Weekly Top 15

Sorry. No data so far.


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Archive for the ‘Technique’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Ask Marla #11 – Breaking The Foot Fault Habit, Part 1 – Footwork

foot faults 2
It’s been a while since my last “Ask Marla”, so I’m offering up a two-part piece on a matter of concern to all tennis players: foot faults. Many players foot fault, but most don’t know how to stop. So I asked Marla about foot faults, and some tips to help fix them.

Part 1 covers tips to correct foot faults, and Part 2 will cover other aspects of the serve that can contribute to foot faults, such as chasing your toss or inadequate knee bend.


(click picture for a larger image)

Question: Do you have any tips to help players check if they foot-fault and fix it if they do?

Answer: The easiest thing a player can do is to back away from the baseline before hitting their serve. I don’t like doing that, however, because you give up valuable ground if you only have a marginal serve. The better alternative is to figure out which feet step over the line, and then work to stop them.

Try setting tennis balls in front of your feet when you serve: one in front of lead foot and one to side where back foot pulls up.  Whichever ball moves (i.e. gets kicked or stepped on) will let you know the offending foot (or feet). Afterward, you can adjust your serve accordingly to better anchor your feet (for greater serve accuracy), and to better minimize potential foot faults.

Of course, the best option for checking foot faults is to have a friend take video or pictures of your serve along the baseline. This will clearly show which feet cross the line on your serve.

(SFTF Note: I’ve also struggled with foot faults. After watching a ton of matches with top-ranked players, I noticed that many barely move their feet when serving. So I’ve recently begun anchoring my front foot, the usual offender, to help clean up my service footwork. I also tried Marla’s tennis ball option to catch any movement across the line, but also used other items such as my keychain, a spare racquet, and a brick. 

The brick actually proved to be the most helpful for me because of its’ size. There’s no way I could deny hitting it on the line if I crossed. The pictures at right shows a practice serve with the brick. The picture series below shows my cleaner footwork afterward. All pictures were taken by my phone on a tripod. The brick is a great tool, but pictures are indeed worth a thousand words! Whatever option you use on the baseline, try to supplement it with pictures or videos.


(click picture for a larger image)

Chasing your toss across the line, or losing power because of knee bend now that your feet are anchored? Stay tuned for Part 2.

Got a tennis question? Send it via email or tweet for “Ask Marla”.

About Marla

Marla Reid is a respected tennis pro/coach in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s coached nationally-ranked teams and players, and has over 15 years of experience at the NCAA Division I, II, and III levels. Marla owns and operates City Racquet Shop in San Francisco CA.

About City Racquet Shop

City Racquet Shop offers, superior products/services, outstanding customer service, and a community-oriented destination for tennis players to shop, hang out and talk about tennis.

City Racquet Shop online: www.cityracquetshop.com
City Racquet Shop on Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/city-racquet-shop-san-francisco
City Racquet Shop on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cityracquetshop

PostHeaderIcon My Journey to Better Tennis Fitness, And A Lot Less Pain


For the past couple of months I’ve made occasional (and cryptic) Twitter references regarding changes to my gym routine to achieve better #TennisFitness. But since a hashtag means nothing without context, now is as good a time as any to explain what exactly I mean by “tennis fitness”.

As a former professional dancer and lifelong athlete, I’m in pretty good shape. That’s irrespective of my 50 years and two surgeries on my right shoulder and knee. For the most part, I’m able to enjoy a fairly rigorous level of activity that includes playing tennis 2-3x a week, and going to the gym pretty much all of the other days that I’m not playing tennis.

Before the start of my #TennisFitness changes, my gym regimen consisted of riding a stationary bike at increasing levels of resistance, and lots of core work – ab wheel and crunches. The time on the bike was a good way to get cardio without stressing my surgically-repaired knee, and the core work helped support my serve for less strain on my shoulder. (Having a six-pack ain’t bad either.)

In spite of my muscular build, I never lifted weights. My body builds muscle very easily, and that excess mass isn’t helpful on a tennis court where any excess can you slow you down and get in the way of making quick footwork or shot adjustments.

This regimen worked decently for my tennis preparedness until late last year. Overall muscle stiffness in my torso and soreness in both knees/lower legs became the normal order of the day. And though I’ve adjusted my diet and supplements to help alleviate a good deal of inflammation, the level of pain was sometimes more than could I could bear, or that could be controlled with over-the-counter doses of ibuprofen.

Even so, one thing was very clear to me. I needed a better training regimen, not better pain meds!

