Q: How can players who learned how to play tennis before the open-stance forehand became the norm develop that shot?
A: I'm from the old school, and I have taught and through the years have observed that the best way to hit a groundstroke is by stepping into the ball.
When you're in your backswing taking the racket back, the weight's on your back foot, and as you swing the racket forward the weight transfers onto the front foot. That's the way to get the power into the shot.
Now, when you hit with the open stance, you're facing the net. A batter in the batter's box is not facing the pitcher with his stomach and chest. You don't see anybody doing that, because they've discovered that the best way to knock it out of the park is to get their weight moving forward.
There are times that even people in my [age] group have to hit an open-stance shot, because when we run wide to get a ball we can't get there in time to get to it, so the open-stance forehand is necessary. I would hope that with most shots I could still make sure that my racket and my weight were moving into the shot.
I'll tell you one thing, the ones hitting with the open stance are going to have back trouble. All you're doing is torquing your back and hips, but with stepping into it you can also get torque into your upper body.
I think kids are learning the open-stance forehand now because the new coaches think that's the modern way to play. I don't think it's the equipment. To a degree, the rackets are so light that you have to generate as much racket-head speed as you can, plus the fact that on the wide shots that's the only way you can hit it effectively.
But when I see kids come to me who have been taught the open stance I grind my teeth because I have re-educate them into hitting into the ball. Why do golfers do what they do and why do baseball players do what they do?
Maybe it's because our [wooden] rackets were 14 ounces [today's are 3-4 ounces lighter]. The athletes back in my day were bigger and stronger. [Jack] Kramer and [Pancho] Gonzalez were big. [Don] Budge was big. I'm talking height-wise.
I don't want this to come off as though I think open-stance is sour grapes. It's not that I don't hit open-stance forehands. I can see the need for that shot under certain circumstances, but not as a steady diet.