Understanding the Tennis Jumped Overhead Smash

W ether you are a great or not great tennis player, tennis strokes, if they are well executed, have undeniable similarities.

Since I hit this overhead in 1974 at the Oslo Open I can positively say that Roger Federer copied my overhead style! (Big green)

Roger-Sergio

The jumped tennis overhead smash, is a very difficult stroke that few master due to the complexity of the co-ordinations involved, timing and the necessary athletic prowess.

Nowadays tennis players go so seldom to the net that the Nr. 1 in the world Novak Djokovic can not hit a decent overhead smash unless it is offered to him like a Aunt Jemima pancake  on a platter!

Of all things that the tennis jumped overhead smash requests, getting up into the air and execute the “ciseau” or chisel leg movement is a must. Here are some examples from the past of players who could truly execute the jumped overhead smash to perfection:

Jean-borotra-one-of-the-Four-Musketeers-davis-cup-france
Very few ever hit the tennis jumped overhead smash like Jean Borotra did in the late 1920s and early 1930s!
Jean_Borotra-the-fantastic-overhead-from-the-basque
Jean Borotra using the pronation during the tennis overhead smash!

Jean Borotra in the 1920’s already demonstrated that show boating has been always part of tennis and when Pete Sampras ‘introduced’ the ‘Slam Dunk’  overhead smash to tennis, he was almost 83 years too late!

Jean-borota-bounding-basque-borotra
The bounding basque Jean Borotra in the 1920’s already demonstrated that show boating has been always part of tennis .
Jean Borotra muscling the tennis ball
Jean Borotra muscling the tennis ball with a violent pronation.
Tennis - Wimbledon - Men's Singles - 1928
Henry Bunny Austin Wimbledon – Men’s Singles – 1928.
Teamed up with Fred Perry to win four consecutive Davis Cup finals between 1933 and 1936.
 2nd July 1947:  American tennis player Jack Kramer leaps for a ball in the men's semi-final on the Centre Court at Wimbledon. He went on to win the title.   (Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)

2nd July 1947: American tennis player Jack Kramer leaps for a ball in the men’s semi-final to hit a jumped overhead smash on the Centre Court at Wimbledon. He went on to win the title.
(Photo by Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)
Ken McGregorCirca 1950
Ken McGregor Circa 1950

Even women players were capable hitting the overhead smash! Suzanne Rachel Flore Lenglen was a French tennis player who won 31 Championship titles between 1914 and 1926.

Susanne-Lengelen-overhead-smash
Suzanne Lenglen tennis jumped overhead smash.

Henry Christian ‘Harry’ Hopman CBE (12 August 1906 – 27 December 1985) was a world-acclaimed Australian tennis player and coach.

‘The best tennis coach ever to walk on planet earth! ‘Harry’s’ passion for the game was so great that I am willing to bet he is coaching Angels in Heaven!’ Sérgio Cruz

Harry_Hopman_1930s
Harry Hopman 1930s

Roy Stanley Emerson (born 3 November 1936) is an Australian former World No. 1 tennis player who won 12 Grand Slam tournament singles titles and 16 Grand Slam tournament men’s doubles titles. He is the only male player to have won singles and doubles titles at all four Grand Slam events.

Roy Stanley Emerson (born 3 November 1936) is an Australian former World No. 1 tennis player who won 12 Grand Slam tournament singles titles and 16 Grand Slam tournament men's doubles titles. He is the only male player to have won singles and doubles titles at all four Grand Slam events.
Roy Stanley Emerson a great example on how to stay airborne and hit the best overhead smash you can!

Now, there you have it! For a top class tennis jumped overhead smash, you must get up into the air, stay Airborne, use the pronation to smack the tennis ball with total abandonment to corners and angles (if you can do it like Borotra did, do it right to the service box corners!). Remember though, you will need to get ‘way up there’ to do that!

Enjoy!

Sérgio Cruz

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10 thoughts on “Understanding the Tennis Jumped Overhead Smash”

  1. Hey Sergio,

    Who’s got the best overhead? My money is on Sampras, purely for his athleticism. Others have had flawless technique, Mcenroe comes to mind, but the level of athleticism Sampras brought to the shot elevates him to a whole other level!

  2. Andrew, Sampras had a great overhead indeed, although he was by far not the best athlete I have seen playing tennis. Roger Federer rarely misses an overhead, Mckenroe was superb, Noah was top class, Laver, Emmerson, Rosewall, Hoad, Gonzales, Sedgeman, Frasier, and many, many others would’ve challenged Sampras athleticism and overhead.

  3. Any thoughts on the Men’s Final? To my eye, Murray’s game should be more effective on grass (excellent backhand slice, great touch, better volleys), but Djokovic tends to come out on top of their big matches. Also, does Janowicz have what it takes to become a top player?

  4. Hi Andrew,

    As always the 1st serve and the return high percentages, the ocasional forey to the net, plus some off the wall winners, will be crucial but, in the end it will boil down to nerves and execution.

    The coolest head will win.

    Although Murray has gotten away in many professional matches with his sore back antics, this Wimbledon included, I think Djokovic will be unforgiving on that because he used to do that himself!

    Young Janowicz has the “Big” game to be a top player, he was running out of gas as the tournament progressed and that mental breakdown in the 3rd against Murray was the straw that broke the camels back!

    In time, if he is not as “dumb” as Gasquet (who never learned), Jerzy will learn to better use his resources to always have something left as he gets deeper into draws.

    It is a natural growing up process as a professional, I believe he will manage and so will Bernard Tomic.

  5. Hey Sergio, my friend Collin Altamirano won Kalamazoo and is in the US Open, and plays Kohlscreiber. What tactics would you suggest against Kohlscreiber? Thanks!

  6. Hi Al, I would have to have seen Collin play to be more specific.

    Nevertheless, I looked at Collins record and it looks tough, a lot of work in progress to be able to seriously challenge Kohlscreiber, but since everything is possible:

    – Although a good player Kohlscreiber has 5 major flaws; often hits the ball on the descent, stays too far back behind the baseline, does not see opportunities quick/early enough, passing shot can be dodgy and gets easily disappointed/down on himself.

    – Do not give Kohlscreiber space for his huge back swings, often play deep to his boy and handcuff him by jamming him with serves to the body.

    – Get ahead on Phillip, stay on top of him, keep him down trailing the score and he may give up plenty of important points.

    – Collin must keep the ball low and skidding fast to either wing. Kohlscreiber loves waist-high balls but hates low balls.

    – Kohlscreiber is a bit of a shocker, so Collin must put pressure on second serves by stepping inside the court and might get some free double fault points or short serves to pound on!

    The challenge is big but besides all of what I said, Collin will have to play within himself and his possibilities, trying to go for every shot or play way above what he can will not make it.

    Good luck!

    Sérgio

  7. No need to mention that the backhand is Kohlscreiber’s bread and butter shot! If Collin has a Bill Tilden mentality he will pound on Phillip’s backhand until he breaks it down, if not, better stay away from it. 🙂

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