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Svetlana Kuznestova

Taking the shot in detail

A sound of thunder - Svetlana Kuznetsova
Svetlana joined the Sanchez-Casal Academy in 1999 at the age 14. She still uses it as a base when she is not travelling on the tour with her coach Stefan Ortega.

She is an aggressive yet highly consistent baseliner. In fact, in 2007 she was the most consistent baseliner in the world week-on-week, which resulted in a career-high ranking of No. 2.
Svetlana has very sound and powerful groundstrokes. Her forehand is clearly the weapon while her backhand is more of a rallying or building shot. She uses the double-handed backhand to create opportunities to get the ball on to her forehand to hit the winner or force the error.

Despite the fact that she is some way behind the baseline in this sequence of photographs, it’s important to realize that she is not defending. She is instead building the point with a highly aggressive edge. People tend to regard rallying as about control only, whereas what you should be trying to do, as Svetlana is demonstrating here, is building the shots to create an opportunity to attack or to prevent your opponent from attacking.

Although this is not the most technically perfect two-handed backhand Svetlana has ever hit, it still raises some useful points. Let’s have a look at the shot in closer detail.

Frame 1

Svetlana has lowered herself into an excellent “athletic position”. Her knees are bent at right angles between her upper and lower legs and she has ideal posture. Her weight is loaded on her back leg (left leg) and she has turned her shoulders and upper body with her racket at waist height. She is getting herself into a good position behind the ball, a key strength to her groundstrokes.

Frame 2

Svetlana’s weight is still on the back leg but she is now starting to place her front foot into position. We would normally expect her to set up with heel-to-toe action but in this frame her forefoot is leading the way. The back foot is in a good position parallel to the baseline, which is loading the left hip so that it can rotate through when she hits the ball. We would usually expect the front foot to be positioned at an angle of around 45 degrees to the baseline (i.e. towards the ad net post) instead of parallel to the baseline as pictured here. Her hips have turned too, completing the turn of her body so that you can no longer see her hands. Her chin is looking over her right shoulder, the back of which is almost facing the net.

This fantastic rotation away from the ball allows her to store a vast amount of elastic energy in her body, which she will release to drive the racket forwards. Svetlana began her backswing with the order of movement from “top down”, i.e. her shoulders initiated the turn, then her hips followed.

Frame 3

Here Svetlana is transferring her weight from her back to her front leg. Her hips are starting to rotate towards the net with her energy coming forwards. She has dropped the racket head below her hands with the butt cap coming towards the oncoming ball. On the forward swing her order of movement is “bottom up”, i.e. her hips are rotating through first as shown here, and her shoulders will follow. Svetlana is preparing her front foot to rotate.

Frame 4

In this picture, Svetlana has transferred her weight on to her front foot and rotated it so that it is now pointing more towards the net post. Her hips have turned almost square to face the net, as have her shoulders, firing her energy forwards. The left hand has taken the lead role in driving the racket through the ball. Notice how she has maintained her point of vision, having hardly moved her head an inch. She has contacted the ball a little above waist height and, judging by the shadow on the court, on a level with her front toe.

Frame 5

This frame shows how Svetlana’s left side has done all the work in releasing the racket through the ball. Her body has squared up towards the net and she is bringing her left leg through to initiate a dynamic recovery step. You can tell by her face and hair that she has hit this ball with tremendous force.

Frame 6

Svetlana’s back leg is coming around as a counterbalance measure. Throughout this shot Svetlana has rotated around her front (right) leg. In this picture Svetlana has lost her posture-her upper body having collapsed over-which we wouldn’t normally expect to see. She has completed her swing with the butt cap pointed towards the outgoing ball and elbows high.

Your coach
Andrew Burgess is Head of Player Development at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona, Spain. He is currently responsible for ensuring the successful development of the Academy’s student athletes, Andrew is an LTA, PTR, RPT and USPTA certified coach and holds a diploma in sports psychology from Newcastle College and is an SAQ (Speed, Agility and Quickness) Advanced Trainer.

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