JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best
E. I. D. - Extended Impact Duration
Acronyms are seemingly becoming more and more popular with each passing year in sports, and in other arenas as well, like politics. Never mind.
The G.O.A.T. is a sport oriented one that just about everyone recognizes –"the greatest of all time" for those of you who've been marooned on a desert island for a while. It gets thrown around like monopoly money, ignoring the generational factors that make labeling any star current players absolutely superior over past star players, in tennis or otherwise, a fool's errand.
Let's not even attempt any Rod Laver vs Roger Federer vs Rafa Nadal vs Novak Djokovic vs Jack Kramer vs Pancho Gonzales vs Pete Sampras etc. declaration. Or Althea Gibson vs Mo Connolly vs Serena Williams vs Steffi Graf vs Billie Jean King vs Margaret Court, on and on.
See what I mean. No can do. Impossible. And total titles and majors won do not always reveal the complete story. Example: Steffi Graf won 21 majors and retired at 30. Serena won 22 and retired/"evolved" at 40. And how many would Laver have won if he was not exiled from the tour, including majors, for joining the then outlaw pro tour and making some money legitimately instead of the under the table payoffs back in the shamateur days of tennis.
An acronym that you are not familiar with, in a more instructional vein, is E.I.D. – "extended impact duration." You've never heard that one previously since I just coined it recently while trying to help a quick strike player I was working with become more aware of the all-important ball on racket dynamic.
My take goes back to Andre Agassi's repetitive press conferences (when the networks used to show them frequently) where he would always express the same three themes after a winning performance: 1) "I saw the ball well today;" 2) "I moved well today;" 3) and the inspiration for my E.I.D. acronym –" I had good feel for the ball today."
You've all experienced #3 at one time or another. That indescribable feel and connection to the ball at the impact moment. That empowering distinct sound of the ball being compressed on the strings for that extra millisecond. The effortless power and on the money placements.
That's fluidity, or Bruce Lee's "liquid".
Viewing an incoming ball as the enemy, as many do, and then suddenly quick hitting it back – minimizing that $200+ racket's capabilities – versus welcoming it instead as an opportunity to work with the ball ,not against it, the latter being an undermining trait so prevalent in the club game.
How about absorb it, use it, team-up with it, re-direct it. Maximizing that expensive racket DNA.
Today's rackets have myriad stiffness and swing weight ratings not noted on the frame (recommend seeing Rich at Wrigley's Tennis in Punta Gorda, or check in with your regular pro shop wherever you are to find out if your stick matches your level, game style, and physicality). Strings also have varying properties to produce extra power or extra control depending on their strung tension and string type. Also, balls are designed to deform x-amount on impact. And grips are important too and should always be fresh and tacky, to favorably reduce the all too common stranglehold grip tension.
So when you do experience those perfect storm contacts when the ball is actually remaining on the strings for that maximum extra delicious five-thousands of a second. Fleeting I know. So fleeting it takes a high-speed camera to capture that exact impact moment, or, as I like to characterize it, the ball, ideally, leaving the racket face when it's good and ready. Embracing the contact moment vs avoiding it.
Accelerating the racket and decelerating it in the contact moment – not hitting through the ball - is always a problem, especially on serve. It's much like backing up your car and noticing it's not moving freely because you left the emergency brake on.
No shot making telltale brakes everyone!
Finally, in the simplest of terms, you can be your best by hitting through the ball – E.I.D. - not at it. Put some stick on it as Brad Gilbert would say on the Tennis Channel. Let it go. Trust it!
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