The net height on the center of a tennis court is three feet from the ground and slightly higher near the sideline. Cross-court shots are therefore safer because the net is lower in the middle, right? Not so fast.
While the net is lower in the center, it is also further away than the sideline net as anyone who was awake in high school geometry knows. The further distance that the ball travels to reach the cross-court net offsets its lower height to create a near identical acceptance angle as down the line. If the net were a consistent height, then cross-court shots would actually need to be hit higher and steeper than the down the lines in order to clear the net. Cross-court shots are safer than down the lines for a different reason; the court is longer. Do not take my word for it, do some research and find out for yourself.
It is important to recognize that players are bombarded with conflicting information all the time about stroke mechanics, tactics, mental preparedness and physical training. The management of which information to accept or reject is each players' responsibility. I suggest students listen carefully to what is said and observe critically, what is seen in the following way:
►First, consider the logic of the information to evaluate if it makes sense and reinforces or conflicts with what you know of the world.
►Next, analyze the top players in the world. Slow motion and stop-action videos are readily available on the Internet. Players can use this tool as a learning resource to compare the consistency of their instruction with the mainstream fundamentals of the best players.
►Finally, evaluate the suitability of information as it applies to your game. Unconventional information might uniquely work for you. Caution and patience need to be applied here, however. If the advice doesn't hold up under the scrutiny of the first two tests, it is probably unsound even if it appears to work now.
There will always be many opinions in any area and everyone is entitled to hold their own. All opinions, however, are not formed from the same expertise and experience and do not hold the equivalent usefulness. Since we have a limited capacity for information, it is important to filter wisely in order to make sound choices.
Tennis players need to participate in their learning process to learn self-reliance on and off the tennis court.
Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 state high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.