The Open Stance Has More Benefits
Learning to correctly hit from an open stance on both backhand and forehand strokes made a huge difference in my game. More importantly it has become the key element in my teaching methods. One only needs to look at all top level players to see that open stance is the preferred method while executing groundstrokes, especially on the forehand (see photo sequence below).
The open stance, simply standing with both feet facing the net, is quintessental in every great forehand of the modern era—and even in past eras. Having been taught the closed stance on my forehand, I —like many of the students I have worked with— struggled with hitting consistently with my feet facing the side line. The analogy I use in my lessons is hitting from the closed stance is like trying to shake hands with someone while facing away from them. Quite awkward and unnatural. The open stance is more conducive to the way the body naturally and efficiently moves. What are the other benefits?:
EASY, EASY, EASY. It is easier to use of the right side (for right-handers) of your body because it is closer to the ball. The right side of your body is further away from the ball in the closed stance.
MPH. You can generate more pace on your shots from your upper body wind up—coiled, your belly button now facing the sideline—and release of energy into the ball when you uncoil into the open hitting position. Think of twisting a spring and then letting it go to return to its original position. The body can’t move in the same manner from a closed stance because the body is more static. The open stance allows for dynamic movement of the feet and body.
BALANCE, GRASS HOPPER. It is easier to reach wide balls, maintain your balance, and hit with pace during the stroke, again, because the right side of your body is closer to the ball. From the closed stance, you have to strain to reach across your body to the ball. This results in a loss of the loss of power and balance.
I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW. Many of my students report, to their great surprise, that they actually see the ball better from the open stance. Why? Think about how you would view a beautiful piece of artwork… you would naturally view it face-on, not while you are turned sideways. Also, when you catch a ball thrown to you, you face the ball using both eyes straight on, not sideways where one eye is dominate.
BE READY TO MOVE. Tennis is a running, moving sport. You must be able to get into position to make your stroke and recover in preparation for your opponent’s response. Hitting from the open stance leads to far more natural, efficient court coverage and recovery back to the center of probable return for the next shot. When your opponent is running you from side to side, you won’t have the time or space to step into the court using a closed stance to make the stroke and turn back to recover efficiently for the next shot. The open stance is a more natural and effective response in these situations.
This interview is from my coach and mentor, former tour player Oscar Wegner, the father of the windshield wiper forehand motion:
DOCTOR REPORTS NEUTRAL & CLOSED STANCE LINKED TO TENNIS INJURIES
Recent finding and reports from chiropractic doctors specializing in tennis medicine has revealed the damaging effects of using neutral and closed stances versus open stance. The results being discovered in these reports have been astounding!
Here is one doctor’s opinion on the subject in an interview with Oscar Wegner, Founder of Modern Tennis Methodology:
From a chiropractic perspective, the neutral stance is an inferior way of hitting groundstrokes.
For a right-handed player, when he braces to hit a forehand by placing his right leg behind his left leg while shifting his body weight from his back leg to his front bent knee, the fatigue of repetition or an extreme stretch is likely to subluxate (slip slightly out of joint) the right sacro-iliac joint causing a series of normal but painful bio-mechanical compensations.
In a typical situation, one can expect the right ilium to shift posterior, the right hamstring to tighten, the fifth lumbar vertebrae to rotate, and the paravertebral and gluteal muscles on the right side to spasm.
In due time, the player may expect a right hamstring pull, lower back pain, and possible involvement of the lumbo-sacral plexus on the left side of the pelvis with radiating nerve pain into the left leg.
Additionally, the continual transference of weight to a bent front knee, especially when placing the knee into a deep bend or when the front foot is not directly in line with the force vectors generated by the forehand swing, is likely to cause knee pain and eventual knee injury.
Again, imagine doing this for about 100 times in the course of an hour, or 100 times in an hour of tennis. No wonder so few adults are still playing tennis. Tennis is a wonderful game and should provide a lifetime of fun when played with bio-mechanical correctness. My most serious advice is: listen to Oscar.
–Dr. Carl Barniak, Chiropractor