When I wrote ‘Tips for Better Tennis Fitness from Jackson Bloore‘, I was badly in need of advice to help me better prepare for my on-court activities. And that’s exactly what I got from Jackson.

Jackson broke it down perfectly, and got me to understand that static conditioning (my bike and core work) couldn’t possibly prepare my body for a sport like tennis that requires explosive movements. For 30 minutes, we chatted about my goals while he responded accordingly with workout suggestions to help achieve support them.

I needed to re-focus my gym time on my legs, and preparing them for the explosive movements necessary for tennis i.e. quick movements side to side, back to front, and front to back. Exercises suggestions include lunges, ladder work, step ups onto platforms, etc. Admittedly, I had stayed away from leg work due to fears of causing more knee damage. But by doing so, I had probably made them more likely to get injured.

Moving on to my upper body/torso, any gym time spent on those areas needed to also support the explosive movements needed for my game i.e. service motion, torso rotation (for groundstrokes), etc. Exercise suggestions from Jackson included low-weight cable chops, quick dumbbell presses, and clap pushups. If I wanted to maintain core work, it also needed to be less static and more dynamic.

Though these were all quick suggestions off the top of Jackson’s head, I began to see the many ways in which I could incorporate the idea of “explosive movements” into my gym routine. It made perfect sense to me. And frankly, anything that could help reduce my overall level of pain was something I was willing to try.

Surprisingly, it only took a couple of weeks for me to start feeling positive changes in my body before, during, and after play. Whenever I hit the courts now, my body feels more prepared and needs less warmup time. Afterward, I hurt a lot less. In fact, there are many days I don’t even think of taking ibuprofen after tennis. That, by itself, is worth any changes I’ve had to make to my gym regimen.

Best of all, I’m playing better tennis because I’m not making as many accommodations for my physical condition. That’s a win on all levels!

As I settle into my new routine and exercises, I will share what I discover in a new #TennisFitness feature so that I can help others achieve similar benefits to their physical conditioning and, hopefully, their game.


PostHeaderIcon Tips for Better Tennis Fitness from Jackson Bloore

Jackson Bloore

Jackson Bloore

Jackson Bloore

Jackson Bloore

For the past couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Jackson Bloore, a personal fitness trainer here in San Francisco at DIAKADI Body.

Besides the obvious (stunning good looks with an Adonis body owing to his work as a fitness model), Jackson is one of the nicest, most approachable guys you’ll ever want to meet. He’s also in the best shape I’ve ever seen from someone who’s not a dancer or professional athlete.

I’ve watched his workouts at my gym over the past several months, and have been tremendously impressed by their caliber and quality. Though he has the muscular physique of a bodybuilder, trust me when I say that his workouts are about more than simply lifting weights.

It’s also clear from watching him (and checking out his training videos) that he has a core belief about how to train others that he applies equally to himself, and his own workouts. This is fairly notable at a gym where you rarely see trainers “practice what they preach”.

Jackson demonstrating reverse crunches.

Jackson demonstrating reverse crunches.

While chatting, I mentioned that I’ve been struggling lately with on-court injuries. Though I’m in great shape by most standards, I’m pretty much at a loss on how to best train my 50-year old ex-dancer body for the rigors of my tennis game. After all, core work and biking only go so far.

We set a time to meet so that Jackson could offer some suggestions on how I could better use my gym time to prepare my body for tennis. What followed was a mind-blowing 10-15 minute chat, with specific exercise suggestions, that gave me great hope for lessening injuries while improving my tennis fitness in 2014.

I asked if I could share some of his insights with my readers, and he agreed. So as his time allows, I’ll share occasional training tips to help you all with various aspects of tennis fitness.

I know this won’t have the same impact as ‘Oprah’s Favorite Things’, but I can’t say enough about Jackson’s knowledge, professionalism, and easy-going demeanor. You can contact Jackson for consultation/training at jackson@actionjacksonfitness.com. He does in-person training as well as Skype consultations. If you’re struggling with injuries and need help with your training regimen, give him a shot.

Until next time, enjoy these two training vids featuring Jackson doing his thing.



PostHeaderIcon Teaching Juniors To Make Better Service Line Calls


Many juniors have coaches who spend the lion’s share of practice time on strokes and footwork. But one important component of their game that’s sorely missing is the ability to correctly recognize an “out” serve.

Stop by any junior tennis tournament and you’ll see what I mean. On top of great ground strokes and fierce defense, it’s not uncommon to see juniors AT ALL LEVELS return serves that are 6-12 inches beyond the service line. Not surprisingly, many of these points end with disputed calls.

tennis-balls-on-service-line-vertThis isn’t a commentary on juniors and bad line calls. It’s merely an observation that we need to do a better job of training young players how to make good line calls; especially when receiving serve. The reason for this is twofold: accuracy and trust.

