5 Steps To Master Your Tennis Footwork
Tennis footwork is one of the most important pillars in today’s game. Yet, most club and junior tennis players often overlook this area in their training. Have you ever wondered how much time do the pros invest on their off court training to move as well as they do? The answer is simple, a lot of quality and quantity time.
They continuously practice specific footwork patterns that suit their game style, and will be used during match play situations. The good news is that you can also move faster and better on the court by practicing the right drills. The following five steps will help you to master your tennis footwork. As a result, you can move around the court more efficiently and effortlessly.
1. Focus On The Split Step
There’s a lot of misunderstanding around the split step, but it can easily be clarified with the right instruction. The idea is to be in the air when your opponent strikes the ball. There’s a timing to this, and most players are too late with their split step. This happens because they are on the ground when their opponent makes contact.
Instead, start your split step early, so you’re in the air when contact is made. Then you can push off in any direction and react quicker to the ball. At the beginning, you may feel uncomfortable making this change; however, it’ll pay off in the long term.
2. Have A Wide Base
Make sure that you’re in a wide and strong base, where your feet are outside the shoulders. A common mistake made by most players is being very narrow after coming out of the split step. When you’re playing in a dynamic fashion, you should aim to get into a wider base. You’ll be able to develop this physical ability by working on tennis fitness exercises to get your legs stronger.
For example, consider adding single leg squats, single leg glute bridges, and bulgarian squats to your fitness program. You can start off without weight until you develop the proper technique. You should schedule each exercise into different sessions, so you don’t over fatigue your body and get injured. If you are unsure on how to perform a specific exercise, seek assistance from a professional tennis fitness trainer.
3. Take Bigger Steps
There’s a time and a place to make little adjustment steps, but you should practice taking bigger steps more often. Focus on making a strong first move right after the split step. Hence, you can use the correct wide footwork on groundstrokes like the one handed backhand. If you can achieve that, you will be able to get to the singles sideline with two big steps. You are also going to save time and develop rhythm with your movement.
These bigger steps are huge, and it all starts with the first move. If you study the top pros, Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal, all of them take big steps to get to the ball. It will allow you to cover more ground faster in any direction, get you set to hit great groundstrokes, and approach the net. Keep in mind the importance of continuing working on your small adjustment steps before hitting the ball. As you aim to take bigger steps, remind yourself to stay balanced before and after striking the ball.
4. Practice Shadow Strokes
If you don’t have anyone to play with on a specific day, then it’s a good opportunity to work on your baseline and transition footwork. You can go out to a public park, or even to the garage to practice different footwork patterns. For instance, you can perform shadow strokes to improve your inside in and out forehand. You’ll develop better rhythm on your movement, work on your anaerobic capacity, and create the right habits to move efficiently on the court.
Few players spend enough time working on shadow strokes and studying pro videos to learn how to move correctly. If you don’t have a lot of time off court, then, consider arriving 5-10 minutes earlier before practice. Hence, you can work on at least one or two specific patterns. Before and during tournaments, you’ll see the pros working on their footwork on a daily basis. They perform shadow strokes as part of their warm up routine, and it certainly pays off big dividends. Thus, you can consider modelling this approach, and maximize your warm up time. Indeed, you’ll be ready from the start of your practice or match.
5. Develop Rhythm
The final step has to do with rhythm and arriving at the appropriate time to make contact. If the ball is coming really fast, then you need to move faster to get there. However, if the ball is coming slow, you shouldn’t move fast to get there, wait, and slow down all of your momentum. Instead, move to the rhythm of the ball and adjust your movement depending on the speed of the ball. Practice to move quickly when the ball is fast.
On the contrary, move more deliberately when it’s slower to arrive on time and accelerate to hit the ball timely. Developing rhythm starts with movement and transfers to your groundstroke technique as well. These five powerful steps will help you master your tennis footwork. You’ll start moving faster and developing the right rhythm, timing, and tempo. Thus, you can have more fun on the court and win more matches. It may seem like a huge mountain to climb, but start somewhere and focus on each footwork pillar individually. You can assess where your footwork level is at by simply recording your tennis matches or practices.
Ask yourself, how much time are you investing on your footwork training? Then, work on mastering the footwork fundamentals first, before progressing into the most advanced movements.
By Jeff Salzenstein, Founder Tennis Evolution
Jeff is a former top 100 ATP player and USTA high performance coach committed to helping players and coaches all over the world improve.
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