In order to generate the energy and use it through the strokes, the player must assume the balanced position so the ground force can be used as the dominant force to create the energy needed for the powerful strokes.
Balanced shot starts with the good timed body preparation. When the player pushes against the ground with his body weight, the forces are transmitted back from the ground through the legs into the stroke with which ends the sequences of movements in the direction from ground-up (this is called the kinetic chain which I will explain in details later). For this action the player has to be in the state of balance before, during and after the stroke. It all starts with the most important step, preparatory step – SPLIT STEP or decisive step.
Keys for having a good split step: 1. Body Posture 2. Timing of the split step 3. Body facing towards the ball 4. Height of the jump
1. Push the tailbone back and the ready position is automatically created. Feet shoulder width, knees and hips slightly flexed and shoulders facing backwards. Body weight is off the feet, on the toes. In this way a player is closer to the ground and having the body weight leaning forwardit’s much easier to react , change direction and do the proper split step.
2. The timing of the split step is very important! It is done just as the opponent STARTS HIS FOLLOW THROUGH PHASE FROM THE TAKE BACK. In that way doing the split step and being up in the air while the ball is hit on the other side a player can react by changing direction BEFORE he lands on the ground. One leg would lend on the ground but the other one would already open towards the side where the ball is hit. In that way, player is up in the air before the impact point and then as soon as the ball is hit, he is back to the ground, pressing it and pushing to the direction of the ball while turning the shoulders for the take back at the same time. This is a 100% ready position. Now the player has a take back, shoulder turn, fast reaction to the ball and pushing towards the ball at the same time! So he is focused on being prepared for the shot while moving to the proper direction.
3. The player facing directly towards the ball on the opposite side of the court is the player ready to have a proper reaction to the shot. This helps the player to create a balance reaction with the split step that will result in efficiency of the movement coming after the split step.
4. Most of the beginners think of the split step as the jump, so they jump pretty high. They make a mistake by thinking if they jump higher the bigger force would be created by the ground and the faster reaction from the split step. The point of the split step is to lower your body height (center of gravity) by having the feet apart and knees bent, to generate the faster reaction.
Split step is today referred as decisive step and in fact is a decisive moment in tennis. Nowadays the players are not taught of the importance of the split step. When the ball is coming from the opposite side the player focuses more on the ball, direction and trajectory so the reaction and the positioning is not the primary focus which is a big mistake!
Just introducing the concept of split step can raise your game level up to 25-30%.