Tennis is a great sport not only for staying in shape but also for social interraction. That’s why learning tennis is, for many, a way of life – I’ve seen 40 year old people picking up tennis for the first time and admitting that it became their new “addiction”: taking lots of lessons and even enrolling into local tournaments very early.
But as enjoyable as it can be, learning new skills might be boring to some. And that can be due to many reasons: the teacher/coach is not enthusiastic, they find the lessons repetitive and boring, too much instruction (“paralysis by analysis”) or just lack of coordination on their part. Learning tennis must be done through the right amount of technical knowledge and, most importantly, fun drills and games.
As a tennis coach I’ve tried to implement in my lessons a good balance between the right amount of technical information and always make room for the fun activities.
Following is a list of “some” of my students’ favourite tennis drills and games that add variety and enjoyment to learning tennis:
– Fifty (video) is an excellent drill that promotes ground-strokes consistency. It can be done by two players who just learned how to keep a basic rally. The two rally while counting how many times the ball travels over the net. The winner will get a number of points equal to the number or times the ball passed over the net. They continue and add the numbers until one of the players reaches fifty. I personally like it because it improves the players’ ground-strokes consistency while enjoying a friendly competition.
– High Tap (video) – to improve serve contact point and timing. It is for beginning and even intermediate level players to get a good feel of how high the contact between ball and racquet should happen when serving. All a player needs is a high fence, a ball and racquet.
– You vs Basket (video) is another fun drill that pretty much teaches a player how to play a regular match except that he will not compete against a player; someone will feed balls to him. The feeder will ask the player to return a certain number of balls to get a point (e.g. for five balls in, the player receives 15 – 0; failing to do that would result in 0 – 15). Playing this game is good not only for learning how to keep score (beginners) but also to improve ground-strokes (rally) under pressure.
– Game Over (video) is a great way to stay in shape while practicing forehand and backhand ground-strokes. A feeder will send balls side to side for a player who practices this drill from the baseline. The feeding continues until the player gets exhausted chasing the balls side to side or until she says “game over!”. Excellent for all level players.
– Bounce It (video) is one of my favourite games to introduce to beginning players even from their first lesson. It develops great hand-eye coordination, good exercise and lots of fun. Players get comfortable controlling the ball and racquet. In short, there are two or more players opposite sides and they will pass the ball over the net avoiding to have the ball roll on their side. If the ball rolls on their court the opponent receives a point. While the ball is in their court the players can bounce the ball on the racquet or down, then, whenever ready, to hit it over the net. Touching the ball by hand is not allowed; only racquet.
– Plus 20 (video) is another rally game that beginning players would enjoy. This must be played against a more experienced tennis partner. The beginning player is required to rally with his partner; for every ball hit over the net and inside the singles court he will receive +1 point until he reaches +20. But if a mistake is made (hits the net or out) the player loses two points (-2). It is a good drill/game to improve ground-strokes consistency under a little bit of pressure.
These are just some of the fun drills and games beginning players can enjoy but there are many more which you can discover looking through the WebTennis24’s coaches section.
Enjoy learning tennis!
Certified Tennis Teaching Professional
Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.
This the part 3 of “If I could write about 1 thing to make your tennis better, what would it be?” (see part 1 and part 2)
76. “best backhand return from the deuce court to avoid the net man poaching.” (in doubles) – Hitting inside-out backhands from the deuce side to avoid the net player is a tough task indeed. Have you tried to hit the backhands hard at the net player? If you do that he/she might not want to poach knowing that the ball will come in her direction next time. Just make sure you let your net partner know that you’ll hit the backhand return at the net player so that he/she gets ready to react to the opposing net player’s reply. If you have a weak backhand you could consider lobbing your return of serve. Overall, communicating with your partner in regard to your return intention is key in doubles so that he/she knows what to expect also.
77. “If I had to ‘make a wish’ it would be for court geometry and the building of points.” – We have a great section at WebTennis24.com where the court geometry in singles and doubles is covered. Check it out!
78. “How to play the net position in doubles.” – According to your level of performance, there are certain positioning tactics and roles you should assume when playing at the net. See the Tennis Tactics for Singles and Tennis Tactics for Doubles for in-depth lessons and tips for playing at the net in doubles.
79. “I would like to see what the pros “see and think” during an exchange. Example: I hit a hard ball to the forehand corner of my opponent and I start to come in. Often I would at where my ball is landing and then see my opponents coming in my field of vision just in time to hit the ball on the run. Last summer I was pass down the line like that and I realised that had no clue about what was coming. If I had watched my opponent earlier, I would have seen that he was running parallel to the line and not coming in slightly in diagonal. Running at full speed like that the probability of hitting a good crosscourt were low (at my level at least, 3.5-4.0). I am sure that there is a lot of time where I’m not watching what and where I should be watching. I try to watch the racquet of my opponent too see pass or lob, hard shot or drop shot but there must me more to that. What does the pros sees?” – I think that you are on your way to achieving a good read for your opponents’ body language and anticipation. The fact that you are asking and paying attention to that, in time you will get better. The pros all started as you are right now – paying attention and analyzing their opponents’ movement and racquet path just before contact, got better the more they played. Pay attention to your court position too; it can cut the angles and put you closer to the next ball.
80. “How to control the distance from the ball and the timing.” – Check the answer no. 66, here.
81. “Doubles strategy” – I would say, everything you need about doubles strategy and tactics you can find in the Doubles Tennis Tactics section where you’ll learn how to play different types of teams, players, how to serve, when to poach, and so much more.
82. “Hitting mid-court volleys (I play a lot of doubles) with pace and depth. Should I hit a swinging volley?” – The swinging volleys are great and I personally like to use them a lot in my doubles matches (and singles too). The key is to time your swing and make contact with the ball chest or shoulder high. If the ball drops below net level don’t think about hitting a drive volley…
83. “I play doubles mostly and I believe I have every aspect of the game except being able to volley from mid court. Hence, my serve and volleys are not that effective unless I get closer to the net such as midway into the service box. This is not always possible given that sometimes the ball comes back at my feet right after I land into the court. What should I do?” – You can do the following: 1) stay back after the serve and advance to the net on the next shot 2) develop a better half-volley (bend the knees and work on your balance)
84. “psychology and strategy” – For strategy see the answer at no. 81. Some interesting (I hope) articles in regard to how to “see” every tennis stroke I wrote in the Mental Tennis section at WebTennis24.com. You might find it very interesting.
