Challenges to improve your tennis performance
With the summer tennis season fast approaching, many people will be dusting off their tennis rackets and looking to take to the court once again.
Tennis is an incredibly good sport for fitness, as it requires lots of short sharp bursts at maximum effort, good agility and good overall stamina for long matches. However, it can also be an incredibly frustrating sport with shots continually hitting the net, serves going a long way wide of the target and points missed due to unforced errors. But then what else would you expect if you just dust off the tennis racket for a few months every year without any practice in between? That's certainly not how Novak Djokovic has blazed his trail to the top of the game. If you want to be able to dominate the baseline just like Novak (probably not quite like Novak), then it will require training and commitment.
Tennis is all about consistency and this can only be achieved with practice, practice practice. So whether you have ambitions to one day walk out on the hallowed green turf of Wimbledon, or just want to make sure you beat your mates in your weekly tie, check out our tennis training drills to help you channel your inner Andy Murray and improve your performance.
First of all, before any technique is considered, it is important to have appropriate fitness for tennis. The fitness required for tennis is more than just traditional endurance fitness. While this undoubtedly comes in handy during long matches, the explosive nature of much of the game means agility and anaerobic fitness are equally if not more important. As such, both fartlek and plyometric training are incredibly useful to improve your tennis performance. Fartlek training involves a combination of continuous training and interval training, in which the continuous nature of the exercise and variable intensities throughout it work both your aerobic and anaerobic systems. Plyometric training is based around having your muscles perform at maximum exertion in as short a time possible. It is great for developing your explosive power, which will help you in those quick changes of direction to reach an opponents shot.
Now that your fitness requirements for tennis are sorted, try out some of these training drills to help improve your consistency on court and help you hit those all important winners.
Serve like a Pro
This is a simple training drill designed to get your serving consistency level up. To complete it, you will need yourself, 4 cones and a lot of balls. Place a cone in each corner of both service boxes. Take your balls back to the baseline and serve at each cone until you hit each 5 times. This could take you a total of 20 shots or it could take you hours. However, repitition of movement and technique is the only way to increase consistency and develop a serve as accurate and deadly as Roger Federer.
Make sure you practice this from both the deuce and advantage side of the court. You'll be serving like a pro in no time.
Down The Alley
This is a relatively simple yet effective drill that will help improve your consistency of stroke play. It will require two of you to carry it out. Place two lines of cones from one baseline to the other either side of the centre service line. This should start out at around halfway into each service box when you first complete this drill, but as you get better at it, the lines of cones can be narrowed.
The aim of the drill is to keep the ball in the alleyway down the middle of the court that the cones have created. Between you and your partner, you should aim to hit 20 consecutive shots down "the alleyway". Once you have achieved this, try narrowing the alleyway more and more. This is a great drill to improve your ability to hit straight, true and consistent baseline shots.
Cross Court Champion
Now that you've perfected the straight shot, it's time to add the cross court winner shot into your arsenal. For this drill you will require a partner. Both you and your partner should stand in diagonally opposing corners of the court. The player who is taking the active role in the drill should always aim to hit the ball back to the same corner. However, the person at the opposite end controlling the drill should mix up their shots between cross court shots and down the line shots. They should ensure that the majority are cross court shots, but throw in a straight drive occasionaly to keep active partner on their toes. Having to repeatedly hit cross court shots, while still being aware that they may have to react to a different shot in return will greatly increase the consistency of the active players cross court shots. Continue this drill until the active partner is exhausted. Practicing, even when your are very tired will help your consistency in real matches.
Now it's time to get out there and work on your game. If you practice these simple drills then after a while you will see an improvement in your tennis performance. Who knows, we might even see you at Wimbledon next year.
Who's up for the challenge of Playing their First Full Tennis Match?
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