You’re watching the professionals play, one player scrabbles to retrieve a ball and puts up a high lob. Their opponents moves to the net and in a flash has taken the ball out of the sky and executed a beautiful overhead to win the point. Easy right?
These players make it look easy. Many hours of practice have gone into this shot.
As a junior, I played a great deal of squash so when I transitioned to tennis it was natural for me to play a ball high in the air.
Hitting an overhead shot in tennis can be a daunting task for many players, especially beginners. It requires proper technique, timing, and a lot of practice. However, once mastered, it can be a powerful weapon in your arsenal, allowing you to take control of the point and put your opponent on the defensive.
To hit an overhead shot, you need to be in the right position and have a clear understanding of the proper technique. The overhead shot is typically hit when the ball is high in the air, usually after your opponent has hit a lob or a defensive shot. It’s important to position yourself correctly by moving to the right spot on the court and getting your body in the right position to hit the ball.
In this article, we will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to hit an overhead shot in tennis. We will cover the proper technique, footwork, and positioning, as well as common mistakes to avoid. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player looking to improve your overhead shot, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s get started.
Fundamentals of Overhead Technique
Grip and Racket Position
To hit a successful overhead, it is important to have the right grip and racket position. We recommend using a continental grip, which is a grip where the base knuckle of your index finger is placed on the third bevel of the racket handle. This grip allows for more control and power when hitting overheads.
When it comes to racket position, it is important to have your racket up and ready as soon as you see the ball coming toward you. Hold the racket with both hands and bring it back behind your head, keeping your elbows up and your wrists firm. This will allow you to generate more power and accuracy when hitting the ball.
Eyes on the Ball
Another important aspect of hitting an overhead is keeping your eyes on the ball. As soon as you see the ball coming towards you, focus your eyes on it and keep them there until you hit the ball. This will help you make better contact with the ball and increase your chances of hitting a successful overhead.
It is also important to keep your head still and avoid moving it around too much. This will help you maintain your balance and hit the ball more accurately.
By following these fundamental techniques for overheads, you will be able to hit more successful shots and improve your overall game.
Footwork and Stance
When preparing to hit an overhead shot, our initial positioning is vital. We want to position ourselves in a way that allows us to hit the ball with maximum power and accuracy. Our feet should be shoulder-width apart, and we should be facing the net with our non-dominant side towards it. This stance allows us to hit the ball with a forward motion, generating maximum power.
It’s also important to keep our knees slightly bent and our weight on the balls of our feet. This allows us to move quickly and adjust our position if necessary. We should also keep our racket up and ready to strike the ball.
Moving to the Ball
Once we’ve identified the ball’s trajectory, we need to move quickly to get into position. Our footwork is crucial here. We want to take small steps, keeping our weight on the balls of our feet, and moving quickly towards the ball.
As we move towards the ball, we want to position ourselves directly under it. This allows us to hit the ball with maximum power and accuracy. Once we’re in position, we should take a split step, which means jumping slightly and landing with our feet shoulder-width apart. This helps us to maintain our balance and prepare for the shot.
In summary, our footwork and stance are critical when hitting an overhead shot. We need to position ourselves correctly and move quickly to get into position. By keeping our weight on the balls of our feet and taking small steps, we can adjust our position and hit the ball with maximum power and accuracy.
Executing the Overhead Smash
When it comes to executing the overhead smash, there are a few key components that must be executed properly to hit the ball with power and precision.
The backswing is the first step in executing the overhead smash. To start, we need to position ourselves directly underneath the ball. Once we are in position, we need to bring our racket back behind our head. This will generate the power we need to hit the ball with force. It’s important to keep our eyes on the ball during the backswing to ensure we make contact in the right spot.
The contact point is where we make contact with the ball. To execute the perfect overhead smash, we need to make contact with the ball at the highest point possible. This will give us the best angle to hit the ball with power and accuracy. We should aim to hit the ball with the center of our racket to maximize our chances of success.
