Fun Ways for Beginning Players to Learn Tennis

tennis players enjoy rallying

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!

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

How to Maximize Your Return of Serve in Tennis

At the recreational level, the serve return is one of the most overlooked tennis strokes.
It is one of the least practiced strokes and most of the time, unfortunately, it is treated like a regular ground-stroke… Far from it – when returning serve, the ball comes from a higher level, it is faster and the spin is most of the time different than the one of a regular ground-stroke.
(Serve Return Tennis Drills – videos)

The following pieces of advice will focus on maximizing your chances for a better serve return and eventually be in control of the point from the first shot:

1. First thing that a player must do is to analyze the type of serves the opponent likes to hit: flat, slice or kick?
Once you have that established, you will have to consider your position on the court of where you should stand to wait for the serve.
If you favor one side more than the other position yourself so that you leave more room on your stronger side. By doing this you will invite the server to go toward the bigger opening and in the same time giving her a narrow path to your weak side.

2. Be sneaky!
As your opponent tosses the ball feel free to change the position – again, favoring your strong side.
Let’s say that your opponent likes to pick on your backhand (assuming this is your weak side). As the server tosses the ball, move a little toward the backhand side and prepare to attack the incoming ball with your forehand.
Avoid moving too early though. That would clearly allow your opponent to change her tactic. Make your move while she tosses the ball and looks up to hit it – then it will be too late for her to change the intention.

3. Racquet control is key for a successful return of serve.
When expecting flat serves, get low and shorten your backswing. Plan to meet the ball out in front without taking the racquet too far back and hitting it hard.
In fact, I have always imagined returning fast serves with a wall/fence behind me (see picture below). This analogy helped me make contact with fast serves way out in front (otherwise, on the backswing, I would be hitting the imaginary wall behind me).

best tennis serve return
(Imagine you have a wall/fence behind you when returning serve – shorten the backswing)

If you are returning kick serves then stand more upright and prepare to attack the spin of the ball.
Often inexperienced players tend to block heavy spin serves when in reality the returner should swing through the ball and hard to counteract the heavy spin.

4. Most of the time you should look for just returning high over the net and deep.
An exception is when your opponent serve-and-volleys – in this situation consider aiming for the service line (at the opponent’s feet).

5. Be Bold
Sometimes I like to surprise my serve opponents by standing well inside the baseline.
For that, I use a continental grip and prepare to slice the return deep or chip it and move closer to the net.
But you should be careful when you do it – try it only when you have a clear advantage: 40-0 or 40-15 in the game.

6. If you return against a serve-and-volley opponent consider the play as a 2-3 shot sequence: a return followed by at least one more shot.
Often club players want to win the point too quickly and they panic when they see the ball coming back after the first passing shot attempt. But when playing against a serve-and-volley player you must consider hitting at least two shots before you have the opportunity for a clean winner.
Also after you return against an approaching opponent quickly cover the open court because most likely that’s where the first opposing volley will go to.

7. Your serve return practice will count.
I will leave you with one more piece of advice on how to improve your return of serve:
– Have a practice partner serve to you from about halfway between the service line and baseline (opposite side of the net, of course). This will force you to react quicker, shorten the backswing and practice making contact more in front of the body.
This kind of practice will pay off big time later on in a match when you will feel like you have so much more time to hit the ball out in front.

– Cosmin Miholca