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.
Monthly Tennis Coaching Pointers - January 2019
Following on with our new 5 Tennis Tips feature to the Four Seasons Tennis Blog, today's new 5 tips are focused on the volley and net game.
In our modern tennis era, the net game has lost its way in singles match play. With new techniques and powerful racquets creating heavy spin and fast-paced shots, you don’t always get the time to get to the net and close the point.
In doubles, the net game is as strong as ever. Tactically you want to close the net and shut down the angles, which is easier for 2 players covering the doubles court.
For players wanting to add another element to their game, or those trying to sharpen their net play, these tips will help you achieve more when closer to the net.
Tennis Tip 1 – Get a Grip!
Use the same grip for both forehand and backhand volleys, that is, the continental grip (2).
If you’re changing between the eastern forehand grip (3) for forehand volleys, and eastern backhand grip (1) for backhand volleys, you don’t have time to set up the correct technique and be able to place the ball as well.
Tennis Tip 2 – Tisk, Tisk, Wrist
Keep your wrist firm and braced when playing a volley. Most other shots have a relaxed wrist for more racquet head speed.
Try not to choke the racquet, but don’t have a wet fish hand either.
Tennis Tip 3 – Two Left Feet?
Step the opposite foot to which side of the body you’re hitting the ball on. Push off the back leg and lean into the shot, stepping the front foot at moment of contact on the ball.
Right-handed players would push off the right foot and land with the left foot when playing a forehand volley.
Tennis Tip 4 – Chicken Wings
Keep the elbows in front of the body when waiting for the ball and split stepping, then open the racquet and punch the ball in front of your body.
Tennis Tip 5 – Close the Net
The closer you are to the net, the better the angle you can play. Don’t wait back on the service line all day. Move forward and put pressure on the opponent. However, if you stand too close to the net for too long, or at the wrong time, you leave yourself open for lobs.
Thank you for reading. If you have any requests please let me know :)
Aim to land your split step a moment after your opponent hits the ball. You want to be at the height of the jump when they contact the ball, then land in the split momentarily afterwards. This timing can be tricky at first but will help you with the momentum to move into position for the shot to come.
Rafael Nadal doing a split step before hitting his trademark forehand.
Tennis Tip 2 – Bend Your Knees on the Serve
When throwing the ball for the serve, start bending your knees when the throwing arm starts rising. You should get to the lowest part of the bend when the ball reaches its peak then drive upwards to start hitting the ball.
Notice Pete Sampras’ smooth knee bend on the serve, one of the greatest ever!
The Sampras and Federer serves are things of beauty!
Once you’ve hit a groundstroke, forehand or backhand, and are recovering back into position, push off with the outside leg and crossover before side-stepping and doing the split step. This is a fast and balanced way to recover.
Watch Nishikori crossover his steps after a winning forehand.
Watch Andy Murray practice movement and footwork. Notice the crossover steps.
As soon as you know you’re hitting a forehand or backhand, turn your torso to the hitting side and watch the ball come from over your shoulder. This unit turn of the upper body will generate power as you turn back into the contact point and will help with balance. Your shoulders shouldn’t face the net all the time.
Serena Williams shoulder turn before massive forehand.
Wawrinka shoulder turn for both forehand and backhand.
Ideally, when you close the net for the volley you want to contact the ball above the net height. This gives you more angles to put the ball away and force the opponent to hit a ball from below the net height.
Pat Rafter hitting a volley above the net height, then Rafter digging out a low volley.
Next month there will be 5 more tips to work on. Keep on training!
The social will run from 12-2pm on Sundays with refreshments on the day. There will be 2 divisions based on age/standard of play and each player will have at least 3 matches and a mix of singles and doubles. A coach will be there to organise who is playing who and keep things running smoothly.
We recommend the Junior Social to players who have had lessons for a while and can rally and serve. 2nd serve underarm is allowed if needed for younger kids.
5 weeks is discounted $75.
Casual days costs $20
You can bring cash on the first day.
27 Oct - 3 Nov - 10 Nov - 17 Nov - 24 Nov
Bookings to be made by 25th October 2018.
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