85. “I would write about drills to improve preparation and reaction time.” – My suggestion is for you to consciously practice (not during a match) the following: as soon as you recognize the ball coming to a certain side (e.g. forehand) turn the shoulders and get the racquet set behind the ball before it bounces on your side of the court. Stay low during the rally so you can have a good balance. In regard to reaction, you can find lots of drills in the Speed & Conditioning section at WebTennis24.com. Consistent practice creates habits. Do it often in practice and it will become automatic in the match.
86. “My biggest help would be in constructing points. Knowing what shots to hit and when.” – This is a plan I have for future; stay in touch! 🙂
87. “In a word, ANTICIPATION.” – The anticipation in tennis has a lot to do with your knowledge of court positioning and body language (based on which you can tell your opponent’s shot selection). With conscious analysis of the two aspects you’ll be able to anticipate more and more of your opponents’ intentions.
88. “How to be more aggressive. I find myself not taking a chance, especially poaching at the net or hitting the ball as hard as I know I can. I always lay off for the safe shot or just stand at the net, afraid to take a chance for fear of missing the point or upsetting my partner.” – These two aspects (missing a shot and upsetting our partner) are what hold us from playing tennis at full potential. I can tell you that at the end of the match you’ll feel worse if you hold back than upsetting your partner. After all, if you partner does not understand your effort than you should look out for a different one. It is also important that you can communicate with your partner letting him/her know that you want to play aggressively and therefore sometimes you might make a mistake. Find a partner that understands and is willing to work with you. It is no use to continue playing with fear of missing or upsetting someone. Tennis is meant to be enjoyed and progress to be made. There is no progress playing in the comfort zone!
89. “Return of serve from backhand side to include returning kick serves.” – It depends of how much kick the server can deliver: how high the ball bounces and how fast. Also you should specify whether you hit a one-handed or two-handed backhand. You can control the kick serves better with two-hands while the one-handed backhand are more difficult. Position yourself further back to gain more time, wait for the ball to lower and lose some of its speed. Mostly, as with any kind of extra-spin serves, make sure you avoid blocking the ball; instead try hitting hard through the ball to counteract the force of the spin.
91. “Is there one part of a swing motion (forehand for instance) that all players do the same if the result is the same?” – Most of the top players have some common elements that allow them to hit the ball with more power and control. One of them is the short back-swing. Prepare the racquet behind the incoming ball and avoid any unnecessary movements. Find the most effective way for you to hit the ball early and relaxed.
92. “Backhand (two-hand) down the line.” – For sending the ball down the line (regardless of forehand and backhand) wait for the ball to get closer to you (hit it a bit late) and you’ll find yourself directing it down the line with ease. The opposite is true: hitting the ball early allows you to send the ball cross-court.
93. “I would be glad to fasten my backhand stroke (two hands).” – Work on hitting the ball early, keep your hands relaxed on the grip, loosen your strings tension… and mostly understand the difference between pulling the racquet versus pushing it through the ball. Pulling it gives you more power than pushing the racquet through.
94. “Maybe a checklist of skills and tactics. Sometimes people don’t work on things simply because they aren’t thinking of them. For example, slicing from the baseline – high, medium, low. And when/why to choose this shot.” – Excellent ideas; great material for future. Thank you!
95. “I would be grateful if you would address the use of the front leg in creating proper North-South and East-West distance from the ball (if not hitting from an open stance).” – To be honest, I am not that detailed in regard to footwork. I think it should be as natural as possible and not have to think too much while striking the ball. In my opinion, short steps and good balance, are more important than the angle and distance the feet are from the ball. There are many coordination, speed and balance exercises at both WebTennis24.com and WebTennisDrills.com – apply them at least 3 times per week and you’ll see the improvement in this area.
96. “How to stop choking! My son (17 years old) often is up a set and a break, then finds a way to lose the match. He also can be up 40-0 or 40-15 and end up going to deuce or worse. Helping him learn to close out games, sets and matches is something I’d love to hear more about. Thanks!” – I’ve talked about this subject; please check no. 13, at this page.
97. “Regarding your question: as for my daughter it definitely would be footwork. My daughter started training more intensively approx 1.5 years ago when she was already almost 13 y.o. She improves quickly since we started training 5-6h weekly instead 1-2h previously but footwork is the biggest pain point for now. You have many drills in this area but we would use even more. In particular: – drills for tennis movement patterns – to transition from just running on the court to typical tennis movements – drills to start moving towards ball earlier (anticipate better) – separation of legs movement and swing (or I would say performing them in parallel with right timing and rhythm). She often starts swing, then movement and then it is too late – drills to improve the habit to return to court center.” – Some of the drills you mention are at WebTennis24.com and WebTennisDrills.com already but I’ll make some notes for future videos also.
98. “How do I handle the high balls? How do I practice to hit on the rise?” – Timing is key in hitting high balls on the rise. You can easily practice them asking a tennis partner or a local coach to feed you some high balls. Technically, prepare early and try making contact with them chest or shoulder level, swinging up and across the body (some call it windshield wiper motion). Imagine your rolling the strings over and across the ball. Hit them with confidence. In regard to footwork, try shortening your steps as you get close to the ball. It will help you with timing and balance.
99. “WHETHER YOU ARE A BEGINNER, AN AVERAGE OR AN ADVANCED PLAYER YOU ARE MOST LIKELY TO TENSE YOURSELF IN CRITICAL MATCH SITUATIONS. WHAT WOULD IT BE YOUR BEST ADVICE TO MAINTAIN OURSELVES LOOSE AND PERFORM ACCORDINGLY ( SPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO OUR GRIP AND ARM TENSION) IN THESE BIG POINTS…?” – This too I’ve answered in the previous posts; check the answers here and here.
