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Back to basics: How to bury an overhead


Originally published on: 26/02/10 16:31

We’ve all been there, read the book and bought the bleedin’ t-shirt. You’re up against a right hacker, trying to play aggressive tennis, hitting aggressive groundstrokes and getting forward to finish points.

But all the enemy is doing is hoisting up boring, high lobs and watching you hit the back fence or the bottom of the net with your overheads. Many a Tennishead racket has been flung in anger immediately after a fluffed smash – let’s make that a thing of the past.

The technique

1. React quickly – move your right leg back (left leg for left-handers) to get sideways on and move back for the smash using cross-over steps – not by facing the net and back-peddling.

2. Get your left arm up (right arm for left-handers) to help your balance and take the racket back with a shortened backswing as you have little time to prepare.

3. Throw the racket head at the ball and try to make contact at maximum height. Your contact point should also be slightly in front of your body which will help you hammer the ball down into the court.

4. Imagine your racket and your arm is a paint brush and you’re trying to paint the centre line with your follow-through.

5. Finish the shot by bringing the racket arm down the opposite side of your body. And recover quickly in case your opponent hoists up another lob!

The tactics

A common error on the smash is players taking their eye off the ball and looking at the target instead. This causes the ball to drop and then the shoulders to drop and most smashes end up in the bottom of the net.

Another error is to smash with the wrist leading, rather than reaching up and hitting the ball when your arm is totally stretched to its limits. Therefore, hit the ball at the highest point possible.

Another error in moving back for overheads is that players move backwards with their backs to the back-fence, rather than moving back sideways. However, if you move back sideways, then you might slip into the habit of hitting the smash sideways on, which is bad news. To avoid this rotate the hips to face the net as you make contact with the ball.

Sammel says

“Bury it! Generally speaking, aim for the service line – try to beat your opponent for direction and pace, not depth. Most people are too cautious on overheads. Keep your head up and nail it. Club players drop their heads too early and they don’t get sideways on when moving to the ball.”


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.