Learning from the Past: Mats Wilander's Overhead

by: Peter Burwash | September 25, 2013

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When an opponent throws up a lob, my students usually have one of two reactions. They either shrink in fear (“Oh no, here we go again!”) or jump with anticipation (“I’m going to crush this ball!”). Neither reaction is necessarily helpful.

If you’re afraid of overheads, you won’t make many of them. If you want to hit them as hard as possible, you’ll succeed—and hit a lot of balls outside the lines. An overhead must be smooth, and it doesn’t have to be a finishing shot. It works just as well as a set-up shot. No one understood this better than Mats Wilander. He was always in position on his overheads, and he was always relaxed. He didn’t bludgeon them, but he hit them in perfect spots. And if his opponent retrieved the ball, Wilander was left with an even easier shot to put away.

The other problem with overhitting overheads: All that aggression will leave you off balance. So if the ball comes back, you won’t be ready to recover for the next shot.


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