100. “Cosmin, rec players like myself sometimes go through an entire 3 set match repeating the same mistakes….like not finishing the forehand swing….or forgetting to hit up & out on my serve…. or trying to use my legs more etc. After years of frustration, I now have a short ” movie script” ( a screenplay) of things I need to do and I watch this movie a minimum of 3 times before I step on the court. This is a specific “visualization” tip, but will only work if the student takes the time to make the script and then be disciplined enough to review it before picking up a racquet!” – I have the feeling that you are focusing too much on the technical part, during a match, when you should be focusing instead on tactics. All the things you have mentioned should be worked on in practice – have a coach or sparring partner feed balls or rally with you while focusing on the technical aspects. After you go through a lot of repetition (in practice) you’ll find them just happening, out of the habits you created, during the match. Do not work on your technical aspects while playing a match.
At the beginning of the year (2016) I sent a simple question to over 10,000 tennis players, coaches and tennis parents: “If I could write about 1 thing to make your tennis better, what would it be?”
There are many players and coaches who strive for good and straight-to-the-point information. Now that I’ve been playing tennis for over 28 years and taught this wonderful sport, full time, for almost 13 years, it would a great pleasure of mine to share my knowledge.
Below you’ll find the answers that people wrote in response to the question that was presented (above) to them. I’ve tried my best to give them my honest answers hoping to clarify the issues and giving solutions to improving their tennis.
I’d have to mention that some of the answers I provided below are already presented in great detail on my website. Some issues are going to be the material for future articles / videos, and the ones I could give my straight opinion are there to be read and debated (which I strongly advise you to do whether you agree with me or not).
So here are the next 25 requests (click here for first 50 Q&A) that tennis players and coaches would like to find out more about:
51. “When I am playing I still find the toughest thing to do consistently is to keep my focus. I think I’m focusing, but after a shot I realize that I wasn’t ready or I didn’t watch the ball. There is another issue that seems to be related. When I get into a rally I sometimes freeze up and miss a shot which I have hit thousands of with no problem in practice. It seems to be a lack of confidence or an incidence of panic. I don’t seem to relax and trust my strokes.” – Some of the tips to answer your concern can be found here (check no. 13). In regard to missing shots that you’ve practiced a lot outside of competition… it will happen. And that’s because playing under pressure is obviously different: we tend to get impatient trying to finish the point, our movements are more tense and our eyes tend to stay on too many targets under pressure (ball, where the opponent is, court openings, net etc.). One tip I could give you in playing more relaxed and with confidence is to stop worrying too much about the outcome of the match. For many years, I played tournaments where after I won matches I went home disappointed for the poor performance despite the win. I found the solution to that when I stopped carrying about losing and focused on enjoying playing, going for my shots (regardless of getting them in or out) and overall building good relationships through tennis. One of the interesting things you will notice a top pro player doing is playing his best when he’s under pressure. It shows us that one should not let panic take over the game. If we go out losing we should go out fighting.
52. “footwork, good drills to improve footwork” – We have provided a lot of great drills for speed, coordination and conditioning at WebTennis24 (click here for direct link) and WebTennisDrills (click here for direct link). Enjoy getting fit!
53. “Drills to help make early preparation a habit.” – My suggestion is for you to consciously practice (not during a match) the following: as soon as you recognize the ball coming to a certain side (e.g. forehand) turn the shoulders and get the racquet set behind the ball before it bounces on your side of the court. Consistent practice creates habits. Do it often in practice and it will become automatic in the match.
54. “develop proper tennis serve swing cycle and rhythm” – We have recently posted (what we consider) an excellent Serve tennis lesson showing the main technical steps of this important stroke (check out Tennis Lesson: Flat Serve) at WebTennis24.com. In regard to swing cycle and rhythm I would also recommend Flat Serve: Progression Drills particularly the “4 Steps (Shadow Drills)” and “Landing and Split Step” where you’ll find two drills to improve the Serve rhythm through shadow swings.
55. “the most difficult thing to move sideways in time.” – Use a combination of cross-over (first) and side shuffle steps. Best would be to learn through watching videos then put it in practice through drills. A good video in this regard to use as a reference is Recovery Steps after a Wide Ball where you’ll see how to combine the cross-over with the side shuffle to move laterally to the ball and back to cover the court.
57. “That would be anticipation.” – The Anticipation in tennis comes with experience and a conscientious effort to pay attention to your opponent’s body language before he/she strikes the ball, as well as with a good court coverage knowledge. Study those and you’ll find yourself being in the right spot (most of the time), saving energy and winning points easier.
58. “how to develop focus on the ball (Federer being a perfect example) and NOT lift the head up too early?” – Let me just share one of my tricks that has allowed me for many years to focus on the ball: Before I have a tough tennis match, I do this exercise (you can call it meditation, if you want)… I sit in a chair, comfortably, and look for a spot (no bigger than a button) that is at least 3 feet away. It can be any spot on the wall or… anything. Then I keep my eyes on it without straining my eyes. I stay still and focus on that spot for at least 1 minute. That has helped me clear my mind and learn to avoid shifting my eyes away from the object (in this case, the ball) which interests me. Also, in practice, saying to yourself “bounce (when the ball is about to land on your side) – hit (just before contact)” could help you stay focused on the ball too.
59. “as i get older(79) on my next birthday what is the best way to maintain my court movement?” – I once had a student who was 81. I loved him as a friend first and as the way he committed to improving his tennis. I would say you should get better with the choice of shots and understand and use the court geometry to your advantage. Depending of whether you enjoy singles or doubles, there are certain tactics and shot selections you could use in order to run less and cover the court more efficiently. I’ve spent a great amount of time presenting all the advantages that involve good knowledge of court coverage and how use them to save energy by positioning in the right spot when playing certain shots. Get an in-depth analysis of court coverage by clicking here.
60. “how to keep my eye on the ball!” – Please see no. 58 (above).
61. “I teach my daughter, who is 23 years old; she plays very well, but in a match play hers nerves often a prank. Can you give me some tips on how to train these?” – The pieces of advise I gave to no. 51 (above) might help in teaching your daughter how to play tennis in a more relaxed state of mind. Best of luck!
62. “I need to improve a lot of aspects of tennis but my number one thing is footwork specially going towards backhand.” – This spring I’ll demonstrate (through videos) the footwork that applies to different strokes. But until them check out the advice I gave to no. 55 (above).
