By Peter Nicol
When coaching, I tend to spend a lot of time on shortening the swings of players I’m working with. The reason for concentrating on a shorter, tighter swing is to help the player become more consistent with the strike. Having a bigger swing means, by its very nature, more can go wrong, and most of the time, it does.
I like to think of the swing solely in terms of where you want the ball to go. Sounds simple, but so many times the swing used is very rarely going to send the ball in the direction required. I start with the impact point and the follow through and from there I work backwards to show why the ball rarely goes to the target. Generally, the impact point for a good result is a very small area and incredibly difficult to find on a consistent basis, especially when under pressure from an opponent.
To improve the chances of consistently improving the shot, I try to get all limbs and racquet of the player to move in the same general direction. Shortening the backswing really helps to make this happen as it gives the player less to think about and focuses their attention on striking the ball while using the follow through for direction and pace of the shot. A common lament is that the shot loses a lot of power, which it undoubtedly does; however, the results are nearly always a more consistent, easier to execute shot which trumps a powerful inaccurate shot.
To change the angle of attack, simply raising or lowering the racquet face (lift the arm up, not cocking the wrist) suffices, making the swing very basic but reliable.
Moving on from there, getting some extra rotation, rather than extending the swing, can be used to increase power. This introduces an element of the swing that can really be problematic in players maintaining control of their bodies as they increase the power of the shot. Try and keep the swing short when first starting to increase the rotation and maintain that newfound control.
Once we’ve established the basic principles of getting the racquet through the ball consistently with a shorter swing, and then adding rotation to increase power, I then feel lengthening the backswing can add power and deception into the player’s game. As much as I’d like to say everyone should be taking a full swing from the beginning, and hitting the ball like Ramy Ashour or Amr Shabana, it’s just not likely to happen. I had to work my way through these technical issues and using a shorter swing always helped me create my base swing which, in the end, helped me become and stay No.1!