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September 2019: Coco Gauff Forehand

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  • September 2019: Coco Gauff Forehand

    Coco Gauff Forehand

    15 year old Coco Gauff burst onto the scene at this year's Wimbledon, with an unbelievable victory over Venus Williams in the first round. She followed that stunner by knocking out two more veterans, showing an athleticism and mental toughness that far outpaced her age. We certainly saw how big she could serve. And it was hard to miss just how lethal her two handed backhand could be, often ending points in outright winners.

    For this month though, let's take a look at her forehand technique, her admittedly weaker side. Thoughts on Coco's forehand?


    Last edited by johnyandell; 09-04-2019, 08:42 PM.

  • #2
    The classic WTA forehand. Chris Evert noted how it would go off on her. With that huge backswing she gets a lot of pop when she has time. But when she doesn't or has to hit under duress it will be a problem.

    Given that she is 15 she may need this big swing now to get power.

    But will it be ideal in five years. Probably not. It could definitely be ATPified.

    Comment


    • #3
      Can't say I truly know whether it's classic WTA forehand, but if it is, it highlights a weakness in the womens' forehands; namely, the hand separation is too early. Indeed, in the first clip it appears that the hand separation is immediate, right at the initiation of the backswing (where it might be preferable to have a "unit" turn, the "unit" including the left hand so as to ensure full left shoulder and upper torso rotation). But the "might be" is important, because every shot calls for adjustments that can dictate departures from the ideal. If this is her bread-and-butter forehand, I'd say she could stand a bit more unity in the early stage of the backswing.

      Comment


      • #4
        Osaka and Sloane both lay their wrist back much earlier in the backswing - more like the classic WTA forehand. I think Coco full lays her wrist back much later in the stroke. So it's kind of like an ATP/WTA hybrid, but not as effective as either. In this case I would go the Sloane/Osaka route and lay the wrist back sooner like they do. Both Sloane and Osaka have much bigger forehands than Coco.


        Last edited by jeffreycounts; 09-07-2019, 08:22 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Jeffrey: I would have to respectfully disagree. If it were mechanically advantageous to set the wrist early, you would see men on the ATP tour doing it. You don't see that because it's mechanically disadvantageous to do so. In fact, that pre-set wrist is one of the demonstrable weaknesses in the forehands of women players (there are others). As for power, Coco is 15 years old, a good 5 years away from her optimal age for strength and speed (20-25); Osaka is 21 and Stephens is 26, both right in their prime. Give Coco a few years and she'll have plenty of power. And that won't be enhanced by an earlier wrist set; quite the opposite. So, two things (and for a little justification for my position):

          (1) Why is it disadvantageous to set the wrist early? Answer, because it limits the shoulder, forearm, and wrist stretch created by a generally relaxed arm and inert racquet gently moving rearward and then suddenly being pulled forward by the pivot motion (hip and/or upper torso rotation), thereby amplifying the stretch and inducing the stretch shortening cycle that enhances the power in those final contractions, the kind of "snap" you see in the characteristically "whippy" forehands of competitive male players, right down through the college ranks [this is obviously a much bigger consideration that gets too little play time, IMHO].

          (2) If that really is advantageous, why do so many women set the wrist so early? Note that not all women do set the wrist early, but most do. Stosur is something of an exception, so was Henin-Hardene. But most women players have the arm substantially extended and the wrist already hyperextended by the time the forward pivot begins, Characteristically, they have also nearly completed the available external rotation and supination, meaning, most disadvantageously, they have also nearly exhausted the available stretch in the right pecs, right biceps, right anterior deltoid, subscap, and teres major. Because they're nearly stretched (at the end of their eccentric phase of the SSC) before they start forward in their concentric phase, the muscles have a suboptimal range to exploit the increased power available in a rapid SSC or, worse, the muscle held in the stretched position for too long can actually get into the refractory phase and the muscle absorbs the energy of the stretched muscle, thereby undermining the SSC. That's the problem I see with so many (most) female swings with respect to shoulder and wrist mechanics. And it's nearly endemic.

          Top women players include high quality SSC in their forehands and serves, but not nearly as much as the men. In fact, they tend toward something I would characterize as a "block rotation", where the arm and torso rotations are too wedded and the arm not allowed to continue its eccentric phase (stretching) as the forward pivot begins and develops (the tennis equivalent of "throwing like a girl" to use that disastrously sexist but apt expression). The best do use a decent SSC, admittedly, but not like the men. And it's not just a question of strength and speed; it's mechanics. So, why?

