The OTI methodology focuses on improving technique using progressions to increase the difficulty level step by step. In order to effectively make technical changes it is essential to work with these progressions.
#1: Shadow Swings
Shadow swings are incredibly effective and yet many tennis players for some reason don’t use them. The first step for a technical change is always mastering it in a shadow swing without hitting a ball. This allows you to really slow things down and consciously focus on the new movement. The great thing is also that you can practice shadow swings anywhere. Even just shadow swinging for 5 minutes a day can lead to great improvements on your strokes.
Once you feel comfortable with shadow swinging, the next step is self-feeding. The difficulty level has now increased as there is a ball involved with the new changes you are trying to make. At the same time it is a lot easier to implement the technical changes in this scenario than it is to execute the new technique when you are hitting with someone. Most tennis players have never used self-feeding in their life and yet we believe it is extremely effective.
We recommend it primarily to work on making technical changes. For example, reducing the size of your take back or changing your forehand grip can be improved with self-feeding. How you execute self-feeding is critical. You need to focus on feeding the ball into the right location so that you have good distance to the ball and can contact it in front. Check out Nadim’s demonstration of a forehand self-feed:
#3: Ball Machine
Using a ball machine is another effective way to work on your technique as well as on other areas of your game. With a ball machine, you can adjust the speed, depth, and spin of the ball exactly to your needs. You can progress from self-feeding to using a ball machine at a slow speed to still control the difficulty level at first. Once you feel comfortable, you can increase the speed step by step.
With a ball machine, you can also work on other areas of your game. For example you can practice consistency by hitting as many balls deep in the court high over the net as you can. If you don’t have access to a ball machine, instead the wall can be used as an alternative option.
#4: The Wall
Hitting against a wall is another great way to practice by yourself. You can practice many drills such as target practice. We often recommend to draw circles on the wall for your targets and then you can practice specific shots against targets. You can vary between hitting backhands and forehands and also between hitting crosscourt and down the line.
The wall is of course also great for working on your technique. You can move through the progressions using the wall while increasing the difficulty level step by step.