And In The End

As important and as defined as the beginning of your stroke is, so is its finish.  In fact, my coach used to say that the integrity of the stroke, whether I was keeping it together, was measured by my attention past contact and to the follow through.  But take one sad glance at a recreational player under pressure, and you'll see him slap or poke at the ball, as if hitting it was the problem, whereas the real question is whether the shot lands between the lines on the other side of the net.

I correct wristy and pokey finishes as much as I correct eye-contact problems.  In fact, they're connected, like two very twisted cousins in not holy matrimony.  Once a player gets nervous, either because she's compromised by her opponent's shot or choosing to go for something big, the eyes tend to come off the ball early, and it's as if the stroke short-circuits, stopping right at the hit.  The intuition is that if the racquet can be kept low and the stroke short, the ball will stay in.  Not!  It usually sails long, because those level, punchy strokes impart zero topspin.

It takes faith, I understand, but the higher your finish, the more the ball stays down.  On a ground stroke, copy Venus or Serena, and finish your with your racquet hand up by your ear and the racquet vertical to the court.  It's your elbow that provides the upward brush and topspin, not your wrist!  Find physical cues that help you do this, like catching your forehand follow through with your non-dominant hand--high, up by your ear.  Or, touch your chin to your shoulder, at the end.  You can do this only if the follow through is high.  Keep it together! The more consistent your finishes are, the less unforced errors you'll make, and when you do make them, it's easy to correct.  Finish the shot!

c Keith Shein