Tennis footwork is an often overlooked area for beginner players and even some intermediate players. Many focus on the upper body and arm movements but neglect the importance of moving to a ball, being in the correct position to hit the ball and recover efficiently.
Use on the split-step religiously is the best start for every shot. The trick is the timing of when to do it.
If playing from the baseline you want to be mid-air when the opponent makes contact with the ball so the split-step lands a moment after contact.
If you or the opponent are playing from the net your reaction time is a lot less so you want to make the landing of the spilt step at the same time contact is made.
Once you've done the split-step, you know which direction to move. Make the first step with the foot in which direction that is.
So, if its a forehand you need to play, step right with the right foot and continue to the ball (right-handers)
This step with help initially tur the hips and shoulder and assist the take-back of the racquet.
My coach used to say "make some noise with those feet!". As you get close to the ball, shuffle and make little adjustment steps to the position before loading to hit.
Chances are if you take one big step for a ball you won't be in the right position. If you make lots of little steps you will more precise in your positioning.
Here are some footwork positions for different shots. All are assuming you're a right-hander.
Open stance - Right leg load. For wide/defence and neutral balls. Return of serve.
Semi-open stance - Right to left load. Neutral/attack balls
Closed stance - Left leg load. Attack balls.
Closed stance - Right leg load. For Wide, defence neutral and attack balls. Return of service if possible.
Open stance - Left leg load. Wide and defence balls. Return of serve.
Closed stance - Left foot for forehand volley, right foot for the backhand volley.
Open stance - Try not to use unless desperate and can't reach the ball with the closed stance.
Now the shot has been made, you want to recover back to the middle of the two extreme angles the opponent can hit too. Ideally, push off the outside leg propelling you back and side gallop until you have to split step again.
Next time you play, try to implement some of these tennis tips and I'm sure you be floating like a butterfly all over the court, just like Federer.
This article will give you a simple tactical game plan to get you over the line in your next match. Keeping your strategy simple when playing matches is key. It’s easy to get disheartened when expectations are too high and you will ultimately end up losing the match.
Strategy 1 - Strengths and Weaknesses
Tennis players approach their matches in different ways. Some just hit and hope. Some over think their game plan, making it too complex, thus becoming negative in their approach when they can’t accomplish their goals. Some work out their opponents weaknesses and use their strengths to exploit them. The last approach is the best and most likely to pay dividends. It is also the first strategy I want you to implement in your next match.
Look for these obvious weaknesses in your opponent:
Strategy 2 - First Serve
The second strategy is to get the first serve in to play. The returner is mentally on the back foot for the first serve, and you’re under less pressure. Take advantage of the mental pressure the opponent is feeling by being consistent and making them play the ball every time.
You can build this consistency by:
Strategy 3 - Crosscourt
The third strategy is to hit crosscourt. Don’t even think about hitting down the line. This simple placement strategy will keep you in the point and still allow you to attack. This crosscourt strategy works particularly well on the return of serve because it puts you in the point and neutralises your opponent therefore setting up a level playing field.
Be aware that it can become an easy read for your opponent after a while. If you pull your opponent wide or see them lagging to get back into recovery position then you can hit down the line to the open court to keep them honest.
The crosscourt shot is a high percentage shot because there is more length of court to hit to and the ball travels over the lowest part of the net. Also your body is naturally rotating crosscourt.
Crosscourt hitting is the essence of percentage tennis, which every tennis payer should aim for.
Some tips for hitting crosscourt:
Use this simple game plan to take into your next match. It is easy to execute and will definitely steer you towards a win:
If you have a hitting partner or someone to practice with and want some variety and direction, try the 3 drills following.
Lets get straight into it.
First up if you missed Part 1 check out the Hitting Partner Drills click here.
Lets get straight into it.
This drill is one of my favourites to do but also to watch how players hangle it. Figure 8's teaches recovery, timing, shot selection, fitness, and brutal toughness to just keep going and retrieve one more ball! The drill is very difficult to do well and takes a lot of practice. Your heart rate will shoot up within a couple of minutes so stagger the drill timing. Maybe 4-10 rallies then 30 sec rest.
Using the full singles court Player A can only hit down the line (DTL) and player B can only hit crosscourt (CC). The result is the ball does figure 8’s around the court. Practice hitting CC and DTL for 10-15 minutes each.
Start by rallying the ball and setting goals of how many rotations you can get. Every 4 balls equal 1 rotation. Start slow, aim for 3-4 rotations and build up from there. As your consistency improves you want to be getting 6-10 rotations more often than not.
This will build stamina, fitness and consistency.
Same format of drill however you play the point out. If you’re hitting DTL the ball must bounce in that zone otherwise it’s out. Score mini sets of first to 11 then swap shots CC with DTL.
Give a goal of rotations before the point can be played out. Example: You have to play 3 rotations then play the point out in the figure 8 format. Score mini sets of first to 11 then swap shots CC with DTL
The same progressions and formats can be played with the baseline/ground stroker vs volleyer. The baseline player will have to work overtime.
It’s a dog eat dog world and a simple rule in tennis is play your strengths against your opponents weaknesses. That’s what I want you to think about with this drill.
90% of tennis players have a stronger forehand (FH) than backhand (BH). Most players work this out pretty quickly about their opponent and of course hit most balls there during a match.
This drill is all about that scenario.
Feeding the ball into play you only have 2 simple rules:
1. Full singles court
2. You can only win the point on a FH shot
That means hit it to your opponents BH as much as possible. If they start waiting on the BH side too much play to the FH to keep them honest. This will help open up the court for the next shot anyway.
