Developing Junior Players Ages 8-10: The Semi-Open Stance for Groundstrokes
For players ages 8-10, the USTA Tournament and league format expands the size of the court and the racquets and decreases the size of the ball, when compared to the 8u format. It all adds up to the 10u players dealing with a higher bouncing ball with more court space for the ball to bounce away from them. That's why players moving into this playing environment from the 36 foot court model will need to master the use of the semi-open stance on both forehand and backhand groundstrokes to handle those higher bouncing balls.
Here's what the court and equipment for USTA 10u league and tournament play looks like:
- The court – 60 feet long x 27 feet wide
- The racquets – 25 inches long
- The ball – Orange/Yellow two-tone color; regulation ball size, but 50% low compression (25% higher bounce than the 8u Red/Yellow Ball)
Here's what a 10u junior tennis match played on the 60' court looks like:
- To view the point, scroll down to Advanced Point Play and watch that short video clip.
The semi-open stance is a foot stance that is used to allow more room between and high bouncing ball and the player's racquet. With the extra space provided by the semi-open stance (as opposed to the closed and/or open stances), the player is able to rotate the upper body towards the ball and build up enough racquet speed to hit a deep groundstroke from well behind their own baseline. Without the use of this stance, the chance of hitting a short ball, around the opponent's service line, is much higher. It's defined as the nearest foot to the ball being behind and diagonally towards the hitting side. Here's ATP #7 Player Kei Nishokori of Japan demonstrating the Semi-Open Stance Topspin Forehand Groundstroke:
In the below video clip, WTA #9 Ana Ivanovic demonstrates the difference between the closed stance and semi-open stance backhand groundstrokes:
The first 2 backhands she hits were off of waist high balls bouncing right to her, and she uses the closed stance. The third ball is a higher bouncing ball moving up and away from her. That's when she uses the semi-open stance backhand.
The main direction that 10u players are being coached to hit the ball is cross court, as it's over the lower part of the net and has greater margin for error. At the 10u level, players are also demonstrating far greater mastery of topspin than were 8u players. It's off those deep, topspin cross court shots that 10u players must be able to use the semi-open stance. With it, they can keep their opponents deep and have an equally good chance of forcing a short ball.