The Cross-over Step

If I see my opponent running through their shot I know I’ve succeeded in getting them off the court and off balance. In tennis it’s so important to hit from a good, solid, wide base. The stronger the base, the more powerful the shot can be in every aspect: spin, power, control, precision. If you’re running through your shot (i.e. not able to set your base) you either need to lob the ball high in the air and hope your opponent doesn’t volley it or you need to go for a winner as you’ll be unable to recover in time for the next shot.  Your hips will be facing the side fence and as you can’t get your outside leg set and turned toward the court your power and control will be inaccessible; you’ll have to rely solely on your upper body strength.

That’s where the cross-over step comes in.  The cross-over step will let a player reach a ball that has them on the run and be able to use their entire body to hit and then recover with time for their next shot.  It’s all about using the energy from your momentum; you’re running along the baseline facing the side fence so there is no way you can transfer your body weight into the court on the hit.  But what you can do is make sure your last step before the hit is with your outside leg. You can make sure that that last step turns your running stance into an open stance with a wide, strong base. You can do this by turning your foot, on the outside leg, to face the net and take a much larger step than usual; then load up all your energy and strength into that leg. Then when you hit the ball that outside leg can explode out of its stance giving your shot all the power it was lacking with just your arm.  As you’re in the air your inside leg will cross over in front of the outside leg and land, bend and take the brunt force of your explosive action. Your outside leg will then take another large step and load up once more but this time it will push you back into the court, crossing over in front of the inside leg.

You can’t change the direction in which your momentum is carrying you as you’re going too fast but you can use the energy from it to help your hit be bigger and your recovery very efficient. When a player is first taught the cross-over step they don’t think it possible. The reason, after all, a player is running through their shot in the first place is because their opponent has hit such an awesomely brutal shot. How on earth are they supposed to halt their momentum, hit, do a dainty jig and then recover? You’re not! Remember, use your momentum to help you. Don’t try and stop or change it; go with it. As always in tennis use your legs to help you.

Here is a step by step play on a cross-over forehand:

  1. Run towards the ball preparing your backswing as you go.
  2. Make sure that the last step you take before hitting the ball is with your right foot.
  3. Make sure that that last step is wider than your shoulder width and sit down on your legs – your right leg especially.
  4. On the step turn your right foot so that it is pointing towards the net – you should by now be in a familiar stance: the open stance.
  5. Your shoulders throughout this change in footwork should be rotated and perpendicular to the baseline.
  6. Load up all your momentum into your right leg.
  7. Explode upward and into the shot with both your legs and your racket.
  8. Your racket will be going out into the court, giving the ball as much forward momentum as possible.
  9. Your body will be still be going sideways along the baseline.
  10. While in the air cross your left leg in front of your right leg and land on it, absorbing as much of the impact as possible.
  11. Your right leg will then takes its next step – make it large and load up all the left over momentum.
  12. Push yourself back into the court by crossing your right leg over your left in a shuffle back to the center of the court.
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