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Windmill or Sky Hook Overhead Smash - Video and Analysis

Part I: Best Uses of the Sky Hook

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The video clip for this tennis lesson on the windmill or sky hook overhead will take only seconds to download.

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A windmill overhead, more commonly called a sky hook overhead, should only be used in two circumstances:

  1. When you will be unable to meet the ball in front of yourself.
  2. When extreme wind or some other factor makes timing your overhead especially difficult.
The sky hook overhead allows you to meet the ball farther back than you could with a standard overhead. On a standard overhead, the plane of the racquet face points upward until the racquet has moved farther forward than your head. Unless you spin the ball in pretty heavily, you must meet it in front of yourself to have any hope of not hitting it long, and the capacity for spin to correct a late point of contact is quite limited. On a sky hook overhead, though, the straightness of your arm lets you reach well behind yourself and still present a vertical racquet face to the ball, in large part because the rotational forces acting on your wrist are small enough that it can assume a forward-cocked position to compensate for an arm that is slanted back behind you.

As a general principle, the larger the radius of rotation in a tennis swing, the less precise your timing has to be. A swing that pivots at your wrist makes the angle of the racquet face change more quickly than one that pivots at your shoulder. A standard overhead is produced by a kinetic chain that translates leg and trunk energy into shoulder rotation, then faster elbow rotation, then very fast wrist rotation, all up and forward. A sky hook overhead is generated almost entirely by shoulder rotation, which makes its timing less critical.

With its greater forgiveness on point of contact and timing, the sky hook might seem a good candidate to replace the standard overhead altogether, but it has two disadvantages that make it clearly a second choice. Regularly swinging with a straight arm at overheads or serves is brutal to your shoulder, and you'll never generate nearly as much power as you can with the standard motion.

The next page details how to hit the sky hook overhead and contains links to the same video clips linked above.

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