63. “How to focus on one shot at a time.” – I find that keeping track of the score and visualizing myself winning the next point really helps in staying focused in the present and be positive during the match. Try it and see if it helps.
64. “My tennis is in my head. There is nothing too much wrong with my game but I have days when I lose my confidence and play appallingly. Sadly, today was one of them! I definitely need mental strength and self-belief!” – Please see the advise I gave at no. 51 (above).
65. “Little has been done on the warm-up before matches.” – This is a great idea for future videos. Thank you for suggesting it! 🙂
66. “The area I most struggle with is my footwork, often on my forehand in particular getting too close to the contact point.” – There is a great drill to work on hitting the ball more in front (and avoid making contact too close to your body) – have somebody feed ball to you (from a basket) and you should practice setting up to hit the ball but instead of hitting it you’ll stretch your non-dominant hand out to catch the ball. This will accomplish two things: 1) to track the ball (keep your eyes on it) 2) give you a visual cue of where you should make contact with the ball (out and in front) In regard to footwork, do at least two times per week drills specific to increasing speed and conditioning which you can find plenty at Footwork and Fitness Tennis Drills at WebTennisDrills.com.
67. “I’m always told that my spacing to the ball is too close but no one tells me what to do to correct it. I’m right handed, so is there something I could be doing with my left hand to help me?” – Funny that you asked! 🙂 I just answered a similar question (see above – no. 66).
68. “How do I insure that I get a good and proper racquet drop on my serve motion?” – The racquet drop on the Serve is the result of uncoiling your body and pushing up from the legs in order to meet the ball. Keep your arm and wrist relaxed for a fluent motion.
69. “could you please give me your kind opinion on how to avoid unforced errors.” – You can obviously cut down on unforced errors by doing the followings: 1) keep your mind distracted from the pressure of the match and your opponent; 2) stick with what you feel comfortable and use the strokes you don’t trust only when you have a clear advantage; 3) keep your knees bent – by doing that you increase your balance by having a low center of gravity; 4) aim higher over the net and at least 3 feet inside the lines; don’t fall for the hype to hit all the balls close to the baseline – making them land just beyond the service line would be sufficient enough to enjoy long rallies and keep your opponent from attacking you; 5) use spin – it is one of the best ways to allow yourself to put more pace on your shots while maintaining the balls in the court; 6) visualize your shots going in; keep a positive attitude and find a way to snap out of negative thoughts; 7) practice the strokes you don’t feel consistent with; use drills that put you under pressure situations as the ones highlighted in the Mental Strength Tennis Drills section.
70. “I need a decent kick serve – giving me both security and aggressiveness on my second serve – most.” – This is a good idea for future videos. Thank you for suggesting it!
71. “My game is fine but I’d like to know how to teach young children in a group ages 5 to 10 in a more effective way without them getting bored and waiting to hit balls. Sometimes I have to work with 8-10 kids on one court and I find myself stressed out trying to make the lesson fun and educational. It’s hard because most of them are beginners and since there is so many kids on the court it’s difficult to really teach the proper technique to each and spend the proper amount of time with them without neglecting the other kids. I just started teaching about 6 months ago and I work for an organization that places 8 to 10 kids on the court for each lesson. Sometimes 12 kids. What tip could you give me?” – I feel your “pain”… At the beginning of my career I found myself working for a private school in Southern California where they would bring us (me and another fellow tennis coach) 15 kids with no court – we literally had to stretch a tennis net on a synthetic grass space and teach them tennis. We did the best we could but I recall that period of time being a stressful one. I congratulate you for your commitment to give value to those kids even though it is not an easy task. So here are my pieces of advise which I do hope to help you. By the way, feel free to get in touch with me via email or contact forms on the WebTennis24.com or WebTennisDrills.com sites to let me know how much more I could assist you. 1) try to get kids involved in helping each other with the proper technique: pair them up and ask the players on the right to check the technique of the players on the left; 2) make sure you frequently ask them questions; that keeps them focused and paying attention to your instruction (reward them with an enthusiastic cheer if they give you good answers) 3) use drills and games that kids love (find plenty at WebTennis24 – check out Tennis Drills and Games for Kids) 4) don’t spend too much time with one drill or game; have at least 10 different drills or games ready for one hour lesson. 5) to teach them proper technique when they are in large groups use games like “Jail Breaker” (which you can find at WebTennisDrills.com) – that keeps kids having fun while you enforce the correct technique. 6) overall, keep it fun!
72. “What is the single most important thing to do to win in a tennis match?” – This is a simple one: just hit more balls in than your opponent. 😉
73. “Return of Serve” – The key elements to a good return of serve are: reading your opponent’s body language (predicting the type of spin and placement), footwork and preparation. For details of how to hit a successful return of serve check out the following articles / videos: 1) Do this For a Better Return of Serve 2) Return of Serve Tactics – an excellent resource presenting how, where and why you should hit your return of serve according to certain tactical situations.
74. “How to handle pace/fast shots from my opponent.” – First thing I would like to tell you is to improve your technique by shortening the back-swing (not taking the racquet too far back when setting up for the shot). This will allow you to prepare earlier and make contact further out in front for more ball control. Second… stay low. This will allow for better balance and body control. And last, do not try to match your opponent’s power. Play at the pace you feel comfortable and be consistent with your shots.
75. “Keeping focused and my eye on the ball. I tend to look up at the last moment to look at placement.” – Besides the advice of keeping the eyes focused on the ball and let your peripheral vision take care of placement of the ball please see the answer to no. 58 (above). Have fun!
Cosmin Miholca Certified Tennis Teaching Professional founder, WebTennis24.com
I sent a simple question to over 10,000 tennis players, coaches and tennis parents: “If I could write about 1 thing to make your tennis better, what would it be?”
There are many players and coaches who strive for good and straight-to-the-point information.
Now that I’ve been playing tennis for over 28 years and taught this wonderful sport, full time, for almost 13 years, it would a great pleasure of mine to share my knowledge.
Below you’ll find the answers that people wrote in response to the question that was presented (above) to them.
I’ve tried my best to give them my honest answers hoping to clarify the issues and giving solutions to improving their tennis.
