Back in the day when the game was much slower, slice and underspin were the first choices for approach shots. In today’s era of powerful racquets and faster pace, many players choose to hit heavy topspin and drive their approach shots, giving them less time to close the net. You can’t afford to lose forward momentum and time behind high-powered approaches. Here’s how to master what I call the “forward transfer approach” to get to the net faster than ever.
1. When you see a short ball, immediately go on the attack. Stride forward into the court and turn your shoulders, but keep your lower body facing toward the net, as you would in a forward sprint. It’s a good idea to keep your opposite hand on the racquet as you rotate your upper body. This will help ensure a full shoulder turn and keep you balanced.
2. As you close in on the ball, prepare your racquet behind the incoming ball. Your lead foot closest to the point of contact is the inside foot (right foot for a right-handed player). This sets up a powerful transfer position and loads the core body on the leading foot. The high percentage play here is a down-the-line shot to shorten the distance to a winning position at the net.
3. As the ball gets closer, you should explode forward off your lead foot to make contact with the ball as it rises from the bounce. The key is correctly timing the forward lunge to begin exactly as you start the forward swing. At contact, neither foot should be on the ground. Avoid launching too upward in your lunge—you want your weight to go forward, not up. Add some topspin to help the ball clear the net and bite before the baseline.
4. After landing on the opposite foot a full stride closer to net on the finish, your momentum should continue forward toward the net. The forward transfer approach technique will provide quickness in the transition area and more power to your approach game—and it works for two-handed backhand approaches as well.
Pat Dougherty is a stroke and movement specialist at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy.