Tennis drills and frequent practice to help hone your ball placement, speed, and endurance can really boost your level of play. Check out these tennis drills to learn more.
The key to any type of success is through repetition and tennis drills are no different from those in other sports. You may not have the fortitude to practice for as long or as hard as the best players in the game, but there are many different mechanics you can work on with nothing more than an automated tennis ball machine and an open court. Athletes use simple tennis drills to improve their conditioning, as tennis is a sport that rewards muscular endurance over time. Many of the advantages of working with a ball machine are psychological as well as physical:
- It will increase your confidence
- It will make you focus on the placement of your feet and hands
- It will improve your ability to place the ball’s path before you even hit it
About the only downside, compared to practicing with another person, is that a ball machine is not capable of as much variety in speed or direction as you’ll get when you hit with another person. Although many of the best tennis ball machines are close to simulating a real opponent, firing shots close to the net, and then to the baseline, with varying speeds and spin levels, it’s still not quite the same as having a real live opponent on the other side of the net. However, rarely will you find someone willing to hit you hundreds of balls so that you can get the essential practice time in. That’s where the ball machine comes in. Tennis drills using a ball machine will greatly improve your game.
First Things First: Work On Your Forehand
The most powerful weapon in your arsenal of shots should also be the simplest one. Working on a forehand cross-court shot utilizes more muscular power than any other shot in the game and will baffle opponents expecting a soft volley. If you are a left-handed shot, put cones (or some other type of target) around the left side of the automated ball thrower, if you are a right handed shot place them on the opposite side.
- Work on hitting at the long angle of a cross-court shot for accuracy first, hitting with as much precision as possible and knocking down the cones.
- Once you are happy with your shot placements, begin working for power. It is difficult to measure your shot power without a speedometer, but you can indirectly tell by how far a ball bounces once it hits a cone or the court.
- If you have any energy left, hit for endurance. Think about your mid-game strategy, wearing your opponent down by picking the corners again and again.
On forehand shots, remember your footwork: always keep your feet moving. Once you have finished your cross-court shot, work on getting direct-line shots. Position yourself at the opposite side of the net that you hit from and run towards the center. Good direct-line tennis drills emphasize reaction time, anticipation, and foot speed. A final forehand drill can be hitting from side to side, in order to get the maximum rotation possible from your shot. Each time,
- Hit for accuracy
- Hit for power
- and finally, hit for endurance
Practice a forehand drill for at least half an hour to ensure your muscles begin anaerobic respiration.
Back to Basics With The Backhand
On backhand shots, the accuracy is much more difficult, and some tennis players prefer to spend more time mastering their ability to hit a certain point rather than deliver good power. There is no “right” way to deliver a backhand, but remember that in game situations your backhand will have less power than your dominant hand shot. With your backhand shot tennis drills, it is crucial to
- Keep your feet moving constantly
- Follow through with your shot
- Bring your arms back across your body to neutral position rapidly enough to receive the next volley.
Backhand shots, furthermore, are more difficult to hit, as you have slightly less coordination with your non-dominant hand (as an example, try tossing a tennis ball straight up with your non-dominant hand compared to your dominant hand). The non-dominant hand provides more power on backhand shots, so it is wise to work up your conditioning.
Alternate! Alternate! Alternate!
Of course, no game situation will have you repeatedly hitting forehands and backhands at a stationary spot. A sliding drill is a good way to keep your cardio level up and your reactions high. It is simple — just run back and forth to alternate forehand and backhand (some machines can do this manually, but you get a better workout if you adjust on the court).
Normally you would not run around your backhand or forehand shot. You see this with a lot of beginners who are not comfortable hitting a backhand shot so if there’s time they’ll quickly run past the direction of the ball to hit a forehand and avoid hitting a backhand. However for this type of endurance drill, running around shots that the tennis ball machine is firing to the middle will help improve your quickness and accuracy.
When you alternate your shots, the key is accuracy, rather than conditioning: you already get endurance workouts from the stationary drills, so focus on getting the ball to the exact spot you need each time rather than building up your shoulders and arms.
Volley Fire Keeps It Going
All tennis drills are conditioning drills if they are done long enough, but to truly simulate the rigors of back-and-forth combat you can use approach and volley drills to change up the routine. These types of drills involve hitting two or more shots. First run up to the first ball fired at you from the tennis ball machine and hit it with all your power, then take the second, as a volley (either on your forehand or backhand).
You can continue repeating the drill by dropping back to the baseline and running a two-ball drill again, or continue to take the incoming shots as volleys. While the first shot should always be maximum power, the next ones should focus on precision and accuracy to avoid tiring you out.
What Is A Complete Workout?
If you are just starting out or have little experience playing tennis, do not overload yourself: use two or three full hoppers of balls (most tennis ball machines hold about one hundred to one hundred fifty balls with some having capacity for 300) and call it quits for the day. Take breaks as you need to. Your cardio will improve the more you practice.
If you are a more seasoned veteran of the game, try to get one full machine of balls per drill without stopping. If you have a ball machine that holds 300 balls for example you can do 100 forehand ground shots, 100 backhand ground shots, and 100 alternate corner shots. The key areas to target during practice are deep in the corners, deep in the center, and near to the service box by the sidelines. You want to place all of your shots in one of these five locations to force your opponent to move as far as possible as fast as possible, and either tire him out or force him to miss a volley return.
It can take about ten minutes to empty a machine hopper, meaning that a full workout going over all these tennis drills may take anywhere between one to two hours, which includes ball pickup time. If you want to add a cool twist to boost your cardio, try to pick up the tennis balls as quickly as possible, running as needed.
Do these tennis drills a couple of times per week, or more if you have the time, and watch your game improve significantly.