I’d have to mention that some of the answers I provided below are already presented in great detail on my two websites (WebTennis24.com and WebTennisDrills.com). Some issues are going to be the material for future articles / videos, and the ones I could give my straight opinion are there to be read and debated (which I strongly advise you to do whether you agree with me or not).
So here are the first 50 requests that tennis players and coaches would like to find out more about:
1. “to share your experience and what you learned out of it” – Most of my tennis experience I’ve been sharing on My Blog where you can find lots of articles describing my honest opinion about how to learn and teach tennis, as well as my “adventure” in teaching my own two daughters.
2. “how to handle topspin volley without hitting them in the net or out?” – You just asked a question about my favorite stroke in tennis: drive volley.
As I described it in a recent video lesson I posted at WebTennis24, when hitting a drive volley you must understand the following:
1) the ball comes down onto your racquet faster than during a ground-stroke therefore you should aim higher (at least 2 feet over the net) – otherwise, you’ll send many drive volleys into the net;
2) if you swing up and across the back of the ball (some call it “windshield wiper” motion) you’ll impart enough spin to keep the ball inside the baseline.
3. “return of serve (both bh and fh)” – The key elements to a good return of serve are: reading your opponent’s body language (predicting the type of spin and placement), footwork and preparation. For details of how to hit a successful return of serve check out the following articles / videos: 1) Do this For a Better Return of Serve 2) Return of Serve Tactics – an excellent resource presenting how, where and why you should hit your return of serve according to certain tactical situations.
4. “injury prevention” – This is an area that I, unfortunately, don’t have too much material to write about therefore I’d warmly recommend you check out Suzanna McGee’s website: http://www.tennisfitnesslove.com/ . She is a true professional in regard to tennis nutrition and injury prevention.
5. “how to hit a good forehand and backhand accompanied by some good videos to download” – In my Tennis Technique Lessons video section I have tried my best to break down both strokes (forehand and backhand: two-handed and one-handed) into small elements so that a player can understand the basic mechanics for a correct, consistent and comfortable technique. You can also check out drills to improve your strokes once you feel comfortable with the proper technique.
6. “being (not) so hard on myself” – I feel your pain and I can share many times when I’ve gone through frustrations.
Here are some of my tips: 1) make sure that your equipment feels “right”; that means to get a good string (it matters a lot), a racquet appropriate to the level and kind of game you play; 2) get in shape – most of our frustration comes from not moving well on the court and not being fit enough to execute certain strokes that we want; 3) mentally – understand that tennis is a game and you should play it to have fun and get a good work-out. Ultimately, don’t do what I recently did: break a new racquet out of frustration. I still regret that I did not control my temper. It was so not worth it… I miss my racquet!!! (tears coming down my cheeks).
8. “I’m 75 years old; how can i play tennis and have good fitness considering I have knee pains and not strong?” – I once had a student who was 81. I loved him as a friend first and as the way he committed to improving his tennis. I would say to get better with the choice of shots and understand and use the court geometry to your advantage. Depending of whether you enjoy singles or doubles, there are certain tactics and shot selections you could use in order to run less and cover the court more efficiently. I’ve spent a great amount of time presenting all the advantages that involve good knowledge of court coverage and how use them to save energy by positioning in the right spot when playing certain shots. Get an in-depth analysis of court coverage by clicking here.
9. “kick serve that goes in all the time with speed and depth” – This is something I have on the list of things to do. It will come up sometimes in May 2016: progression drills for hitting a solid Kick Serve.
10. “consistency with a penetrating topspin forehand” – I’ll put this on my to-do list as well. Thank you for suggesting it! 🙂
11. “mental aspects of tennis” – This is another area that you can find at WebTennis24.com under the section “Mental Tennis“. Here you’ll find some unique content in the sense that each stroke is presented from a mental aspect: what you should visualize yourself achieving, how you should control your body and other mental elements that I personally studied for many years because I was one of those less talented individuals who had to figure out how tennis works. Enjoy! 🙂
12. “how to make the necessary mental adjustments when your match may be slipping away” – From my point of view, when you see the match slipping away you should realize that you’ve got nothing to lose. Therefore, as I tell my students… if my opponent is going to take this match, at least I’ll make him/her work hard for it. I’ll play with the confidence of somebody who goes out fighting. I won’t hold off anything. You want the match? Then come and get it! 😉
13. “how to stay focused / poised when you’re in control of the match, staying confident but not cocky” – It is so easy to lose your concentration during the match, especially when you are ahead. One trick that has worked for me to remain focus throughout the match was to always keep track of the score and visualize that I am winning the next point. That keeps your mind from wandering away and from getting distracted. This helps you stay positive and connected with what happens on the court. I often tell my students that if they lose track of the score during a match, that means they are not focused on what is happening on the court. And that is one of the causes many players lose matches.
14. “how to make training more match realistic, with stress factor etc.” – There are many drills and games that you can apply in your training. We have posted lots of them in the “Mental Strength Tennis Drills” section at WebTennisDrills.com. Enjoy becoming mentally tough!
15. “how to teach kids to improve their tracking skills” – There are quite a few drills and even games that kids would love (always make it fun for them). A lot have been posted at “Tennis Games and Drills for Kids” section at WebTennis24.com. Kids love them!
16. “lesson plans for senior players” – We have posted many lesson plans at WebTennisDrills.com that can be applied to seniors also. Most of the drills and games presented there can be adapted to senior players with respect to applying the proper recovery time and adjusting the intensity of the effort.
17. “I have some problems right know with the correct contact to hit the ball, the toss and correct way to hit with topspin.” – There is a section called Quick Tennis Fixes at WebTennis24.com. You’ll find many videos presenting common issues that tennis players encounter, the reasons they happen and how to fix them. You’ll love those videos – they are short and demonstrate the fix in the simplest ways.
18. “anticipation” – The Anticipation in tennis comes with experience and a conscientious effort to pay attention to your opponent’s body language before he/she strikes the ball, as well as with a good court coverage knowledge. Study those and you’ll find yourself being in the right spot (most of the time), saving energy and winning points easier.