You want to be looking for the FH. Any balls in the middle of the court or you think you can run around, do it! If want practice getting the feet around balls, playing the off FH, inside out and inside in FH. Become the aggressor and force them to play BHs all day long, but remember they’ll be doing the same to you.
In the diagram, you can see when you play a deep shot to the opponents BH, if their return isn’t deep/wide enough back you can it a FH. Work on your anticipation and have fast feet. The area in blue is where you should be able to hit a FH if you want.
This is the key for BH defence is to hit it the ball early and out in front. If you can’t do that there is no hope of hitting a decent crosscourt ball and you’ll be giving the opponent a FH. Any late BHs are likely to be in the hitting zone shown in red.
When you get around the ball and are able to play a forehand, instead of being able to play it anywhere, it must be played DTL.
This means 2 things.
The first is you have to set yourself up to be able to hit FH they’ll struggle to get to. If the opponent is already standing in the middle of the court when you hit the DTL it’s an easy CC shot for them and you’re immediately on the back foot, playing a BH. You set it up by pulling the opponent wide on that BH, try to get their feet past the singles line, and then pounce on the FH DTL.
Every tennis coach has done some version of this drill sometime in their life. Protect/Attack/Defence (PAD) teaches players about:
PAD is played full court singles, one on one. You need to call a word before you contact a ball describing what kind of shot you’re playing. You can use Protect (Orange), Attack (Green) or DEfence (Red). Some prefer to say colours in this drill. In the diagram below, you can see the general areas r what shot needs to be played.
The RED AREA is generally the defencive zone. Often you pulled out wide or playing balls off the back foot. When playing from these areas give yourself time to get back into position by giving the ball clearance over the net and slow the ball down by using spin. The ORANGE AREA if the neutral zone. You might come up with some strong hots from here but in all likelihood the opponent will be able to retrieve most returns. Stay in the rally from here by hitting deep and making the opponent play at least an Orange or Red ball.
THe GREEN AREA is the attack zone. If you’re pulled into the court you have to do something with this ball. you bodyweight is already moving forwards into the shot so take advantage. Remember the closer you get to the net the more angles you can play.
Progression - Competition
Once you have the hang of it, add some points into the drill.
This make you think before pulling the trigger. Too many players attack at the wrong time or change their technique on the attack shot. This leads to unforced errors. A winner or true attack shot is when you notice to opponent is out of position or on the defence, and you capitalize.
These drills will boost your game if practiced regularly with your hitting partner. Our coaches do these drills and many of the same caliber during private lessons and adaptations for our group classes.
There are many variations for each of the drills above. This is a starting point but you can change rules or goal to suit your needs. Remember you want to be specific with your training and keep progressing. Don't just hit full court for an hour and call it a training session.
Click here if you’re interested in private lessons at Four Seasons Tennis or if want to check out our coaches out beforehand here they are.
Keep the practice up!
Four Seasons Tennis
In this article we look at some exciting drills for hitting partners who do the same old stuff week in and week out. Give your game some direction, objectives and strategies!
Most intermediate tennis players I coach have a hitting partner they train with at least once a week. This gives them an opportunity to practice the technique or tactics we’ve been working on at that week’s tennis lesson.
Having a hitting partner is the most cost effective way of improving your tennis shots, for you and your partner as well.
In this first edition of quality drills for hitting partners we’re going back to the old saying KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Some try to get too fancy too soon. If you can’t keep long rallies at simple angles, you need to work on that first. Some of the drills can be performed with a ball machine but I’ve written them out in a partner format.
Crosscourt is your bread and butter. To be able to stay in a match for more than 2 shots you need to have a solid crosscourt shot.
The benefits of a crosscourt ball are more length of court to hit to, you hit over the lowest part of the net and with the body naturally turns across the court. More importantly for the intermediate/advanced player is that you don’t have to recover as far as if you played a down the line ball. This will be explained further in our court positioning post coming soon.
The Tennis Drill:
Place a cone or drink bottle in opposite corners of the court about 1 metre in from the baseline and single lines. Simply try and hit the bottle on the other side of the court. You’re looking at rallying 20 balls in a row. The bounce should be in the vicinity on the bottle, or at least deep than the service line. A 20 ball rally is a benchmark you should aim for.
To add a competitive element to the drill play first to hit the others bottle over 5 times.
Rally 4 balls crosscourt then the point starts. Then rally 6 balls then play, then 8 etc. Aim for 20 ball rally then play the point. You can score if you want.
Tennis matches are won and lost on unforced errors, not winners as some like to play. Getting the ball in one more time, even as a lob or soft shot is better than hitting an all or nothing last ditch hit.
The Tennis Drill:
1 - Have one player covering doubles court and the other on singles as shown by the red rectangles. Same rules apply with strikes etc.
2 - Add rule if you win on a volley you can minus a point off the strike score.
This one is for the double players out there. Most weekly tennis competitions around these days have a doubles and single element and this is a great drill for teaching when to get to the net and play a strong volley under pressure.
Doubles tactic numero uno, get to the net. I see a lot of social doubles and too many people either hang back at the baseline or in ‘no man’s land’. Generally social payers start in the neutral doubles positioning of one person at the net and one on the baseline. From here any short ball that pulls you into the court or if you hit a strong enough ball to get the other players out of position, or give yourself enough time to get to the net, get to the net. If you have the option of hitting to a baseliner as opposed to a net player you should nearly always play to the baseliner.
The Tennis Drill:
Within tennis training there are an infinite number of drills and variations. These are just a few of many more to come. I hope you have enjoyed these drills and keep on the lookout for more to come.
If you have any questions please let me know in the comment section.