The follow-through is the final step in executing the overhead smash. Once we make contact with the ball, we need to follow through with our swing. This means extending our arm and racket all the way through until the racket is pointing toward our target. This will help us generate more power and accuracy on our shot.
In summary, executing the overhead smash requires a proper backswing, making contact at the highest point possible, and following through with our swing. By following these steps, we can hit the ball with power and precision, making it difficult for our opponent to return.
When playing tennis, you will inevitably encounter situations where you need to defend against your opponent’s powerful shots. In these cases, hitting a defensive overhead can be a great way to turn the tables and regain control of the point. Here are some tips for executing defensive overheads effectively:
High Defensive Shot
When hitting a defensive overhead, the goal is to keep the ball in play and give yourself time to recover. To achieve this, we recommend hitting a high defensive shot that clears the net by a comfortable margin. This will force your opponent to hit another shot and give you time to get back into position.
To execute a high defensive shot, you should position yourself near the baseline and move back slightly as your opponent hits the ball. As the ball approaches, take a small hop and swing your racket upwards to make contact with the ball at the highest point possible. Aim to hit the ball with enough power to clear the net, but not so much that it sails out of bounds.
After hitting a defensive overhead, it’s important to get back into a good position on the court. We recommend moving toward the center of the court and preparing for your opponent’s next shot. This will give you the best chance of returning the ball and staying in control of the point.
To get into a good recovery position, take a few quick steps toward the center of the court after hitting your defensive overhead. Keep your eyes on the ball and be ready to move in any direction. Once you’ve reached the center of the court, prepare to hit your next shot by getting into a comfortable stance and keeping your racket up and ready to swing.
Remember, hitting a defensive overhead can be a great way to turn the tide of a point, but it’s important to execute it properly. By hitting a high defensive shot and getting into a good recovery position, you’ll be able to defend against your opponent’s powerful shots and stay in control of the point.
Practice and Drills
Now that we have covered the basic technique for hitting an overhead, it’s time to focus on practicing and improving your skills. Here are some drills that can help you improve your overhead:
1. Shadow Overhead
One of the easiest ways to practice your overhead is to do it without a ball. This drill is called shadow overhead. Start by standing in the ready position with your racket in your hand. Then, pretend that a ball is coming towards you, and practice your overhead stroke. Focus on your footwork, stroke, and recovery. Repeat this drill several times until you feel comfortable with the technique.
2. Partner Overhead
Another way to practice your overhead is to do it with a partner. Start by standing at the net, and have your partner stand at the baseline. Your partner will hit a lob toward you, and you will practice your overhead. Focus on your footwork, stroke, and recovery. After hitting the overhead, switch positions with your partner and repeat the drill.
3. Overhead Volley
The overhead volley is another important shot to practice. Start by standing at the net, and have your partner stand at the baseline. Your partner will hit a high ball towards you, and you will hit an overhead volley. Focus on your footwork, stroke, and recovery. After hitting the overhead volley, switch positions with your partner and repeat the drill.
4. Footwork Drills
Footwork is an important aspect of hitting an overhead. Here are some footwork drills that can help you improve your footwork:
- Ladder Drill: Set up a ladder on the court, and practice moving your feet quickly through the rungs.
- Cone Drill: Set up cones on the court, and practice moving around them quickly and efficiently.
- Side Shuffle Drill: Practice shuffling sideways along the baseline, and then quickly moving forward to hit an overhead.
By practicing these drills, you can improve your overhead technique and become a better player. Remember to focus on your footwork, stroke, and recovery, and to practice regularly to see improvement.
The overhead is not an easy shot, either offensive or defensive.
There is normally pressure on the shot, as a player you feel it is a shot that you should make. But things get in the way.
The Sun, sweat in your eyes, pressure, the noise of the crowd. It can feel like the ball is in the air for an eternity.
Practice the drills above and you will get there on this.
So who hits the best overhead smash? For me it is Pete Sampras. Go and watch some of his overhead shots below. The guy has the best rhythm technique and grace I have seen. He also perfected the jump overhead smash. We’ll save that for another tutorial : )