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Tennis is a game anyone can play. Swinging a tennis racket properly comes just as easily and naturally as throwing a ball or swatting a fly or performing any of the other untutored everyday movements that are virtually automatic. So the fun you get out of the game depends directly on how much effort you are willing to devote to memorizing and perfecting the simple tenets of the four basic shots—the serve, forehand, backhand and volley.
On the following eight pages I have set down and interpreted, step by step, the way Donald Budge, one of the truly great champions of all time, plays these shots. There are, of course, limitless variations, and these you will learn with practice and competition—just as in dancing you embellish the simple fox trot into the rumba, the tango or the mambo. But first, learn these fundamentals as they are demonstrated by the only man who ever scored the grand slam of tennis by winning the Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. championships in the same year (1938).
I would not want to imply that anyone can become a champion—even of the local club—just by imitating Budge. Like any competitive game, tennis involves far more than technique—for instance, temperament, concentration and the will to win. Yet these are of little significance if you don't have the proper strokes. The strokes are the weapons of tennis. Without them you are not even equipped for the battle.
The payoff on a good tennis stroke, as with a good boxing punch, depends on how much of the body's power can be compressed and unleashed—like a tightly wound spring—and thrown behind the shot. This means coordination—of feet, knees, hips, hands and shoulders. So it is worth repeating that you will only achieve this coordination—once you have mastered the technique of the stroke—through practice. Fine, you may say, but supposing there is no one around to practice with. The answer to that is: use a backboard as much as possible; it is the practice fairway of tennis and many of the finest players have polished their shots against it.
Now, turn the page and begin the lessons, preferably learning the fundamentals one stroke at a time. If you do, you will be surprised how much more fun you will have on the court, no matter what kind of company you play in.
It is the major offensive weapon so learn to control it
The serve, which was originally designed simply as a way to put the ball into play, has evolved into the principal attacking weapon of tennis. As such, it should immediately put the receiver on the defensive by playing to his weakness and forcing him out of position. Thus, when working well, the serve breathes confidence into the rest of your game and gives you the opportunity to get the maximum benefit from the rest of your shots.
There are three principal types of service—the cannon-ball or flat serve, the slice and the American twist—and the same basic rules of stance and delivery apply to each. Their variation lies in how the racket head strikes across, or into the ball and in the follow-through to left or right. The service grip is the same as that used for the backhand, with the handle held firmly but not too tightly.