How to Get the Most Out of Your Tennis Practice

As I watch the U.S. Open (Grand Slam) tennis tournament I can’t help feeling the urge to go out on the tennis court and practice.

I am sure you might feel the same to. But before you do it, I’d like to share with you some of my tips that can help you get the most out of your time on the practice court:

1. Serve Practice:
– Hit the ball with a loose arm: begin at slow pace then after about 10 serves increase the power on your serve.
– Practice with targets (use cones): place one target in the corner of singles line and service line, one just inside the service line and about half way between singles line and center line, and one target at the corner of center line and service line. Aim for them one at at time and do not move on to the next one until you get the serve within 6 inches close to it.
– Practice consistency: serve 10 balls in a row and see how many go in; then do it again trying to better the previous exercise. Do not cheat on the pace – if you practice your first serve then hit it at the speed you would in a match.

2. Return of Serve Practice:
If you can find a player willing to practice her/his serve then you are in luck.
Regardless if the player hits her serves hard or slow you can always practice returning them to certain areas in the opposite court.
Your targets should be cross-court, down-the-middle or down-the-line – but they should always be DEEP – that unless you would play a serve-and-volley player…

3. Ground-Strokes Practice:
– Consistency is key on every shot in tennis especially on ground-strokes.
Regardless of the level of skill that your partner possesses you should always try to out-rally her/him in practice. Counting your good strokes in a row is a great way to rally practice – that gives you a great feed-back of how consistent you are and it also helps you relax as you play.
– Placement: Invite your partner to play some pattern drills, like: cross-court or down-the-line rallies; or rally deep and stop if the ball lands inside the service line (or better yet, if the ball lands inside the service line to have the player move up and attack at the net).
– Experiment with new shots: While you might be tentative to use your weak slice backhand in a match, the practice is the time to use those strokes that you need more improvement on.
But you don’t want to upset your practice partner missing a lot of balls while you use your weaker shots often therefore you should do it on every 3rd or 4th shot.

4. Net Game Practice (volleys and overheads):
– Practice good court positioning and feel for the ball.
Considering that the ball comes to you a lot sooner when at the net, you will have to develop good habits of positioning to take the ball quicker and closer to the net as possible.
– Do not try to put the volleys away in practice, instead try to feel the ball and control the placement of every shot without the intent of finishing the rally right away (even if you could). Going for winners in practice will not win you anything besides frustrating your partner – save those shots for the match.

5. Match Play:
– If you play a better player that is the time to push yourself and see what areas of your game need improvement. Do not worry about the score too much; play to improve your strokes and quickness on the court instead.
– If you play a weaker player then you shouldn’t worry about the score either. This is the time for you to focus on new shots (maybe drop-shots, slices etc.) and tactics (e.g. serve-and-volley). Avoid playing the same game that you find comfortable only for the sake of a win against your weaker opponent. Be ok to lose a match as long as you try different things in your practice match (I know it is hard to do so… 🙂
– Play pressure situation kind of games: begin every game with server at 0-30, or play a game where the server loses two points instead of one when making a double fault etc. These kind of games teach you how to handle pressure situations.

Above all, make sure that your tennis practice is a positive experience and you always learn something out of your time on the court.
Cosmin Miholca