'Start As You Mean To Go On'

The game of tennis has changed over the years - find out how and why by reading this blog by Candy Reid-Harrop, Head Professional of the FX Tennis Academy at Jones Bridge Swim and Racquet Club.

"Start as you mean to go on" – that was the best piece of advice my husband and I received when we had our first child.

It makes you think about rocking your newborn baby to sleep or putting him or her in bed with you. Perhaps in the short-term it might work out, but imagine it still going on several years later!

This saying is relevant not only in child-rearing but in so many things – one of those, is the game of tennis!

Tennis is a very technical sport – like golf. If you have bad technique it’s only possible to go so far. You will soon get found out, which is why learning the game properly is worth spending time and money on.

But don’t worry, it is never too late. Of course, learning earlier is easier – just like a language – but I have a 71-year-old pupil, whom I’m very proud to say, is now serving with the proper continental (chopper) grip after years of serving incorrectly (with another coach.)

The service grip is one of the few things which has stayed the same in tennis over the years.  When I was younger I was taught to step into all my shots – for a right-hander, this means stepping in with my left foot for my forehand and my right foot for my backhand.

Now, (because of the balls, strings etc) it’s much easier and beneficial to have an open-stance for ground-strokes – i.e belly button facing your opponent. If you don’t believe me, watch the professionals and see how often they step into their shots.

If you’re someone who has a problem with getting too close to the ball, or often hitting it too late then you might really want to look at making the change. I teach all my pupils (from 3 years and up) at the FX Tennis Academy open-stance on both forehands (easy) and backhands (harder.) If you learn this way, you can also easily learn to step into shots, when necessary.

If you’re looking for a coach, treat the search like you would when finding a contractor for your house. Try at least three out. Ask them their coaching credentials; how far they got in the game; their philosophy. Also do your homework – watch the professionals. There’s a reason they are the best players in the world. Which grips do they use and how do they position themselves when hitting the ball? Watch their feet, rather than the ball going back and forth – it’s really fascinating!


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