We can’t expect players to make good line calls during a rally if we don’t teach them how to correctly make calls when receiving serve. If their ability to gauge “out” balls on the service line isn’t accurate, it only stands to reason the same will hold true for sideline and baseline calls.

Bad service line calls can also engender a lack of trust between players. If a server can’t trust the receiver to correctly call a serve that’s clearly out, they won’t trust them to make correct calls closer to the lines later on in the rally.

There are a couple of things that coaches can do to help juniors improve their service line calls. Most have already talked to their players about the need to make good line calls. Perhaps they could also emphasize that correct service line calls are the first line of defense for proper line calls throughout the match.

Additionally, something as simple as placing tennis balls on the court (as in the picture at top and at right) can provide their players an excellent visual reference for balls on the service line.

Making good line calls, on the service line or otherwise, is a skill that can be learned, and is just as valuable to a player’s overall development as proper stroke technique.

With a little help, our juniors can become great players as well as great sportsmen and sportswomen.

PostHeaderIcon Three Helpful Tips from the USTA Frontlines

Monitoring the courts at Valley Vista

Monitoring the courts at Valley Vista (courtesy USTA Norcal)

It’s been a busy January in terms of my USTA and ITA “Official” duties. Between Junior events, Adult League Mixed events, and the Cal Winter Invitational, every weekend has been booked with time spent watching some great matches. While doing so, I’ve noticed a few things that might be helpful to others as they prepare for the 2014 Adult league and tournament season. Here are three tips to help your upcoming USTA season be more productive and sporting.

Come prepared for a five-minute warm-up!

One of an official’s duties is to time the player warm-up prior to matches in officiated league events and tournament play. While doing so, I’m often struck by how unprepared many players are for the quick pace of their five-minute warm-up. Five minutes seems like a good amount of time until you think about all of the tasks you might want to accomplish in your warm-up.

Here’s a short list of what most people include in their warm-up:

  1. Short court balls to start
  2. Easy baseline shots to start
  3. Stronger baseline rallies
  4. Volleys at the net
  5. Overheads
  6. Practice serves

When you attempt to do all of these things with one or more other people on the court also trying to do them, the results can be less than satisfying.

Remember that the five-minute warm-up is NOT your match warm-up. If you come to the court without having warmed up in some other way prior to the match, it’s not your opponent’s job to do that for you; nor is it the official’s job to give you extra time.

If possible, grab a side court to hit with a friend or doubles partner. If no courts are available, you can still do shadow swings and footwork drills to prepare yourself for the match. When you go to court for your match, know exactly what you want to accomplish so that you can stay focused and not lose time. And prioritize! You may not get to do everything you want to do, but you can at least make sure that your basic needs are met to start play.

Call out the correct score before every point

A lot of time is spent in matches correcting scoring errors. Whenever officials hear talking, then see players conversing at the net, it’s almost always a scoring discrepancy. This can easily be alleviated by calling out the score before each point in a manner that’s loud enough for your opponent to hear. If he disagrees, you can fix it before the point instead of creating more confusion “after the fact”.

Also, it’s extremely helpful for all if you use the correct terms for calling out the score. If the score is 15-40 and you say 5-4, or you say 3-5 for 30-15, you’re probably going to run into some issues. Remember, keep it loud, and avoid shorthand scoring.

Be honest with your opponent on line calls

This isn’t just about making correct line calls, it’s also about being honest with your opponent when asked about the call if it was out. Often, an opponent may balk at a close call of “out”, or ask as an FYI how far out the ball landed.

If asked, be honest about the distance. If the ball landed one inch outside of the line, don’t say, “It was WAY out”. You’re not being honest, and you’re also not contributing to an environment of “good sportsmanship”. Say it was close, or a couple of inches, or something along those lines. Your opponent will appreciate the honesty, and will less likely think that you are cheating on calls.

PostHeaderIcon Tips for the Off-Season: A 3-Pt Series to Help You and Your Game Prep for the New Year

David Ferrer working his core

I recently posted 3 separate installments featuring tips to help you and your game in the off-season as part of my Ask Marla series . Here are all  three article links in one place for easy bookmark-ing:

Tips for the Off-Season Part 1:  Take Stock/Take Time Off

Tips for the Off-Season Part 2: Off-Season Training

Tips for the Off-Season Part 3: Equipment Changes

Good luck, and hope they help your upcoming season!

Follow SFTennisFreak on Twitter
Blog Search