19. “look at the ball!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” – I know what you mean! 🙂 Let me just share one of my tricks that has allowed me for many years to focus on the ball: Before I have a tough tennis match, I do this exercise (you can call it meditation, if you want)… I sit in a chair, comfortably, and look for a spot (no bigger than a button) that is at least 3 feet away. It can be any spot on the wall or… anything. Then I keep my eyes on it without staring or straining my eyes. I stay still and focus on that spot for at least 1 minute. That has helped me clear my mind and learn to avoid shifting my eyes away from the object (in this case, the ball) which interests me. Try it! You might find it useful in keeping your eyes on the ball.
21. “first volley!” – Your first volleys depend a lot on the previous stroke: the approach shot. The quality of your approach shot can place you in a situation of an easier first volley or a more difficult one. I said “easier” because, in general, the first volley is not an easy shot. If you are approaching the net, most of the time you’ll be hitting the first volley from around the service line area and it will be a low one (contact below net level). Think about the first volley more like a placement shot where the emphasis will be to give yourself time to get in balance and a better position closer to the net for the next volley while making it as possible for your opponent to hit it on the run or as a weak reply. So think of your first volley more in terms of placement and to set yourself up for the second volley where you’ll afford a more comfortable and aggressive shot.
22. “how to avoid unforced errors” – If one finds the solution to avoid unforced errors, he/she is my idol. 🙂 Aside from that, you can obviously cut down on unforced errors by doing the followings: 1) keep your mind distracted from the pressure of the match and your opponent; 2) stick with what you feel comfortable and use the strokes you don’t trust only when you have a clear advantage; 3) keep your knees bent – by doing that you increase your balance by having a low center of gravity; 4) aim higher over the net and at least 3 feet inside the lines; don’t fall for the hype to hit all the balls close to the baseline – making them land just beyond the service line would be sufficient enough to enjoy long rallies and keep your opponent from attacking you; 5) use spin – it is one of the best ways to allow yourself to put more pace on your shots while maintaining the balls in the court; 6) visualize your shots going in; keep a positive attitude and find a way to snap out of negative thoughts (see tip above: number 13) 7) practice the strokes you don’t feel consistent with; use drills that put you under pressure situations as the ones highlighted in the “Mental Strength Tennis Drills” section.
23. “speed” – One of my favorite tennis drills for footwork and speed is the so-called Spider Web. This incorporates most of the movements you’ll need in tennis and it is great for conditioning too. Do it at least 3 times per week and you’ll see an improvement in your on-court speed.
24. “doubles strategy” – Everything (well, at least that’s what I consider) about how to play and win in doubles (positioning, formations, communication, court geometry etc.) is here in the “Doubles Tennis Tactics” section at WebTennis24.com. Have fun learning the doubles tactics and strategies!
25. “pronation on the serve” – That’s a tough one to teach because it can lead to injuries if not done correctly. In my opinion, the pronation should be the result of you keeping the grip and wrist loose, allowing your forearm to rotate inward during the contact. Also try to visualise how you’d like the strings to brush on the back of the ball; then let it happen.
26. “consistent focus during the matches” – See answer to no. 13 (above).
27. “more lesson plans and remedial drills to correct mistakes in techniques” – I’ll continue to provide that. Until then make sure you check out Tennis Lesson Plans section at WebTennisDrills.com and Tennis Technique Lessons at WebTennis24.com.
28. “fitness” – Lots of video fitness and conditioning drills can be found in the “Conditioning/Speed” section at WebTennis24.com.
29. “what is the best strategy to use to return hard, fast paced balls when a very large hard hitting man is hitting at me in mixed doubles (especially when I’m at the net)?” – When you are a player at the net defending against a hard hitter I would suggest the following: 1) don’t play at the net (you didn’t see this one coming, huh? 🙂 instead play more from the baseline and come up when you find a better opportunity; but if you dare to come up to the net, then… 2) technically: stay low, keep the racquet up and get ready to use your backhand side of your racquet (it is easier to move the dominant elbow away and block the ball with the backhand); 3) if you really want to stay at the net against a fast returner, make a couple of steps further back (closer to the service line) and try blocking the balls from there until you find a better chance to come closer to the net; 4) if nothing else works, then I guess the best way is to warn the big macho man that hitting hard towards a lady is not polite (you can tell him I said that:)!
30. “how to hit a topspin second serve using a pinpoint serve stance” – The same way you’d hit a topspin second serve using a platform stance: toss the ball a bit over towards the non-dominant shoulder and brush the ball up as it comes down. Oh, and one more thing: visualize it going in.
31. “how long should kids practice on one drill and how many hours a day?” – How long should a kid practice a drill depends on the kid’s age, desire and focus. In general try to not dwell on a single drill for too much. I remember one of my mentors telling me (when I was at the beginning of my career) – “Cosmin, within 20 minutes you should do at least 3 drills; more than that as the kids are younger”. How many hours a DAY? It depends of the kids’ age, level of performance and obviously desire to play.
With older kids (over 10 years old) you can do it up to 2 hours, but the younger they are, the harder it is to keep them focused and enjoying it. For example, with my two daughters (8.5 and 10 years old) I do 1.5 hour long lessons and 3 times per week. Besides tennis they do swimming (once a week) and soon they’ll start guitar (the younger one) and piano (the older one) lessons.
If the kid wants more, then do more than three times a week; as long as he enjoys and asks for it.
32. “how to play slice backhand well; where does the ball hit the racket?” – I recently added a new Slice Backhand Lesson and Adding more Power to Your Slice Backhand videos where the following elements are highlighted: 1) grip should be continental 2) prepare with the racquet higher than the eventual point of contact 3) keep the body sideways and in balance by “spreading the wings” and sliding the back foot behind you during the contact 4) learn to pull the racquet through the ball instead of pushing it – you’ll get more power! 5) at contact, visualize that the lower part of you strings bed will make contact first with the ball which will then slide over the center of the racquet as the strings brush the ball in a high to low trajectory 6) keep the head down and still.
33. “any tips for tennis elbow” – I had “golfer’s elbow” at some point when I was playing and trying to add more power to my one-handed backhand by over supinating the forearm; but, fortunately, I’ve never had tennis elbow. And I owe this to one single exercise I do every day: I grab the racquet’s handle with both hands so that the racquet is parallel to the ground, shoulders level, palms down; I twist the racquet handle in my hands forward until I count to 30, then backwards.
