How do you execute a tennis overhead?

tennis overhead
File Photo Credit: Wei De/SSC

By Laura Chan


The overhead smash is the most difficult shot of the game to master, often avoided by the non-pro level players. Executed well however, it is a powerful shot that finishes the point and makes the player look good at the same time.

Step 1: Preparation

For the overhead smash, mental preparation is as important as the physical positioning. Many players tend to panic when faced with the possibility of performing and overhead smash which contributes to a mishit.

Keep your eye on the ball and have an idea of where on the opponent’s court you would want to direct the smash to. Focus and quickly move backwards into ready position. Once you have reached the desired position, lean back slightly to face the sky, turn your shoulders sideways, left shoulder facing the net, legs slightly bent with left arm pointed in the air to sight the ball.  

Step 2: Backswing

The racket arm should be positioned upwards unlike the dropping motion used in groundstroke backswings. It should be in a loaded position, where the racket is pointed upwards and right arm in a 90 degree angle at the elbow behind your head. To get the most power out of your shot, you need to use your whole body instead of just the strength in your arm. 

Step 3: Swing and Contact

Reach up and extend your racket arm, pushing up with your back leg. Incline your body forward and pronate your wrist to transfer the power onto the ball. Swing down quickly, wrist fully pronated to propel the ball into a downward motion to the opponent’s side of the court, left arm naturally moving down to your abdomen to prevent your torso from rotating. Your weight should have transferred to the front leg, body facing the net. 

tennis overhead technique
Andy Murray performs a tennis overhead smash.

Step 4: Follow through

After contact, continue the fluid motion of the smash with a follow through. Eyes should be on the ball at all times. Make sure your head and shoulders do not dip with the arm until the shot is done. The stroke should finish with a deceleration, the racket head moving to a stop below your left elbow. 

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