The tennis overhead smash is one of the five fundamental tennis strokes that requires proper technique to become a reliable weapon.
The first step toward becoming a confident net player is making sure that your opponent won’t be able to beat you with an easy lob. If you’re one of those players that gets nervous when they see a lob coming their way, you’ve come to the right place. With some practice, you’ll appreciate lobs for what they are: an excellent opportunity to win the point.
The overhead (also called smash) may seem easy at first, but it is a complex shot from a technique perspective. Yet you will miss fewer balls if you apply the correct technique. The following topics are the key components to remember the next time you hit an overhead shot. You can skip to the topic that piques your interest if you like.
- What Is An Overhead In Tennis?
- Follow Through
1. What Is An Overhead In Tennis?
In tennis, an overhead is a shot hit over your head on your forehand side with a serve-like motion. Footwork, court position, stroke, and post-shot recovery all contribute to a good overhead shot.
Generally, the Continental grip is used to hit an overhead shot. However, there are several advantages to using the Continental grip. First, the Continental grip lets your arm and wrist naturally pronate through the ball on the overhead, providing you with more power and options. Second, because you only have a limited amount of time to react to the ball when playing at the net, using the Continental grip for serves, overheads, and volleys helps you react to an incoming ball without having to take time to switch grips.
Once your opponent makes contact with the ball, you want to split step. As you start responding to the lob, turn your body sideways and start moving to position up for the ball with your non-dominant hand on the throat and the striking hand on the racquet grip. If it’s a well-timed lob, you’ll usually be moving back to get into position to hit the overhead. You can move backward in a variety of ways. The most common way for players to move back is with a side step. The cross-step is another way for players who need to cover a lot of ground to get back on the lob. All this is like a quarterback’s initial drop steps before stepping in and throwing a pass.
Raise your arms as soon as you track the ball and know where it is headed. Avoid getting your arms in the ready position over your head if you have a long way to go, limiting your mobility. Instead, raise your arms to shoulder height while moving to your spot. As you approach your position, raise your racket arm behind your head, parallel to the ground.
When you reach your spot, the ball should be on your forehand side and tracked to your racket contact point about a foot to your forehand side and two or three feet out front.
The tennis overhead smash can be played from anywhere on the court. However, your opponent will almost always lob while you are in front of the net. As a result, you’ll hit most of your overheads inside the service box.
In general, because the shot is at such a steep angle, the closer you are to the net, the easier it is to make contact with the ball. Conversely, as you move to the back of the court, the angle of the stroke becomes flatter, making the shot more difficult.
The overhead may be hit with either your forehand or your backhand, but the latter is significantly more difficult to execute. This is because when you do a backhand overhead, you stand with your back to the net and can’t see where the ball is going. As a result, try to hit this shot with your forehand every time. This is a much easier way.
If you don’t have enough time for the backswing, you can let the ball bounce once. However, there is a potential risk that the ball will bounce away from you uncontrollably because of its spin. As a result, playing the ball without letting it bounce off the ground is ideal.
Now that you are primed for the overhead, it’s time to execute. Step forward, like a quarterback or pitcher, to shift your weight into the ball. To increase the racquet head acceleration and natural pronation throughout the overhead motion, keep your arm and hand loose as you accelerate your racket head forward as if you were throwing your racquet at the ball. Your contact point is in front of your body on the same plane you would release to throw a ball when your striking arm is fully extended. Your body weight and movement should continue in the same direction after making contact with the ball.
After making contact with the ball, your racket travels down across your torso, finishing around the hips. The serve’s follow-through is identical to how a quarterback’s or pitcher’s throwing hand finishes after releasing a pass or pitch.
The overhead motion, in contrast to the service motion, is simplified. The overhead motion requires the racquet to quickly enter the trophy serving position without looping or dropping the racquet head. This is due to the limited time and to help with the timing of the ball being hit out of the air.
After your overhead, if you are in the backcourt, attempt to move quickly towards the net before the next ball is hit to maintain the upper hand in court coverage. Now, you’re in great shape for a putaway volley or second overhead.
Where To Aim Your Overhead? You should target your forehand overhead away from your opponent as much as possible. Your goal is to get them to move. Returning a shot, especially an overhead, is always more difficult when you’re on the run. However, you’re set up for a winner with one shot after your overhead.
Should I Let the Ball Bounce to Get an Overhead? A solid overhead should be hit out of the air more often than not. It will also reduce the time it takes the opponent to recover to a better court position. However, there are times when it is preferable to let the ball bounce first. For example, if the lob was very high, one of the options is to hit it after the bounce. A high lob causes the ball to descend vertically, making it difficult to hit it out of the air. Besides, a bounce makes the ball trajectory more user-friendly. It will be easier to track visually, and there will be more leeway for timing errors.
Is there a chance I’m telegraphing my overhead? It is acceptable to indicate your alignment when in the ready position. An offensive overhead smash isn’t necessarily intended to be an outright winner every time. An aggressive overhead usually allows you to gain dominance of the point and only should be a winner in a clear open court position. The most you can achieve with a successful overhead is control, regardless of whether the opponent knows where you’re hitting it. Even if they know the incoming shot’s target, their only alternatives are to punch or lob it back.
Remember that consistency is key when learning to hit a basic overhead in tennis. This shot should usually have you in command of the point. It’s not meant to win you the point immediately but rather to give you the best opportunity to win it with the next shot or two.