If you are new to the game, your first target might simply be any point that is beyond the service line. As your proficiency improves, you should try to place the ball deep and to one side of the court.

Intermediates should set up cones or targets about 3 to 4 feet inside the singles line and baseline. A word of caution: You aren’t trying to hit the line. You are trying to hit to an area of the court.

Advanced players can make their targets smaller and closer to the lines. You should try to attempt to hit a ball can, a towel, or a pyramid of four balls. Advanced players should also mix up where they are trying to hit the ball. For instance, try hitting a forehand crosscourt, then a backhand crosscourt, or even an inside-out-forehand. If you have a favorite pattern or a combination of shots, this is a wonderful way to improve and make yourself a better player.

Jumping rope: Jumping rope is an excellent way to strengthen your legs and improve your stamina. As your game improves and you start playing against better players your fitness will become even more important. One of the best ways to improve your conditioning, both physically and mentally, is by jumping rope.

When you jump rope you should have goals in mind. You might want to see the number of jumps you can do in a row or jump for a set amount of time. You will find great benefits such as strengthening your wrists and forearms.

I suggest starting with a goal of 25 jumps in a row; them try 50. Eventually you will improve and be very pleased. Gradually, you could improve by jumping 50 times slowly and then 50 faster. Keep alternating to get a good interval-training workout.

Jumping rope can help improve your ability to concentrate, focus, and control your breathing and muscles under stress. The activity rope is excellent and similar to the discipline that is needed to play good and steady tennis. By the way, the writer of this article isn’t a proficient rope jumper. Why? He wears a size 16 tennis sneaker.

Hit higher over the net when you are pushed deep into the court: If you hit the same ground stroke five feet behind the baseline as you would when you are standing on the baseline, your shot will land five feet shorter in your opponent’s court. Because you are so far back in the court your opponent will be able to exploit your weaknesses by hitting many angles that will be difficult to return. You must keep your opponents in deep backcourt and then take advantage of a short shot that they hit. The deeper you hit the ball into your opponent’s court, the more trouble you will cause them.

If you are playing against an experienced, aggressive player, keeping the ball deep in their court could prove the difference between victory and defeat.