The ground stroke--generally defined as the shot made from near the base line or back line--is the most fundamental in tennis. More than 75 percent of the shots made during play are either forehands or backhands. Let's examine the forehand first, since it's the one shot I haven't really changed since I learned it growing up in Czechoslovakia.

Thinking in simple terms will be helpful in developing a sound forehand as well as an efficient overall game. Unnecessary movements with the racket and the body increase the margin for error. Since you do not want to create unforced mistakes, keep it simple.

There are three major elements of the forehand drive: preparing, hitting and finishing.

You must be aware of how to hold the racket before preparing to hit the forehand. The grip most good players use when making a forehand is one in which the "V" formed by your thumb and first finger is directly on top of the handle (known as the Eastern grip).

Next, stand in the ready position; that is, face the net while holding the racket in front of you. Support the racket by placing your nonhitting hand on its "throat." Bend your knees so you are loose and bouncy.

Anticipating the need to hit a forehand, turn the hips and racket face parallel to the sideline. The shoulders should be turned sideways, knees bent and hips coiled. Always keep the elbow bent during your backswing. Never bring the racket into the hitting position with a stiff extended arm (see photo).

Hitting the ball is the next step. As the ball bounces, step forward (make sure you are not too close) in a 45-degree angle direction. Since the elbow was bent during the backswing, you now have to extend it. Stretch the elbow toward the ball and make contact over or slightly in front of the forward knee.

Finishing the stroke is the last step. After hitting the ball, continue pushing the racket head toward the net. Thinking about a clock is helpful. Imagine starting the drive at six, sweeping counter-clockwise and finishing at 11 o'clock. It is important to stretch forward during your follow-through.