Pivot and Shoulder Turn

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Step 1The first thing that professional tennis players do when they hit a forehand is pivot with their outside foot and turn their shoulders sideways. We call this motion the pivot and shoulder turn. It is also commonly referred to as the unit turn because the entire body is turning sideways.

To execute the pivot and shoulder turn, pivot with your outside foot and transfer your weight to that foot. Get the heel of your inside foot up. At the same time, turn you shoulders sideways. Pivoting with your outside foot opens up your hips. This makes it easier to turn your shoulders sideways.

The pivot and shoulder turn starts your racket takeback. Your arms DO NOT DO ANYTHING during this step. Both hands should stay on the tennis racket and your arms should not move side-to-side. The racket starts to come back because your shoulders are turning sideways. Just to be absolulely clear, it is a BIG and VERY COMMON mistake to use your arms to take the racket back during this step.

1:00 minute into the video we go to the FYB TV screen and watch Sacha Jones pivot and turn her shoulders. She is an up-and-coming New Zealand tennis player who recently turned pro and these clips are from a July 2008 Washington Kastles World Team Tennis match. To start her forehand, Sacha pivots with her outside foot, transfers her weight to that foot and gets the heel of her inside foot up. At the same time, her shoulders turn sideways and her racket starts to come back. At 1:20 we clip to the back perspective to emphasize that her racket is coming back by virute of her shoulder turn and NOT because her arms are moving side-to-side.

At 1:45 in the video we look at some pictures of Frenchman Gael Monfils pivoting and turning his shoulders. These pictures are from the 2007 Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC. In 2008 Monfils made it to the semifinals of the French Open and has the record for the hardest forehand every hit at around 120 mph. In the first picture Monfils is in the air, halfway through his split step. In the second picture, Monfils has pivoted and turned his shoulders. We move in on his feet to see that the has pivoted with his outside foot, transferred his weight ot that foot and gotten the heel of his inside foot up. Scrolling up the picture, we see that that footwork has opened up his hips, allowing him to turn his shoulders sideways more easily.

Pulling back to look at the whole picture we can see that because his shoulders have turned sideways the tennis racket has started to come back even though he hasn’t used his arms yet. They are still in line with his body. It’s also very important to note that both his hands are still on the tennis racket.

  • Obonekenob2

    Will, this is outstanding. I have been playing tennis off and on for over 30 years and no one ever explained this simple step to me as well as you just did. Keep up the good work!

  • Dritankruja

    hey guys, I come from a country without tennis tradition at all, and I am desperatly looking for instructions in the web (I am trying to help my doughter learn some tennis), this lesson of yours is simply fantastic. Thanks a lot.

  • Dritankruja

    hey guys, I come from a country without tennis tradition at all, and I am desperatly looking for instructions in the web (I am trying to help my doughter learn some tennis), this lesson of yours is simply fantastic. Thanks a lot.

  • oneland

    I signed up but can not see any video.
    what’s the problem?

  • http://twitter.com/colchambers colchambers

    me too. I’m a premium member too but I still can’t access this. Kind of annoying.

  • Jim

    Hi Will, just a few thoughts about this footwork video. As you mentioned, the footwork is different with both shots as with the higher ball you used an open stance and with the low ball a neutral stance. On the low ball you dropped down much more with your legs to get into a better hitting zone. A few things came to mind when watching the video. Many players have problems coming forward too late and as a result have to reach for the ball as you tried not to do although you did step forward to hit the ball much more than with the higher ball. On the high ball, you seemed a little straight legged. I wonder if you also bent your legs more on the higher shot and then pushed up to get to the same hitting level as you were when keeping your legs straighter if you would have more balance and hit with more depth and power. Another thing that I notice with players and the low ball is that besides bending over as you said, they will also lean back on the low ball and try to lift the ball up. Quite often this ball is miss timed and goes into the net or is brushed up too much and winds up being a short ball. One thing I do to try to help players find their hitting zone is too put a ball under the center strap and against the net cord. Then I have them move away and take adjusting steps toward the ball. They bring the racket up to the ball but do not dislodge it. I will have them use this footwork from all directions on the court to get a sense of how to move into their best hitting zone. This seems to help players get in the proper position before contacting the ball. Do you have any other similar footwork drills that would help players with adjusting steps? Also, I can’t seem to find anything on forward/sideways stepping and hopping steps on your site. I thought you had it somewhere on your site. Do you? Thanks and keep doing the great job you are doing with your site and videos. It’s the best one on the internet. Regards, Jim

  • acespeed31

    i think they are telling not to use the arms for very beiginers i tried to use to take back the racket early i got more time to hit the ball

  • Remarlag

    I can’t see anything

  • Lr_soto

    Hello guys: I just found you yesterday at youtube and your tips and lessons are SuperB !!!!!
    Thanks a lot.

  • Fal75

    hellow guys, I´m trying to suscribe but it doesn not accept my e-mail address, pls ckeck it out!  

  • Aaron Petersen

    i had to subscribe in firefox, i got that same error message in IE.

  • Bogdan_tatu

    What happens if the ball is very short, not aproximately on the base line, how we should move towards the ball? I think this is crucial because most of us are amateurs and the ball is now at 3 m from the net and next one is on the base line.
    Please tell me some tips. (and excuse my poor english)

  • claude

    i don’t need to go to a club because you are the best

  • Bgdive

    very logical explanation~

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  • B00401041

    how can i see the video?

  • B00401041

    how can i see the video?

  • Marto

    Sign up :)

  • Raj Rishi Keshari

     why pivot ant the shoulder turn is so important

  • Thierry

    Already signed up but can not download any of your video.  Yesterday I was able to watch all videos without signing up.  Help please. 

  • Stick

    With the name Monfils the S at the end _should_ be pronounced.

  • Akshar Goswami

    i can’t see video

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZAGJQJ4ZIWZU2L2I3OVMVDCJ3U Emmett

    I signed up today and I still cant get the videos do you have to sign in somewhere

  • Brian

    Thanks a lot!

  • Andreas

    Dear Will, I am playing Tennis since I am 12, now I am 52 and playing pretty well ranked 21 in Germany Mens 50.
    My Backhand ist the stronger Part and my Forhand leaves me alone quit often.
    I did some Iphone Video of my Forhand Yesterday and compared this to the first Thing you mentioned,the Pivot and Shoulderturn.
    After I splitstep the Pivot is not clear and both my Hands push the Racket only a little bit to the Side.So I am often late.
    While watching my Backhand i always pivot nicely and the Shoulder turns fluently so you can see my Back.Its one piece pivot and Shoulderturn but i do this by pulling the Racket with my non dominant Arm behind my Back.
    Could you give me a good Tip for my Forhand to achieve an automatic pivot and Shoulderturn something i propably can remember from other Sports?
    Thank you very much in Advance Andreas!

  • http://cmswa.scem.uws.edu.au/~arowshan/?p=78 forehand | Sydney Tennis Fans

    [...] Pivot and Shoulder Turn The first thing that all pro players do when they hit a forehand is pivot with their outside foot and turn their shoulders sideways. This starts their racket takeback. Both hands stay on the racket during this step. [...]

  • Isaac

    blake has the record for the forehand…