          Here I'm speculating wildly, as this has mystified me for years. I would summarily submit, however, that the forehand is kinesiologically the equivalent of an overhand throwing motion (with respect to the sequence of muscle movements in the forehand kinetic chain), and then I would commend you to this article: https://neuroanthropology.net/2009/0...a-girls-brain/

          It can't be a learning problem. Competitive women players have had a lifetime of learning available. There must be something else going on. I do think girls can learn optimal mechanics early on, and I further believe coaches and teachers would do well to teach throwing first and then generalize the kinetic chain to stick/ball striking motions, like tennis, golf, and baseball, inasmuch as it's the same ol' kinetic chain in every motion. Coaches are shortchanging their female students by failing to emphasize that movement skill, and when it comes to throwing/striking motions, by failing to get girls to feel how external rotation of the arm is induced by differential relaxation of the upper body under a rapidly developing forward pivot (leg drive, hip turn, upper torso rotation).

          And so, at the risk of kicking up a bit of a storm, here goes nuthin'.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by cms56 View Post
            Jeffrey: I would have to respectfully disagree. If it were mechanically advantageous to set the wrist early, you would see men on the ATP tour doing it. You don't see that because it's mechanically disadvantageous to do so. In fact, that pre-set wrist is one of the demonstrable weaknesses in the forehands of women players (there are others). As for power, Coco is 15 years old, a good 5 years away from her optimal age for strength and speed (20-25); Osaka is 21 and Stephens is 26, both right in their prime. Give Coco a few years and she'll have plenty of power. And that won't be enhanced by an earlier wrist set; quite the opposite. So, two things (and for a little justification for my position):

            (1) Why is it disadvantageous to set the wrist early? Answer, because it limits the shoulder, forearm, and wrist stretch created by a generally relaxed arm and inert racquet gently moving rearward and then suddenly being pulled forward by the pivot motion (hip and/or upper torso rotation), thereby amplifying the stretch and inducing the stretch shortening cycle that enhances the power in those final contractions, the kind of "snap" you see in the characteristically "whippy" forehands of competitive male players, right down through the college ranks [this is obviously a much bigger consideration that gets too little play time, IMHO].

            (2) If that really is advantageous, why do so many women set the wrist so early? Note that not all women do set the wrist early, but most do. Stosur is something of an exception, so was Henin-Hardene. But most women players have the arm substantially extended and the wrist already hyperextended by the time the forward pivot begins, Characteristically, they have also nearly completed the available external rotation and supination, meaning, most disadvantageously, they have also nearly exhausted the available stretch in the right pecs, right biceps, right anterior deltoid, subscap, and teres major. Because they're nearly stretched (at the end of their eccentric phase of the SSC) before they start forward in their concentric phase, the muscles have a suboptimal range to exploit the increased power available in a rapid SSC or, worse, the muscle held in the stretched position for too long can actually get into the refractory phase and the muscle absorbs the energy of the stretched muscle, thereby undermining the SSC. That's the problem I see with so many (most) female swings with respect to shoulder and wrist mechanics. And it's nearly endemic.

            Top women players include high quality SSC in their forehands and serves, but not nearly as much as the men. In fact, they tend toward something I would characterize as a "block rotation", where the arm and torso rotations are too wedded and the arm not allowed to continue its eccentric phase (stretching) as the forward pivot begins and develops (the tennis equivalent of "throwing like a girl" to use that disastrously sexist but apt expression). The best do use a decent SSC, admittedly, but not like the men. And it's not just a question of strength and speed; it's mechanics. So, why?

            Here I'm speculating wildly, as this has mystified me for years. I would summarily submit, however, that the forehand is kinesiologically the equivalent of an overhand throwing motion (with respect to the sequence of muscle movements in the forehand kinetic chain), and then I would commend you to this article: https://neuroanthropology.net/2009/0...a-girls-brain/

            It can't be a learning problem. Competitive women players have had a lifetime of learning available. There must be something else going on. I do think girls can learn optimal mechanics early on, and I further believe coaches and teachers would do well to teach throwing first and then generalize the kinetic chain to stick/ball striking motions, like tennis, golf, and baseball, inasmuch as it's the same ol' kinetic chain in every motion. Coaches are shortchanging their female students by failing to emphasize that movement skill, and when it comes to throwing/striking motions, by failing to get girls to feel how external rotation of the arm is induced by differential relaxation of the upper body under a rapidly developing forward pivot (leg drive, hip turn, upper torso rotation).

