The smash is often a spectacular shot to watch in tennis, a shot that can stir the spirits of the crowd. A well executed smash also raises the adrenaline of the player and inevitably wins the point. Although, the smash would appear to be a relatively simple and frequently used shot, it is in fact very difficult to execute well.
Pete Sampras possessed a great smash technique and was especially renowned for his athletic "Jump smash shot". Other smash greats include, Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi and of old, Rod Laver and Jimmy Connors, both of whom were left-handers who curiously mastered a devastating backhand smash.
A smash is a shot that is hit above the head utilising a motion similar to a serve. Hit effectively, a smash more often than not clinches the point for a player. It is a shot that can be hit with great force, but also accurately directed, as seen in the above video of Pete Sampras. If you observe a typical game of tennis, the majority of overhead shots will be struck near the net or mid-court, before the ball bounces, usually in response to a lob shot that has not achieved the elevation or depth of court to win the point.
It is also possible to smash a ball near to the service line, though this usually follows a very high and deep lob and in this case, it is probably advisable to allow the ball to bounce before executing the smash. Generally speaking, the higher a ball is lobbed, the more difficult it is to time your smash, and therefore the more likely it is that you will be unable to control your smash efficiently. Allowing the ball to bounce gives you time to pick your shot and placing of the ball, often a ground stroke, is the more effective shot in these circumstances.
Experienced and very skilful players can execute an overhead shot most of the time from 3/4 court or the service line. However, a deep smash shot can lack force and allowing the ball to bounce and choosing another type of shot is favoured by even the most experienced of players.
Moving into position
Generally, an overhead shot is hit in response to a lob shot, that goes high and over your head. It is therefore usually required to move back quickly to assume a striking position. When moving backwards it is important not to lose your balance and coordination, and the easiest way to achieve this is to keep your racket close to your body, down by your leg. Keeping your other arm by your side will help maintain your balance and alter your positioning efficiently.
In fact, most players will move backwards using sidesteps, opposed to "back pedalling". Turning your torso slightly and sidestepping or cross-stepping will not only allow you to move back into position with more speed, but will also avoid a loss of balance.
Swinging the racket
Raise your racket on the last backward pace you make into position. Keep your racket close to your body when raising it upwards, which will also help to maintain your centre of gravity. In an overhead shot, your judgement and timing on the ball are all important. Do not move backwards with your arms and racket elevated upwards as this will unbalance you and probably make you misjudge the timing of the ball completely. What’s more, you will not be able to move backwards with as much speed and agility with your arms raised in the "trophy position".
As you raise your racket to swing at the ball, begin from a raised and bent elbow position. The swing on an overhead shot is not the same as the wind-up for a serve. It would be too difficult to time with such a long wind-up. Keeping your arm relatively relaxed will naturally result in a flick of the wrist when you strike the ball and assist in its direction.
Aim to hit the ball deep into your opponent’s court. As a less experienced player, it is useful to aim a few feet beyond the service line of your opponent and this will help ensure that you do not drive the ball into the net.
Striking the ball
You should ideally strike the ball when your arm is fully extended and with the ball a little forward of the position of your head. It is highly important that you keep your head still as you strike the ball and keep your eyes on the position of the ball until half a second after making connection, therefore ruling out the possibility of misjudging your shot a split second before striking the ball.