When you do this exercise for the first time you’ll feel a little burning in your forearms. That’s a good sign. 🙂
Do it every day. It only takes a minute but you’ll feel more control on your forehand ground-strokes, one-handed backhand, volleys, serves etc. How to cure tennis elbow? Rest and specific forearm exercises that you can find a lot of on the internet.
34. “the volley: to gain more confident when i raise the net” – Practice, practice and practice. Use volley drills as you can find in the Volley Tennis Drills section at WebTennis24.com.
36. “how to play with a more relaxed body so that the techniques they are learning can work effectively (especially after taking a long break)” – Warm-up well. I can’t stress this enough as I see, often, tennis players stepping on the court and after 2 minutes they ask each other who wants to serve first…!!! Take time to jog, do some “shadow” strokes and stretch before beginning to actual hitting the balls.
37. “when to approach the net and how to do it effectively” – You should approach the net in the following situations: 1) serve and volley: if you have a powerful serve and notice your opponent tends to block it back slowly, you should move up to the net; 2) if you play a “pusher” (somebody who just hits the ball back with little pace) 3) if you get a short ball which forces you to step closer to service line 4) if you pulled your opponent wide and see a lot of court opening for you to go for a put-away; don’t hesitate – move up and take the next ball early. To effectively approach the net, consider the following: 1) hit the ball with slice (under-spin) – that keeps it low impeding your opponent to hit the ball back down to your feet 2) attack the opponent’s weak side or send it down the line (you’ll be in a better position to cover the angles) 3) expect to hit at least two volleys before you have the opportunity to put the ball away 4) stay low and keep the racquet out in front of your body for an early ball contact.
38. “I want to know how to place my serves, i.e. out wide, into the body, at the T” – The best way, which I now apply with my two daughters, is to practice your Serve using targets (cones, piles of balls, etc.) in certain areas inside the service line. Then do not leave the court until you hit every target at least one time. Don’t fall for tips such as: to position your feet, toss the ball or hold the racquet in a certain way… Aiming and hitting a target in tennis when serving has a lot to do with visualization and feel. Tell your body (consciously) what you want to achieve and then let your muscles execute it (subconsciously). With lots of this practice, in time, you’ll be able to hit any target you place inside the service court. These days I am having my two little daughters (8.5 and 10 years old) practice serves to targets. Sometimes it takes them a full basket to hit one of the targets (even though they are big cones)… at some point they tend to give up and comment that the task is impossible. That’s why I challenged them that I would hit those targets within 3 tries. They did not believe me; frankly, I did not believe myself of being able to do it also. But I just looked at the targets, threw the ball up in the air and hit it visualizing where I wanted it to go. I hit those targets each in no more than three tries (to my girls astonishment). So practice serving to targets using visualization and… lots of repetition.
39. “Strategies to set up the net player in doubles. Mixed doubles strategies given the physical differences in partners.” – This is a good one! I’ll put it on my to-do list (coming soon!).
40. “What’s the right mechanics and mentality in doing a running volley? (I frequently hit it long.)” – Body balance and racquet control… Most of the volleys on the run you miss them because you can’t control your body balance due to the poor footwork. Hitting the volleys long is because your racquet is too open and/or you transfer the energy you put into reaching the ball to your shot. Try slowing down as you reach the ball or tighten the grip a little bit before the contact. That might help controlling the volley while on the run.
41. “Strategy” – Strategy is a plan that you apply according to your opponents’ skills and most important to your ability to put that in practice using the right tactics. A lot is discussed in the “Singles Tennis Tactics” and “Doubles Tennis Tactics” sections at WebTennis24.com.
42. “mastering kick and slice service” – Learning the Kick and Slice Service is one thing, mastering is a long process based on lots of technical and tactical process. In my 45-minute video lessons Ultimate Tennis Serve – Slice, Kick and Flat I highlighted some important aspects that go into hitting effective serves beginning with the warm-up and continuing with the role of each serve as far as spin, placement and how can they be used tactically in a match.
43. “I am especially interested in child tennis, 10S, Red, Orange, Green tennis up to twelve years old.” – In this case I would recommend that you visit the “My Daddy / My Coach” video section at WebTennis24.com where you’ll see lots of videos how to teach tennis to kids from the early age of 5 through 10. Through the MD/MC video lessons I wanted to show how I taught tennis to my own two daughters from their very first beginning (picking up the racquet and learning the basic strokes) all the way to playing orange and green level tournaments. These are live (and uncut) lessons showing exactly how I teach: tips, progressions, drills… I could say they are the ONLY live and full tennis lessons that you could find on internet.
44. “I’m a senior player of 73 years, rating of 2.5-3.0. Play only doubles. I have trouble moving after hitting the ball, being in the right place for the next shot.” – Please read the answer to no. 8 (above).
45. “Some way to better track the ball all the way to the racket. I find that my eyes leave the ball at about the net and no matter how hard I try it’s hard to keep my eyes on it much longer.” – Please read the answer to no. 19 (above).
46. “Details of proper cross over step.” – The cross-over step is the one where the outside foot pushes off the ground and moves in front of the inside foot to initiate a faster recovery especially after hitting a wide ball. In a recent video I was showing how to effectively combine the cross-over with shuffle steps to get back in position and cover the open court after being pulled wide by an opponent’s wide ball. Since it is easier to demonstrate (through video) than putting it into words, I’d suggest you check out the Recovery Steps for a Quick Court Coverage video lesson.
47. “One of the challenges I face is hitting waist and above level forehand. I tend to hit them long most of the time. So basically it is the technique that I lack. I use semi western grip.” – Using a semi-western grip is a good choice to handle balls that are above waist level therefore the fact that you hit them long could be caused by many reasons. The ones I could point out without seeing you actually hitting those forehand ground-strokes are: 1) not enough spin – fix: try brushing more on the back of the ball (low to high) 2) opening your racquet face at contact – fix: visualize rolling your racquet strings up and over the top of the ball. Try these two solutions (especially the second one) and see if they help.
48. “Happy New Year! In answer to your question, I would like to be able to read (in singles and doubles) the likely returns from my opponents.” – This is an excellent question and the answer to it can be based on a good understanding of court coverage and conscious attention to your opponents’ body language which can be practiced. I’d recommend studying the “Singles Tennis Tactics“, “Doubles Tennis Tactics” and “Court Coverage in Tennis” sections at WebTennis24.com where you’ll find important articles based on level of play that debate the proper positioning, reading opponent’s possible options and the choices of strokes you can use according to your specific tactics.
