Traditional teaching methods tend to overload the student with technical information and physical instructions from the very start, immediately taking attention away from the hand and the ball.
Traditional teaching myths and mantras that have held strong for decades include -
'racket back as soon as you see the ball coming'
'step into the ball with your opposite leg'
'follow through towards target' etc...
Somewhere along the way tennis instruction got rather left-brained and complicated, as the 'experts' of the day dissected the game and presented it as a stiff hand-eye-knees-hips-head-feet-etc-etc co-ordination game. A multi-tasking riddle that often left people feeling rather awkward and uncoordinated.
Luckily, tennis can also be approached as a far simpler ‘hand-eye’ co-ordination game with the feet and body being allowed to move more naturally.
Help has always been close at hand and some of it came in the shape of a man named Oscar Wegner. Back in 1960's Oscar observed that tennis was being taught one way while the pros played in an entirely different and natural way.
He began developing a simple system known as 'The Wegner Method' that actually made tennis an easy sport to learn and later formed the foundations of Modern Tennis teaching in many countries.
Oscar began to work with players and national coaches from Spain, France, South America, Russia and Eastern Europe in the 1970's and 1980’s as he took his ideas around the world. Many have since been drawn to and influenced by Oscar's teachings and he came to be known as one of the fathers of modern tennis.
On the pro tour Borg and Vilas were the pioneers of the modern game we see on TV today... bringing with them more spin and more freedom with the stances and footwork, and whether we liked it or not, within a decade or two the whole tour was playing in a similar way and for good reason.
The list of players who have been influenced by Oscar over the years is not too shabbby - Former world number one's - Venus and Serena Williams through their father Richard, Bjorn Borg, Gustavo Kuerten and Marat Safin... plus Vince Spadea and Thailand’s Paradorn Schrichapan are just a few individual success stories to hold up alongside the ongoing national success of countries like Spain and France and the earlier successes of the Russian women and the South American men.
FACT - Tennis is a game where you move to the ball naturally and instinctively, as if you were moving to catch it, focusing only on what you do with the hand, and the racket.
A typical tennis stroke is a channelled effort, rather than a series of specific thoughts and actions, with the focus on the feeling of the stroke and the finish rather than complicated mechanics.
The feet and the body will move naturally and harmoniously towards the same moment if you let them.
FACT - Restrain yourself from swinging too early or too quickly.
Prepare the grip, and set the structure of the hitting arm early, but keep the racket out in front of you until the ball is close. This will help you to find the ball more easily.
You want to feel like you are stalking the ball with your racket face, until you can almost touch it.
Many professionals may not make a back 'swing' until the ball is bouncing, as the desired contact point will not become totally clear until then.
FACT - Using an open stance on the forehand, will result in more power and a more natural shot.
Most formal lessons will have you turning sideways to hit every ball, while most of the greatest forehands in the game are played facing the net with an open/semi-open stance - due to the speed of the modern game and the height of the bounce.
A more open stance will not only help with high and deep balls, but will also help you make a quick recovery back to the middle after the shot.
Hand-Eye co-ordination in tennis is all about co-coordinating the hand with mental image of the oncoming ball, and this is much easier to do if you are facing the ball. Turning sideways will only put distance between your hand and the ball.
FACT - You can hit the ball harder sure, but it will go out or into the bottom of the net.
With topspin however you will be able to control a 60mph shot into the court, landing at the same speed as 40mph flat shot, and the speed can then be increased or decreased more safely with spin.
Most tennis matches are decided on unforced errors and percentage tennis, and spin will enable you to improve these aspects of your game.
The impact of a spin shot is also easier on the body, since the impact is diffused by the brushing motion, as opposed to the full flat impact of hitting the ball face on.
MODERN TENNIS METHODOLOGY
"MTM is a teaching system that makes one aware of the most efficient and most natural mechanics in the game, at both the physical and physiological levels, in conjunction with one's feel and instinct, and how to explore them to bring about one's own idiosyncratic, perfect game."
"The goal of MTM, MTMCA and the MTMCA coach are freedom for all tennis players of all ages to play the most natural and enjoyable game which means enough dissemination and knowledge of MTM to keep that freedom guaranteed."