Picks and Pans Review: Quick Cures for Common Tennis Problems

updated 07/15/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/15/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Vic Braden

Even if McEnroe were playing with one foot in a bucket, Braden probably could not have beaten him on the best day of his life. But as a teacher and a showman, Braden, now 55, is a Grand Slammer. A licensed psychologist, he displays an abradingly cheerful attitude and not always the smartest pedagogic technique. But he is clear and imaginative, and he never stops conveying the notion that playing tennis is fun. His Winning Strokes is best suited for people who have at least swung a racquet. Throughout he repeats a number of basic notions, such as ways to gain lift on the ball and keep the head of the racquet down. He illustrates the various grips and stances without acting as if his own styles—the Eastern grip and a semiupright stance—were divinely bestowed. In Quick Cures for Common Tennis Problems, he discusses 27 typical hacker complaints, such as "My backhand always goes into the net," " I can't put away easy volleys," and "I can't return balls hit at my feet." His solutions look as though they ought to work, if only because Braden is so convincing. He's also effective at using famous pros' quirks to help teach. Jimmy Connors, for example, is often lifted off his feet by the upwardly mobile force of his double-fisted backhand. So, Braden advises, "Don't try to stay down... lift forward and upward into the ball." Braden, who runs a big tennis school near Los Angeles, obviously has his act down pat—almost too pat. (If you insist on smashing a ground stroke with the face of the racquet tilted up instead of vertical, he suggests, "Better call a cab and go look for the ball.") But it's easy to disregard his cloying moments, because he makes it seem possible for even the most hopelessly incompetent of us to improve. (Tennis magazine's "Tennis Video Center," Box 5350, Norwalk, Conn. 06856, $69.95 each)

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