Why and How to Hit on the Rise

Controlling Time

Close up tennis racket hitting ball with blurred motion
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Tennis is at least as much about time as it is about power, placement, and spin. If you suddenly developed the ability to put the world surrounding you into slow motion at will, you would probably be unbeatable on the tennis court. You would get to every ball and have all the time you needed to set up each shot.

Manipulating time on the tennis court isn't strictly limited to sci-fi, though. The main advantage in hitting harder, for example, is to give your opponent less time to get to the ball and prepare their swing. This is also one of the best reasons to get to the net (along with being able to hit sharper angles and shorter drops).

To become a master thief of your opponent's time, you need one more tool in your kit. The earlier you hit your shots, the less time your opponent has to get ready for theirs, and hitting early usually means hitting the ball on the rise - hitting the ball as it's coming up off the bounce instead of after its bounce has begun to fall from its peak, which is how most of us first learn to play.

Hitting on the rise gives you a number of advantages:

  • Your opponent has less time to react.
  • You cut off your opponent's angles earlier so that you have less court to cover.
  • Being closer to the net, you can hit sharper angles.
  • You prevent your opponent from kicking the ball above your comfort zone.
  • The ball has slightly more incoming speed when it hits your strings and thus slightly more rebound speed.

For most players, though, hitting on the rise isn't always easy. You have to read the ball sooner, prepare your stroke earlier, and time your swing more precisely. The next page offers several tips to help you hit on the rise.

  • Play just behind or just inside the baseline during rallies, depending on how deep your opponent hits.
  • Play inside the baseline to receive serve, but get out of "No Person's Land" (a.k.a. "No Man's Land") before it's time for your next shot.
  • Use a shorter backswing if you need to improve the precision of your timing and point of contact.
  • Do a split-step as your opponent swings to help you react more quickly.
  • Take quick, small steps as you prepare to swing. This will help you with the hurried positioning you'll need.
  • Start behind where you hope to meet the ball so that you can step forward and meet the ball out in front.
  • Govern the height at which you'll meet the ball by how much you move forward. On a quickly rising ball, for example, moving forward more gives you a lower point of contact.
  • Keep looking at the point of contact for half a second after the ball is gone. This will help you see the ball as long as possible and give you a steadier stroke by keeping your head still.
  • Realize that the more vertically the ball is bouncing, the harder it is to hit on the rise. If your opponent hits a high, heavy topspin at you, your timing to hit it back on the rise will have to be better than it would be on a lower, flatter ball.

Hitting on the rise is likely to make you a more aggressive player, and it will certainly make you a more complete player. You'll find that giving your opponent less time can put you in control of many more points.