6 Coaches Tips to Improve Your Tennis

Practice early shot preparation

Actually making contact with the tennis ball is only half the battle, it all starts with preparation of the shot, this can be broken down into two key parts: Footwork and racquet preparation.

Footwork: It’s important to get your feet working with the rest of your body, practice your split step to balance your weight and push off into the direction of the ball. Try time your spilt step just before the opponent makes contact with the ball, when moving learn to take smaller steps as you set up to hit the ball. Angle your feet to help set up the direction, one foot facing the direction you want to aim and the planted foot facing forward.

Racquet Preparation: The hard part is getting your racquet head back into position as you’re moving you feet into position. This help generate racquet head speed in your shot.

Bend your knees & focus on the contact point

Power in tennis mostly comes through the legs and extension of the core, not the arms. By using your arms to generate all your power you are more likely to create strain and injury. As you’re moving into the shot, bend your knees and drive through the ball, rotating the torso for extra power.

Keep your eyes on the ball as you make contact with it and hold them there until your racquet flashes past the view of your eyes. Move them too soon and you run the risk of mis-hitting the ball. As you drive through the shot with your legs, they need to finish into a position that allows your to recover quickly and efficiently for the next shot.

Shot recovery

We’ve talked about shot preparation, and contact with the ball.  Now it’s time to recover from the shot. You must practice your shot recovery, how quickly can you move from the shot back to behind the T of the baseline, the best players on the planet have almost recovered right after they make contact, it’s seamless and flowing. These crucial nanoseconds will help you get the next ball, and the next ball back.

Work on increasing shot recovery time.

Slow it down

The previous 3 points is going to take time to practice, it can’t be done during a real match as your brain doesn’t have time to think at the speed unless it becomes muscle memory.

Slow it down, practice shadow drills and take it step by step, work on the spit-step and push off, then work on bending the knees and short steps leading into the shot, repeat those two steps and add the stroke production into the process. Then add the contact point and the follow through before heading into shot recovery.

Once you start to the form the pattern, speed it up a little, practice it another 10,000 times until you’re ready to run some dead ball drills.

The previous 3 point were all about on-court practices to help improve your game, the next two are off-court that will provide more value to you.

Stretching & increased flexibility

Stretching is something that everyone knows to do but rarely do as much as they should. It’s not very fun and it often takes a long time to notice the effects.

Stretching for 30 minutes a day helps to increase your flexibility, allowing you to move faster around the court, reach more balls and reduce the risk of injuries.

Dynamic stretches can help endurance, reduce muscle fatigue and add more power to your game.

Focus on your eating habits

Like stretching, eating is another important ingredient in improving your performance, both on and off the court.

If you have a lot of tennis coming up, make sure to increase your carbohydrates in the days before playing, this will help store and release the energy you need when you’re playing.

The right carbs matter though, make sure you are eating slow release carbs, go for brown rice, quinoa, or whole wheat.

The day of playing, do not eat high fibre carbohydrates and cut out highly fatty and saturated foods (a good habit to stick to on most days!) increase your water intake to compensate for sweat loss and try add a drink with some sugar that will also replace lost electrolytes.

For your post tennis you should increase your protein intake, stick to fish or white meat, try reduce your intake of red meat products. Eat your greens and keep drinking water.

In a nutshell

  1. Practice early shot preparation. Time your split-step to your opponents shot, use fast feet and short steps around the ball, get your racquet preparation in sync with your footwork.

  2. Work on bending the knees and using your legs and torso for power instead of your arms. Focus on the contact point and hold your head there during the follow through.

  3. Increase your shot recovery, get back to the centre of the court. Small increases will keep you in points longer.

  4. Slow it down, build each stage slowly, repeat it again and again until it feels comfortable before adding in dead ball or live ball drills.

  5. Stretch and increase your flexibility. Increase your speed, power, reach and recovery time.

  6. Get into good eating habits, fuel your body so your energy will last longer and increase your post-match recovery time.

Written By Liam Macleod (INCTA Tennis Academy)

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