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Dave Rineberg's Coaching Corner: Lag For More Racquet Speed

Dave Rineberg in Opinion 24 Oct 2018
  • Dave Rineberg is back with another expert dispatch from the Coaching Corner
  • Rineberg is the former hitting coach of the Williams sisters and has coached 26 top-100 players
  • Read on as Dave explains how to generate more racquet head speed on your groundstrokes
Juan Martin del Potro has one of the biggest forehands in tennis (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

While watching some of John Isner’s very hard forehand hitting at the Sony Open in Key Biscayne Florida, a person sitting near me asked if there was a secret to hitting the ball harder. “Absolutely,” I said. “Hitting the tennis ball harder is a matter of creating more racquet speed.” So just how do you do that they asked?

The Problem: To hit a ball with more outgoing speed, you will need to know the key factors influencing your outgoing ball speed. Those factors are:

  • The speed of the incoming ball
  • String tension
  • The angle of the racquet face at impact
  • The amount of racquet speed into and through the ball

These four factors influence outgoing ball speed. Of all these factors the most influential is racquet speed, and the secret to getting maximum racquet speed is lagging the racquet right before the release point. To help explain this lagging of the racquet better, let’s look at another individual sport, golf, where lagging is used in the swinging of a golf club.

John Isner fires a forehand (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Have you ever seen a golf professional hit a tee-shot and wonder how they are able to hit the golf ball so far? They are much like you the tennis player. They must create incredible club head speed into impact to hit the ball great distances. In a recent study of top golfers, stats show that by having 125mph club head speed at impact translates into a ball that will fly through the air 300 yards at a speed of 189mph. That’s pretty amazing seeing as how in golf the ball is sitting still at impact. How do they do that?

The secret is again in the lagging of the golf club in the downswing so that there is a full snapping release at the impact point. In tennis this same lagging of the racquet is one way top players like John Isner are able to hit the ball so hard. So just how do you lag a racquet on the forehand stroke?
The Fix: To lag the racquet on your forehand stroke, just before impact, you must make sure you do three things.

  1. Make sure you have a loose grip. Too much grip pressure will kill any chance you may have to create power.
  2. Lay your wrist back and down during the backswing. This is the lag position you want to maintain until release. You can do it after taking the racquet up in a loop-styled swing or if you take the racquet straight back.
  3. Turn your elbow inward and under. High speed slow motion video has shown that the top players in the game all have their elbow turned under and on the inside of the target line with their wrist laid back just before a total release into impact takes place.

The Tip: Try hitting inside-out forehands on the practice court first as it is easier to feel the lag on this particular shot. Don’t worry if you hit a few shots wide or off the back fence, because that’s just the lag power, not yet timed right, in your swing. When your timing of the lag and release gets better, you’ll soon be hitting the ball much harder. 

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Dave Rineberg's Coaching Corner: Lag For More Racquet Speed

Dave Rineberg is back for another edition of 'Coaching Corner' and this time he guides you through how to generate more racquet head speed on your groundstrokes!

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