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11 Advanced Tennis Techniques to Raise Your Tennis Skill Level

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 9, 2020 • 5 min read

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Serena Williams Teaches Tennis

Once you’ve started consistently hitting your basic tennis shots, you may be ready to take your tennis game to a more advanced level.

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11 Advanced Tennis Techniques

By mastering a few advanced techniques, intermediate players can raise their skill level, getting the ball back more often, surprising their opponent with trick shots, and hitting more winners during tennis matches. Here are 11 advanced techniques for intermediate players to try:

  1. Tweeners. A tweener is a between-the-legs shot used by relatively advanced tennis players with excellent timing. To hit this shot, the player’s back typically faces the net until the ball reaches the optimal height, then they swing the tennis racket head through their legs, hitting the ball with enough force to land back over the net on the opponent’s side of the tennis court. A player typically uses a tweener when they don’t have enough time to rotate their body back into position to hit an adequate return. Tweener pioneer Guillermo Vilas debuted this move for the first time during a 1974 exhibition match in Buenos Aires. Roger Federer famously hit a tweener during the men’s semi-finals at the 2009 US Open Grand Slam that turned into a passing shot against opponent Novak Djokovic, earning himself match point. Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrgios, and 2010 French Open winner Francesca Schiavone are also known for their tweeners.
  2. Forehand slice. The tennis forehand slice is hit with a chopping-stroke motion, giving the tennis ball backspin or sidespin, which can suddenly change the pace and direction of an arduous rally by catching your opponent off guard. Learn how to perfect your tennis forehand with tips from Serena Williams here.
  3. Inside-outs. The forehand groundstroke is one of the easiest shots for players to master because of its natural motion. An inside-out forehand refers to when a shot from an opposing player lands in the backhand court, and the player returns the shot with a cross-court forehand stroke to the opposing player’s backhand court. (This shot only works if both players have the same dominant hand.) Players with more efficient backhands can use the inside-out backhand to return the shot cross-court.
  4. Inside-ins. An inside-in occurs when you hit an inside-out down the line rather than cross-court. You can use this shot when you need to suddenly change the ball’s direction or when hitting a backhand against an opponent with a different dominant hand.
  5. Backhand smash. When you rush the net to put away the point, your opponent may decide to lob. If they do, you have a chance to perform an overhead smash. However, if your opponent can lob you on your backhand side, you may have a harder time getting the necessary force to pull it off. With a backhand smash, your back is to your opponent as you attempt to smack the ball down with the same amount of force as a forehand smash. Keep your elbows raised, your shoulders under your chin, and your racket face open. With your arm in full extension, snap-down your arm and wrist. It’s tricky to pull off the right swing path, especially for beginner players, but can be a game-saver once you get the timing and the motion right.
  6. Jumping backhand. A jumping backhand is when you hit your backhand in mid-air to avoid resetting your footwork and possibly risk hitting the ball behind you. Good timing is essential for this shot, which involves raising your knee, twisting your body, and landing on your same raised foot without falling over. When pulled off correctly, you can swing through your point-of-contact with the same force as a standard backhand groundstroke—pro-player Andy Murray is well-known for this shot.
  7. Middle-approach shot. The approach shot is the best shot to use for short balls that fall around the middle of the court. Approach shots generally work best when you perform them at a cross-court angle, or perfectly down-the-line. However, angles create angles, and there are times when keeping your ball deep and to the center can be an efficient weapon against your opponent. If you can direct your approach shot deep down the middle of the court as you approach the net, it forces the other player to hit at an extreme angle to pass you, making their shot more predictable from the center position. They may also attempt to hit a well-positioned lob while pushed onto their back foot, making your put-away much easier. Adding an approach shot to your arsenal will take your game to the next level.
  8. Swinging volley. A swinging volley breaks the rules of the standard volley technique. A swinging volley is when the player uses a full groundstroke swing to smack the incoming ball out of the air. Players typically perform a swinging volley when caught in no man’s land (the space between the service line and baseline). The swinging volley is for more advanced players, as it requires a perfect balance of pace, power, and swing to nail the sweet spot and keep it from sailing over the opponent’s baseline.
  9. Behind the back. A behind-the-back shot refers to when a player places their swinging arm behind their back with no backswing, effectively “blocking” the ball back over the net. Grigor Dimitrov nailed this shot during the 2012 ATP Tour Swiss Indoors event.
  10. Backhand topspin lob. Since the backhand is the weaker side for most players, it can be hard to hit an effective offensive lob. This shot requires you to get into position quickly, dropping your racket slightly lower than normal, keeping the face open, and brushing up high through the ball so that it forms a deep, arched trajectory over the net. Players like Martina Hingis and Serena Williams have mastered this useful technique, using it to their advantage in many matches.
  11. Diving. To hit a diving shot in tennis, a player must essentially throw their body towards the ball, extending as far as necessary to reach it, while also knowing how to land safely without injury. Gael Monfils, who is known for his diving skills, says the most important part of diving—besides knowing how to land—is instinct.

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