How To Hit The Overhead in tennis is one of the most important skills for an attacking style player. The Overheard is a stroke that even though it won´t be necessary every point, it is important that whenever you have the chance to hit, hit it right. The first thing that comes to our head whenever we hit an overhead is Pete Sampras (click the link to see amazing overheads points from Pete).
Pete was the type of player who forced his opponents to try to lob him more than anybody else by getting so close to the net that the only way to pass him was through a lob. But he also knew that was his opponents likely play and was comfortable with his excellent volley game and his outstanding overhead. So, he actually baited them into giving him an overhead. That's what we all want to strive for!
The basics for a great overhead are very similar to the serve. The grip will be the same as if your were holding a hammer The main difference obviously is that in the overhead you and the ball are moving, and it could be in any direction.
The first thing you need to do whenever you are at the net and you identify the ball comes up for a smash is to point at it with your left hand and prepare your racquet behind your head, and your torso and legs need to be sideways or perpendicular to the net assuming the "Trophy" pose, and lastly get your feet moving to properly line up the shot and where you will strike it on the court.
Remember your eyes should always be up and tracking the ball as it descends toward you.
The grip will be the same as the serve and the volleys, which means you will be hitting with the Continental Grip!
Preparation And Rotation:
In order to hit the ball properly you must be behind the ball which means you need to be between the ball and the baseline behind you. One thing you need to take into consideration is that the ball will descend to you at a higher speed and at many different angles compared to the serve toss that you have control over. That’s why you need to have your racquet ready behind your head as quickly as possible so you don’t lose any time getting from your preparation point to the contact point and striking when the ball is at the right height. Get the racquet up with your swinging arm at about a 90 degree angle, basically assuming the "Trophy" Pose which will get your body perpendicular to the net. Getting perpendicular will allow your hips and shoulders to be able to rotate forward much like the serving motion.
A good overhead does not necessarily need to be hit as as hard as you can, as if you wanted to break the ball! However, you do need to put it away and not allow your opponent another chance. So a good combination of power and location is the goal here, try to angle the overhead away and avoid hitting it right back up the middle to your opponent. The general rule is that the closer you are to the net the more power you may use to hit it, the farther from the net the more placement you will use and the less power because of the risk involved. Whip your racquet out of the "Trophy" pose and up to the highest point possible and that’s where you want to make contact with the ball.
Follow Through and Recovery:
Every time you hit an overhead you immediately want to run back toward the net as a first instinct, this is just in case your opponent had the chance to get a racquet on it and return the shot back to you again. In case that happens it is more common that the ball will be coming to you very defensively and you should attack this "floater" type of ball and finish the point at that instant if possible!