The Overhead:

The overhead is mechanically similar to the serve. The problem is you don't get to place the ball where you want. In fact, as has been mentioned, your opponent is intent on placing the ball exactly where you do not want it.

Positioning and a little practice are the keys to getting a good, consistent stroke on the overhead. If you are in position behind the ball and ready to hit, and if you've practiced enough to be confident with your swing, then it will work.

* If you seem to be hitting the ball well but it is not going in the court - Make sure your shoulders are turned perpendicular to the net as soon as you know the ball is being lobbed. If your shoulders are parallel to the net, you will make more errors. Period.

* If you are hitting the ball "a ton" but it doesn't seem to be going over and in - Then try hitting it at "half a ton" with a smoother stroke. Remember, the goal is a quality shot, not the hardest shot ever hit by a human.

* If you tend to take your eye off the ball - Use your non- racquet hand to point at the ball and keep watching the ball as you hit it. Keep your eye on the ball until you actually hit it. There is no hurry to see where it is going.

* If the lobs are getting over your head so you can't get a good swing - Practice anticipating when the ball is about to be lobbed and "cheat" by getting into position sooner. Being in position with your racquet back is really the key to a consistent overhead, even if the actual mechanics of the stroke are less than pretty.

* Get into position. Remember, hitting an effective overhead has a great deal to do with being in good position - behind the ball with your racquet back.

* Use a sharp angle wisely. Angle your overhead only if you are well inside the service line and the angle really exists.

* Go deep with your overhead. If there is no easy, fat angle available, or if you are hitting from the service line or deeper, hit your overhead as deep as possible.

* Don't try to avoid hitting an overhead toward an opponent at net. Don't try to hit anyone, but if the percentage overhead is cross-court, don't try to hit a more difficult shot to be polite.

* Try moving back a few steps. Line up farther from the net if you're struggling with overheads. This should get you in better position to hit your overhead.

* Play a safe overhead anytime you're not ready or out of sync or in any trouble. Slow and deep will give you a chance to get back in the point.

The Lob:

The lob is mechanically a cousin of the ground strokes (forehand or backhand). The goal of the shot is different, however, which makes the mechanics slightly different. The lob is not a "pop" or "jab," it is a stroke that is supposed to get the ball higher in the air.

* If you don't have a clue where your lob is going - Try shortening your backswing slightly. Lift the ball from this shorter backswing but remember to keep your follow-through long and smooth and to use your whole body.

* If your lob is going long too often - You are probably trying to lob "too deep." The stroke is fine, but you are trying to lob the ball over your opponents' head instead of making them hit an overhead.

* If you don't seem to have any "feel" for your lob - Remember you need your legs and body in the stroke. You don't need them for power but rather for control, consistency, and confidence.

There are two basic types of lobs - defensive and offensive. Use a defensive lob when you or your team are in trouble. Use it when you're on the run and that's about all you can do, and when you need some time to regroup or get back in position. The idea is to hit it high and hope.

Offensive lobs, at the club level, are all the other lobs you hit. Offensive does not mean you are trying to win the point with that lob. It is an offensive lob because you are using it as part of your offensive game plan to control the match.

Mixing a few offensive lobs into your game can make all your shots more effective. The following are some suggestions for better lobs.

* Stay in control. Leave those magnificent topspin lobs to the pros.

* Remember, you do not have to try to get your lob over the net person's head and have it bounce. You just have to force the net person to move back and hit a difficult shot.

* Make your opponent work. Lob a few times in a row against an opponent at net who is volleying well, poaching, hitting winning volleys. A few lobs will make this opponent work a little harder and keep them honest up there.

* Lob when it is not expected. Surprise your opponents with a quick lob when they thought you were about to kill it.

* Use the lob in combination with a short, low ball to make your opponents work a bit.

* Remember you are not trying to win the point with the lob. If you do, that's great. Just don't try to.

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