Counter-Point: John Evert
Counter-Point is a new article series where I will make counter arguments to tennis articles or videos from major publications. Even famous coaches sometimes make mistakes and Counter-point is aimed at clearing up any mis-information that may be out there.
I really like John Evert. John consistently puts out good stuff. His instruction is usually insightful enough that most people would not be able to figure it out on their own, but easy enough to be digested in a short amount of time. John also holds a special place in my heart because of a 2-minute instruction video he did on tennis channel a few years ago when he trumpeted the benefits of an open-stance backhand. Very few coaches realize that an open-stance backhand is OK or even good to do on a two-handed backhand. Him saying that on tennis channel showed a lot of knowledge, willingness to think outside the box, and some real back-bone as he probably got a lot of backlash from the old guard for making that (correct) claim.
However, John’s latest video is not up to par with his previous library of works. The video, which can be found on tennis.com in the new “Tennis Tuesday” publication, is about the unit turn, and its apparent cure-all properties.
In the video John makes the claim that the cause of hitting the forehand long, is the result of a late preparation or late shoulder turn/unit turn. And while this may be the cause of many different types of errors (obviously hitting the ball late or being rushed due to inadequate preparation is for sure a problem) it is wrong of him to make the claim that early preparation will stop someone from hitting forehands long.
This type of logic is a classic flaw that humans make. It can be summed up best as correlation does not imply causation.
Let’s say student A can’t hit with topspin. Without topspin, only gravity can bring the ball down, and at high speeds, they are hitting the ball long consistently. An early preparation is not going to magically create topspin. This player will continue to hit the ball long. If played out to the absurd, they will begin preparing earlier and earlier in an effort to stop their shots from going long until they are forced to prepare right after they are done hitting and before their opponent has hit their own shot!
Another very common example of this is when tennis teachers make the claim that a high finish also makes the ball go over the net. If this was a true causation, then a slice could never go over the net, because a slice finishes low, yet lots of slices go over the net and in, and many high finishes go in the net.
If John Evert had wanted to make a video about fixing forehands from going long, he could have instead talked about topspin, which makes the ball drop. There is a true causation between topspin and the ball going further.
So in summation, yes, early preparation will most likely help many players make fewer errors, but no, it will not stop you from missing the ball long if you have a technical flaw, you cannot impart topspin on the ball, you mishit off the top of the string bed often, or any other number of reasons one might hit the ball long.
When global temperatures were lower, there were more pirates. Now that there is global warming, there are fewer pirates. The lack of pirates in the world is causing global warming! Knowing the difference between correlation and causation, I think that is, AS GOOD AS AN ACE!