            And so, at the risk of kicking up a bit of a storm, here goes nuthin'.u
            Great post. A lot of good stuff. You know Justine(who to me had the best forehand ever in women's tennis) retooled her forehand during her career so it can be done, but obviously quite the commitment.

            Comment


            • #7
              https://youtu.be/k_iLAQnOsRY

              This is a very good video on the role of the wrist

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by cms56 View Post
                Jeffrey: I would have to respectfully disagree.
                If it were mechanically advantageous to set the wrist early, you would see men on the ATP tour doing it.
                How is this different than saying, if ATP were mechanically advantageous, we would see more women doing it?
                Both the ATP and WTA swings have advantages to exploit, as we see from the best players who use each.


                Originally posted by cms56 View Post
                the muscles have a suboptimal range to exploit the increased power available in a rapid SSC or, worse, the muscle held in the stretched position for too long can actually get into the refractory phase and the muscle absorbs the energy of the stretched muscle, thereby undermining the SSC. That's the problem I see with so many (most) female swings

                And so, at the risk of kicking up a bit of a storm, here goes nuthin'.
                as you accurately mention, SSC has a very limited availability for use. so how do you see setting up SSC into the slot as available much later in the ATP accel phase near contact? isn't this just more perpetuation of the misunderstanding of the use of SSC along with the drag from the slot?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Responding first to senior member "stroke": you're right, that video clip is just plain excellent, and he actually covers the wrist motions properly, leaving out an incidental motion (circumduction) which also happens in the tennis swing. He also notes that "lag" is caused by centrifugal force, but it's really simply inertia, a small point. And he reduces the "snap" to the action of centrifugal force, which certainly operates to bring the racquet head in line with the arm (and then past in-line) as it rotates about the pivot points in the wrist. I say reduced, because I think he's really trying to emphasize how wrist motion should be entirely reactive and unintentional, particularly with respect to flexion. And he even gets ulnar and radial deviation, which this site has seemingly denied is even involved in the stroke. Pretty impressive. Unfortunately, I think he fails to recognize that there is in fact a wrist muscle contribution, even if there is no "intentional" flexion, radial deviation, and pronation (this really being more of a forearm action); that muscular contribution is in the release of the stored energy in the stretch shortening cycle of the muscles in the forearm and wrist. Those muscles do, in fact, "snap", albeit through a limited range of motion and definitely not intentionally. Even when the wrist is retained in a "lag" configuration, i.e., full or near full extension, the wrist begins to "snap" at least a little bit and the extension decreases as They do so as the racquet head accelerates into impact as it is seeking its in-line orientation with the forearm. And if there's a question about that, they should be put on an emg and their activity measured. I would note that the distinctions he makes in how "lag" affects wrist action according to grip style is spot on. A young and good analytical mind there.

                  Next to teachestennis: I'm not sure I understand the first question, so forgive me if I'm only contributing to misunderstanding. Truth is, though, I think perhaps I didn't make myself clear. The upshot of my note is that women players mysteriously have trouble with a mechanically sound ssc through the shoulder and arms. They effectively interfere with the optimal generation and transfer of stored energy, and that is what I noted as "mysterious" to me. I do not believe the SSC has a "limited availability for use"; rather, I think it ought to be fully exploited, ATP and WTA. But as to the latter, it's not. Why? That was my question.

                  As to the concluding question, I just don't know what any of that means. Sorry. I'm just not immersed enough in the teaching terminology (slot, drag from the slot) to address that responsibly. A little help?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by teachestennis View Post
                    Both the ATP and WTA swings have advantages to exploit, as we see from the best players who use each.
                    That's exactly how I feel. I know most people find the WTA forehand to be a lesser, inferior stroke, but I've seen it up close and the shot can be absolutely massive. When Osaka or Sloane pull the trigger, the point is over. In Coco's case, she has a tight double bend at contact, like Osaka and Sloane. That's why I suggested modeling their take backs because her contact resembles theirs.
                    Last edited by jeffreycounts; 09-08-2019, 02:11 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by cms56 View Post
                      Jeffrey: I would have to respectfully disagree. If it were mechanically advantageous to set the wrist early, you would see men on the ATP tour doing it.
                      Well there must be something to that technique because both Sloane and Osaka won the US Open, largely based on their massive forehands. And Osaka has won two slams with it along with being number one in the world.

