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Returning Tricky Shots

Feng Li / Getty Images

Hitting high, kicking shots is fun. It puts your opponent on the defensive and induces short balls to easily put away. Returning high kicking shots, on the other hand, is not fun, since you’re on the defensive and prone to hitting short balls that can easily be put away. Rather than continuing to reach up and flail about, try the following to blunt your opponent’s advantage and dictate play.

1. Take the ball early.

You’ll hit more of an attacking shot and take away your opponent’s time. This is especially key if you hit a one-handed backhand, since as Rafael Nadal has shown against Roger Federer, balls over the shoulder will cause the stroke to break down. Have a closed position, use a little more compact swing and set your feet early, with your front foot pointed in your desired shot direction. It’s not a half-volley taken near your feet. Work on your timing to hit the ball on the rise in your normal strike zone and move forward, says Justyn Schelver, co-director at the Van Der Meer Tennis Academy.

2. Hit the side.

If you can’t take it early, modify your swing. Since it’s difficult to brush up on a high ball, hit the outside part of the ball and swing almost like a windshield wiper, going from side to side. You’re not looking for an offensive shot. You just want some depth and put the ball back into play. Make sure that you move forward into the shot rather than falling on your back foot, which is a tendency, to avoid hitting the ball short, Schelver says.

3. Strengthen your pillar.

For starters, work on front and lateral pillar bridges to improve overall pillar strength, specifically shoulder stability that will allow you to make solid contact and generate force, even on high balls, says Nick Anthony, performance specialist at Athletes’ Performance. Do 2-3 sets, holding for 30 seconds to start. For proper form, watch the videos below.

Front Pillar Bridge

Lateral Pillar Bridge

Steve Calechman has written for Men’s Health magazine, Natural Health, Philadelphia, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, The Robb Report, and Women’s Health magazine. Learn more at SteveCalechman.com.

Tags: Torso, Sports Performance, Outdoor Recreation, Tennis, Pillar strength