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As with so many sports, improving your tennis skills largely boils down to your ability to constantly return to and refine the fundamentals. There are certain aspects of tennis that you just can’t bypass if you want to take your game to a high level. Let’s talk about 3 core tennis fundamentals that ultimately serve as the basis of your long-term success.
How well you move your feet in tennis is perhaps the most critical factor in your skill level. Most beginning and intermediate players are unable to consistently hit with power and control because they simply don’t move their feet enough. If you want to play at a 4.5 level or above, it’s really important to improve your footwork over time.
This is really what separates elite players from the rest of the pack. If you watch pros hit the ball, you’ll notice that they are constantly in motion. Their feet are bouncing up and down the whole time they are on the court. Contrarily, if you watch beginners and amateurs play, there tends to be a lot of standing around waiting for the ball to come to them.
One of the things that good footwork enables you to do is to be proactive instead of reactive. If your feet move well, you’ll get to balls earlier and you’ll put your opponent under more pressure. You’ll be the one dictating the quality of play.
Last night, I played a league match against a player who prides himself on getting all of his shots back. He would classically be defined as a pusher, which is someone who just keeps the ball in play and waits for the other player to make a mistake.
He told me that he was undefeated in league play up to that point, but I was able to beat him 6-1, 6-1. How did I do this? Well, I was moving my feet constantly, making sure there was a lot of energy in my legs and that I didn’t allow myself to get lulled into the pusher’s trance, where you just kind of follow along what they do and get everything back.
Instead, I put a lot of pressure on him and hit the ball with a lot of spin and power. This kept him off balance which caused him to hit a lot of errors. I dictated play and constantly had him under pressure. The funny thing is I used to lose against players like this precisely because I didn’t move my feet enough. Now I notice that as long as my movement is good, I can handle pushers with relative ease.
Balance and Coordination
If your footwork is solid, you’ll automatically be more balanced and coordinated on the court. These 2 factors—footwork and balance—really go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other.
Tennis has a lot more to do with balance than most players realize. Most beginning and intermediate players hit the majority of their shots off balance. The most common form of being out of balance is hitting off the back foot. A lot of players find that their weight is moving backward as they hit, in an attempt to keep the ball under control. The problem is that hitting off the back foot tends to lessen your control over the ball. In particular, if you find that you’re hitting a lot of balls long, it probably means that your weight is falling backward and that your head is lifting prematurely (before you make contact with the ball) in an attempt to see where the ball is landing.
Others tend to splay one leg out to the side as they hit, and their body weight follows suit, so they end up hitting the ball wide a lot.
One of the habits I have developed is to ask myself before every shot, ‘am I in balance?’ I don’t actually have the exact thought in my mind every shot, but I do check in really fast and make sure that my feet are centered where I want them, that my weight is moving forward, and that I’m keeping my head down until I make contact. Having this basic checklist in mind has been huge for maintaining consistency, even against big hitters.
If you have a good serve, you’ll find that it can compensate for a ton of weaknesses in your game. The tennis serve really is the most important tennis stroke. Especially at a 4.0 level and below, what’s most important is to simply practice consistency and get the ball in time and time again.
For a lot of 4.0 players and below, the serve never becomes a weapon because they are too worried about double faulting. Don’t worry about developing a fancy or super-powerful serve until you’re rock solid consistent and you have easily hit 9 out of 10 second serves in when you practice. Once you’re at that level, then you can start adding some variety to your serve.
This becomes very important at a 4.5 level and above. What separates players at this level is that they not only have a consistent serve, but they have a ton of variety as well. They know how to:
• Hit with pace and power using a flat serve
• Slice it in with our without pace
• Hit high kick serves
• Play the angles and position the serve effectively
Having such a diverse array of serving options keeps your opponent off balance. Knowing how to serve in this way is the hallmark of an intelligent player.
Keep focusing on these 3 tennis fundamentals and see for yourself how dramatically they impact your game! Even after many years of playing, these are 3 core areas of tennis that I constantly bring attention to and try to refine.
I have been playing tennis since I was 6 years old and have always had a passion for the game. Tennis continues to be a big part of my life, as I play 4-5 times a week. My goal is to spread the word about this amazing sport and help you take your game to the next level starting now.Read More >>