                      For more on Osaka check out this NY Times article that says Osaka's forehand can hit her forehand OVER 100 MPH!
                      https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/...a-us-open.html


                      Also men use it as well. Jeremy Chardy has a big powerful forehand and here is what he looks like. But I digress. I didn't want to make this about WTA/ATP forehand, just what could Coco do to improve hers without having to throw out the entire stroke and start over..

                      chardy.jpg
                      Last edited by jeffreycounts; 09-08-2019, 06:36 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Big thanks for the truly respectful and constructive considerations. You're all an incredible delight to engage. And you're right to focus this back on the initial question: Coco's forehand, not the bigger issue of ATP/WTA etc. By way of apology and explanation, my digressions were because I see Coco doing something endemic of women players -- separating the hands early, early overstretching of arm and wrist muscles in the backswing (the early set) that ought to be more fully recruited later -- in fact, mainly as the forward swing develops, which is a prominent ATP feature. And that's how I'd leave things re Coco: better and longer unity in the unit turn (she's disconnected really early); less stretch (reach or horizontal abduction) of the right arm in the backswing, maintaining more of a bent and "laid over" right arm configuration (i.e., internally rotated and slightly flexed) with a neutral wrist (she actually does this reasonably well despite the poor unit turn). To her credit, she does a reasonably good job of more fully externally rotating, flexing, and deviating the wrist using inertia in the forward swing. She could just do more of that good stuff.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by cms56 View Post
                          Big thanks for the truly respectful and constructive considerations. You're all an incredible delight to engage. And you're right to focus this back on the initial question: Coco's forehand, not the bigger issue of ATP/WTA etc. By way of apology and explanation, my digressions were because I see Coco doing something endemic of women players -- separating the hands early, early overstretching of arm and wrist muscles in the backswing (the early set) that ought to be more fully recruited later -- in fact, mainly as the forward swing develops, which is a prominent ATP feature. And that's how I'd leave things re Coco: better and longer unity in the unit turn (she's disconnected really early); less stretch (reach or horizontal abduction) of the right arm in the backswing, maintaining more of a bent and "laid over" right arm configuration (i.e., internally rotated and slightly flexed) with a neutral wrist (she actually does this reasonably well despite the poor unit turn). To her credit, she does a reasonably good job of more fully externally rotating, flexing, and deviating the wrist using inertia in the forward swing. She could just do more of that good stuff.
                          Cannot access the video for some reason. Anyone else?

                          But I did watch it. I did read cms56's comments. Astute observations. I cannot match the technical jargon. But I will say this. Her forehand impressed me as be rather disengaged...much like this video on my end. By not using the left hand she looks to be sort of dangling in the backswing. Which might contribute to inconsistency particularly under pressure. Even though the forehand is a one hand stroke...all strokes are that much better when the whole body is engaged in the swing. Dropping the left hand early gives the appearance of disconnecting the left side of the body from the swing. I know that this may not necessarily be so. But in appearances...that is what it looks like.

                          Does appearance count? I think that it does to a certain extent. The fact that she doesn't look to be as engaged on the forehand side as I suspect she looks on the backhand side says something. What does it say? I think that cms56 spelled it out pretty well.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It isn't just the video that I cannot engage but the whole first page with cms56's comments too.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I have been coaching one of the best U12 players in the country (UK) for the last two years. Try as I might, I cannot get her to do an ATP forehand. I can get her to shave down the backswing and even tap into a bit of SCC, but when she comes back three days later she's gone back to square one; a big backswing and no SCC. Female players just seem to find it much harder to learn an ATP forehand than boys. BG says he can get the girls to do it as well as the boys at his academy, so long as they buy into the concept and approach it with discipline.

                              There must be 10,000 coaches in the world who for the past 10 years have been trying to teach girls an ATP forehand, and the vast majority of those coaches - and we can use the WTA tour as evidence - are failing. Why is that? What is it about the mechanics that the female players find so difficult learn and embed? The first possible reason that springs to mind is physical strength. But then BG points out no strength is needed and that very young children can learn to do it. So it remains a puzzling mystery it seems.
                              Last edited by stotty; 09-11-2019, 02:12 PM.
                              Stotty

                              Comment

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