Professional intervention

Two goals for the off season: learn to hit my forehand on the rise and develop a kick-serve.

In the 2007 Philadelphia District Championships, my opponent kept the ball deep, pushing me off the baseline. My replies were weak. He hammered most of them for winners. If I’d been able to take the ball early, I wouldn’t have played the two tight sets back on my heels, rarely in a position to produce any offense.

The kick will give me a hard-to-handle, but high-percentage serve that I can count on in the clutch, when my flat delivery tends to break down.

On Christmas Eve, I hit with a teaching pro in Ohio, where I was spending the holiday. He drilled forehands deep, admonishing me to shorten my loopy backswing. The stroke felt awkward, but when I kept the takeback short, and stepped into the ball, I was using the pro’s pace to crack linedrives near the baseline.

“Hit up, not out.” The pro demonstrated the kick.

To hit it over the net? Cognitive dissonance twisted my torso into a pretzel. Toward the end of the hour, I was able to suspend my disbelief. I raked the racket’s stringbed up the back of the ball. The delivery arced over the net, landed wide in the ad court, then kicked shoulder-high.

I’ve got three months to get these strokes match-ready.

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