Types of Tennis Strokes
A game of tennis forces players to compete not only aggressively but also creatively. Reaching overhead, swinging upward, and slicing outward, there are countless ways to strike the ball, but most players tend to stick with the tried-and-true basics. Those who consistently return to the same technique or attempt to branch out without proper form, however, chance injury that could suspend their performance altogether. Below are the fundamental tennis strokes that nearly every player keeps in rotation and a look at the risks associated with repetitive and improper use.
Typically shot after a bounce from behind the baseline of the backcourt, groundstrokes require players to swing upward, across, and over the opposite shoulder. There are two main types of groundstroke form, which include:
- Forehand — Holding the racket with their dominant hand, players assume an open stance and rotate the hips when swinging. After contacting the ball, they then follow the stroke through to the opposite shoulder.
- Backhand — Again, players assume an open stance and rotate the hips when contacting the ball. However, because backhand groundstrokes place the dominant palm towards the body, players have the option to grip the racket with one or both hands.
Hitting a groundstroke takes intense acceleration and full-body integration. Whether shot forehand or backhand, repetitive groundstrokes can lead to overuse injuries, such as tennis elbow. Conversely, when players perform a groundstroke with incorrect grip and stance, they are also at risk of sudden traumas including stress fractures.
Every point begins with a serve, which starts behind the baseline. To serve, players simultaneously toss the ball up with one hand while lifting the racket with the opposite hand. Reaching the racket behind the head, players then swing to meet the ball as it starts to fall. Because each serve requires intense power and upper-body inertia, this stroke is a leading cause of shoulder injuries, such as rotator cuff tendonitis, in players with poor form.
Similar to a serve, players swing to contact the ball overhead in this powerful tennis stroke. Also known as an overhead smash, overhead strokes are aggressive hits designed to return with substantial force. Players typically land overhead smashes in the middle of the court or closer to the net. Quick and powerful, this tennis stroke puts players at risk of injuries ranging from acute muscle strains to severe stress fractures.
Close to the net, players can volley a ball from mid-air or half-volley a ball after it bounces. Players should hold the racket with “hammer grip,” or grip the racket as if they were holding a hammer. Proper volley form requires players to:
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
- Slightly bend the knees
- Lift the heels off the ground
- Hold the racket out in front of the body and tilt it upward
Although volleying is an offensive tennis maneuver, players shouldn’t follow through the backswing with a large crossbody motion. Instead, players must freeze the racket as it contacts the ball. By performing this complex stroke without the proper form, players easily risk injuries such as wrist strains and sprains.
Players may defensively or offensively shoot lobs, opting for forehand, single backhand, or double backhand techniques. Shooting the ball high and far, players swing upward — similar to a groundstroke — and apply strong force. Over time, players that continuously perform this intense stroke can develop shoulder and elbow injuries, such as bursitis, or even sustain strains and stress fractures if they lob with improper footing and swing technique.
Get Back to Basics With OASA
Sometimes, the most fundamental tennis techniques can cause the most orthopaedic damage. Whether you’ve suffered sudden trauma or suspect that overuse has taken a toll, the orthopaedists at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine can help you return to the court with a personalized recovery plan. Using state-of-the-art technology in our sports medicine center, orthopaedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists are standing by to recommend a comprehensive course of treatment. Schedule an appointment today by filling out our online request form or calling 904-825-0540.
Albert Volk, MD
Board certifications in Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. Dr. Volk specializes in an all-arthroscopic rotator cuff repair of the shoulder.
Alexander Lampley, MD
Board Certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.