49. “What do you tell your students as well as their parents about sportsmanship? It seems that for the junior tournament players, sportsmanship and respect for the opponent has slipped a great deal. This slippage leading to many players not returning to tournament tennis after numerous bad experiences on the court.” – This is one of the reasons I am nervous going into tournaments with my own children and students – the fact that occasionally we must run into players or parents who are overly competitive. With my own two daughters I talk about these players’ behaviors and we laugh thinking that a bad behavior on the court on opponents’ part leads to lack of concentration for them which is to our advantage. Therefore if they see their opponents misbehaving on the court, they should perceive it as a sign that the tactics applied are working and continue to stay focused. It is obviously something we learn from and no matter what, we should not show our emotions until only after the match is over. Whatever we feel during the match should be kept secret so that we do not boost our opponents confidence or give away what we feel about certain shots. To parents who are overly competitive I try to explain that it is more important for their children to have a good experience and see them encouraging and supporting their efforts.
50. “I am 69 and play 3.5 tennis (mostly doubles). At my age, can I continue to improve or is maintaining the status quo about all I can hope for?” – I think you can still improve a lot regardless of age. Technically you can experiment with different spins, stances or adding variety to your strokes. The area that one can always improve even more (regardless of age) is the tactics and court coverage. Through a good knowledge of court coverage you’ll know where to hit the ball and how to position yourself to minimize effort and make your opponents do most of the work. By understanding the tactics which you should apply according to your opponents skills you’ll find yourself enjoying tennis even more.
Ok, this situation has happened to me many times in my over 27 years of playing tennis:
You play an opponent whom you have competed against before, but in this particular day everything “connects” for him: the ground-strokes are consistent, perfectly placed and timed drop-shots, his lobs are “magically” finding the baseline, the first serves are at a high percentage… and whatever you do the ball finds it way to come back for another shot. In short, your opponent has one of those days when everything connects. So frustrating for you…!
What should you do and how do you play?
One lesson I’ve learned in my entire tennis career is: no matter how good your opponent is playing you should always care for these three things:
1. How long can she/he maintain this level of play?
2. Whatever it takes, I should stay positive and show no sign of frustration to fuel my already confident opponent. 3. Stick with whatever strokes you feel you have control over. It is not the time to try something new. Be humble in your play.
Really, all it takes to win most of the matches against “in the zone” players comes down to the above three mental points.
However you play, always keep in mind that the mentally stronger players always (or at least most of the time) prevail when the balance of technical skills is levelled between players.
A few days ago I got an email from one of our subscribers who is a passionate doubles player. He had a dilemma: how should he return against an aggressive server and a tall player at the net? Immediately I thought: tough question! In my opinion this particular player has to face a perfect doubles team: a great server and a tall partner to pick up the weak return.
The thing is that most of the players would try their best to avoid the net player by hitting aggressive passive shots. That puts extra pressure and the percentage of missing the balls into the net or out are greater.
I would do the following: – for doubles… I’d have my partner position just behind the service line and let him/her know that I’d return the serve right at the opposing net player (well, not all the time; just often enough to keep him/her from poaching and putting the pressure on).
– for singles… again, I’d try to hit the ball at my approaching opponent’s feet or hit the first ball right at him/her hoping and waiting for my chance for a passing shot.
“Whatever you do, don’t say anything to me about my serve. If I think about it, I’m in trouble.” – Andy Roddick said when he first met Patrick McEnroe, his Davis Cup coach.
In a tennis world where the emphasize is on the technical aspect there is one area that very few tennis players dare to adopt – and it pays off big time for their game. That is the… “letting things happen naturally”.
What I’m about to tell you is directed to your tennis improvement by getting you out of the normal and popular tennis culture.
As a tennis player and coach I have been experiencing many frustrations and successes in my own lessons with all kinds of players.
One of the things that’s certain is that all players are different and you cannot teach the same technical aspect to everyone. I have to pay very much attention to what works for each of my students individually.
For example, in teaching my two daughters: Cezara (8 years old) and Bianca (6 years old)…
Cezara, on the serve prefers the pinpoint stance (when during the toss the back foot joins up the front foot) whereas Bianca likes the more traditional platform stance (when both feet are not moving during the toss and stand fairly close to each other).
Cezara’s dominant elbow must elevate during the forehand ground-stroke preparation to avoid opening her racquet too much during contact; Bianca has a natural way of controlling the racquet face at contact without having to focus on the set-up. And so forth…
But my ultimate point for this letter is that players should be allowed to forget about all the technical overload and be focused on the outcome.
When serving, the outcome could be just getting the ball in (for beginning players), sending the ball with lots of slice or topspin, or placing it powerfully in the corner of the service box.
As Andy Roddick did when he was a junior – he got fed up with all the technique that was imposed on him when serving and then one day he just threw the ball up and hit it as hard as he naturally felt. And it worked great. Just imagine if someone would have tried to change his serve technique! Or if some coach would have told Nadal to not hit his forehands with that looping finish…! (he was so fortunate to have such an open-minded coach like his uncle Toni)
You can only imagine what damage you can do when you want to impose one kind of technique to every single player that you coach.
We should always be paying attention to what works for each player.
As a tennis player you should listen to your body how it reacts to every stroke you execute…
In my teachings I get the best results when I give my kids tasks that are goal oriented. Examples: – hit 40 serves in – send 25 forehands cross-court – rally 50 balls over the net with partner – etc.
When goal oriented tasks are given, the mind and body work together to accomplish them successfully.
Next time you go to practice, forget about the technique. Instead focus on what you want to accomplish: is it more slice on your serve? is it more power on your backhand? more penetrating volleys?
Then here’s what you need to do: – before you start hitting the balls visualize (or tell yourself) what you want: more power, more spin or to get it in – let your body loose and the racquet do it’s work – clear your mind of any technical thoughts and keep in there only the outcome you aim for (more power, spin, placement etc.)
When you practice without the technical details cluttering your mind you will see better things happening.