Tennis pros see similarities with baseball

Randy Kambic
Special to Coastal Life

Tennis and baseball fans were enthralled recently with action from Wimbledon and the MLB All-Star Game, respectively. Many area tennis pros see a correlation between the two sports.

While we follow our favorite major league teams on TV as pennant races heat up and take in a Fort Myers Miracle home game through the rest of the summer, they feel we can sharpen our court games by realizing and appreciating some of the similarities between the two sports.

During lessons and clinics, pros sometimes have participants throw tennis balls against a fence in the same motion as a baseball pitcher to show the importance of loosening up the arm and following through.

One of them is Patrick Kangwa, in his fourth year as director of tennis at The Club at Rapallo at Coconut Point in Estero.

“The racket is really an extension of the hand. You should almost feel like the racket should fall out of your hand.”

Throwing a tennis ball also makes students bend the elbow to keep from having the windmill effect if the arm is held straight throughout the service motion.


A fastball and curve thrown by a pitcher is somewhat similar to a flat, hard serve and a slice serve, respectively, added the former Davis Cup team member and No. 1-ranked pro in his native Zambia who was previously with the Landings Yacht, Golf and Tennis Club in Fort Myers and the Dunes in Sanibel.

Getting your feet ready as the ball approaches is like “setting up a strike zone,” said Phil Milford, director of tennis at the Beach and Tennis Club across from Bonita Beach. “You want to move your feet while the ball is coming toward you to get set up.”

He added that a server has the option of jamming or taking the opponent out wide to either side, “very similar to what a baseball pitcher tries to do with where he tries to place his pitches.”

A baseball hitter trying to hit the ball to the opposite field, instead of pulling it, is like a tennis player slicing the ball instead of hitting it cross-court. Tennis pros see comparisons in dealing with a lob, like an outfielder preparing to catch a fly ball with runners on base.


“You want to make sure to set up a step or two behind where the ball will land or in hitting it on the fly, so your weight is moving forward a little to get a little more power, similar to an outfielder wanting to be already moving forward a little to get more on his throw back to the infielder,” said Milford, a Punta Gorda native who played for Port Charlotte High School and is in his ninth year at the club.

Like a baseball batter, trying to watch the ball hit the racket reaps benefits for tennis players, according to Jared Kalpin, director of tennis at the West Bay Beach & Golf Club in Estero.

“It may not be possible to actually see the impact but the goal is to watch it as it keeps the head down, and you don’t look up too quickly and affect the shot. Your legs may rise up a little bit if you had to bend down to hit somewhat of a short, low ball, but you should still try to hit smooth and keeping the head down helps.”

He points to pro superstar Roger Federer “as a great example. Especially when you watch him in slow motion, his head is down well after the time of contact.” The former No. 1 player for Fort Myers High School who was at the Bonita Bay Club and The Club at Grandezza prior to joining West Bay sees similarities in following through.

“In both sports, you try to bring the hips around in hitting the ball. You want them to go through the ball as it makes sure more body weight goes through the ball.”

Beyond the gates

Updates to LPGA Girls’ golf schedule: Stonebridge Country Club, Aug. 8, instead of Esplanade Golf & Country Club, Aug. 6, and Palmira Golf Club, Aug. 13, instead of West Bay Beach & Golf Club ... The Mike Calbot International Golf Academy at the Old Corkscrew Golf Club, Estero, offers special discounts on the Hole in One and Swing Caddy swing-impact training products through the end of July.