“Home Style” Tennis Drills

Posted by Mike Lipinski on April 17, 2020

We are all in this together and with the USTA’s statement encouraging Americans to “take a collective pause from the sport we love” we should not be on the court. During this time away, I have selected some tennis drills that will help you improve your game. They will help you to get “match ready” for when we are able to be back on the courts!

Most of the following drills can be completed alone in the driveway or backyard. Only a few activities need a partner for help with volleying.

1. Warm Up Drills – suggested 10 minutes

  • Cardio: Jump Rope, Jumping Jacks, High Knees, Butt Kicks, Skaters (1 minute each)
  • Dynamic Stretches: Lunges, Reverse Lunges, Shuffles, High Skips 30 Seconds X 2 sets

When getting ready for a match, you want to be warm before you take the court. A warm up increases blood flow to your extremities and reduces the risk for injury. Try to develop a consistent routine so that you can use it when you are at a tournament or team match. The goal is to have a light sweat before hitting balls with your opponent. Be aware that Tournaments and USTA team matches have a limited warm up time that ranges from 5-15 minutes depending upon the event.

2. Ups and Downs

  • Ups: Hold the racquet with the Continental Grip and continuously tap the ball up without it hitting the ground. Repeat and try to set a high score. Can you do it without moving your feet, balancing on one foot or flipping between the racquet forehand and backhand? Set a high score to beat for next time.
  • Downs: Bounce the ball continuously off the ground with the racquet as if dribbling the ball. Try grounding your feet and balancing. Track your score.
  • Modifications: Try using a different ball, balloon or bean bag to slow it down. Maintaining the Continental Grip, can you spin the ball while tapping it up?

This drill is especially important for players of all levels to develop racket awareness, touch and ball control. The Continental Grip is sometimes called the hammer grip and is located placing your index knuckle on bevel # 2. Starting from the top bevel of the racquet, it is the next bevel right for right-handed players or left for left-handed players.

3. Volley Drill (Continental Grip)

  • Toss & Catch: Have a partner toss a ball and try to tap, or volley, it directly back to them so they can catch it without moving. Do 10 catches on the forehand, 10 catches on the backhand. Lastly, mix it up by returning throws that are a random mix of backhand and forehands.
    • Placement Challenge: Have a partner sit on the ground varying the toss. When returning, always hit down the line or cross court.
    • Volley to Volley: Keep the ball in the air by volleying with someone in your household. Each player has a racquet. Try to arch the ball as you stand some distance apart. Can you place it to your partner’s forehand or backhand?

No net? No problem! Get creative by hanging a rope 36”-42” high. Use a chair or other items around the house as a barrier between you and your partner.

4. Footwork Drills

  • Stances: Have someone toss a ball to one side or the other and move to that ball and catch it to the side of your body and toss it back to the feeder. If you don’t have a partner, underhand toss the ball into a wall. Can you load the outside or back leg?
  • Square Stance (feet and body sideways to the net), Semi-Open Stance (feet are diagonal to the net) & Open Stance (feet parallel to the net). Execute each stance 5 times.

Remind the thrower to change directions and depths of feeds to encourage movement in various directions simulating a match. Work on using the most efficient footwork as possible. Footwork is very important in being a successful player. Some of the best tennis players are the best movers. Footwork can be improved without even hitting a ball.

5. Technical Drill

  • Shadow Strokes and Swing Path: Isolate 1 stroke at a time focusing on topspin. Do 10 forehands and 10 backhands. Can you drive through the ball generating more power? (Flattening out the swing path some.) Can you brush up the ball producing more spin? (Adding more vertical change in the swing path.)
  • Shadow Strokes with Grip: Alternate forehand to backhand changing grips depending upon your spin. Grips enhance spin production.

Use a mirror or video to analyze your natural swing paths. The technical component of the game can be challenging and inconsistent at game speed because footwork and movement can vary contact points. The goal is to have your technique be smooth and efficient.

6. Serve Drill

  • Toss with Consistency: In your service stance, work on tossing the ball and see if you can catch the ball without moving when catching it.
  • Toss with Height: Work on accelerating the upper and lower arm together from hip to shoulder varying the height of the ball as you are varying limb acceleration.

Eliminating wrist and elbow bending movements is an important focus to have when developing toss consistency. If limited to the indoors due to weather, the toss can also be practiced while watching your favorite show with a ball or even pair of socks in hand.

7. Wall Drill

  • Slice Rally: Use the Continental Grip make sure you have some loft in your ball to sustain the rally. Stand 5-10 feet from the wall. Distances from the wall will vary depending upon the ball type and player ability.
  • Topspin Groundstroke Rally: Work 10 forehands only, hitting straight or down the line and then 10 backhands only, hitting down the line. Next alternate between forehand and backhand groundstrokes hitting the ball crosscourt. Stand 10-15 feet from the wall.
  • Volley Rally: Work on hitting up towards the wall so you have enough time to receive the next ball. This drill can be very difficult and requires quick hands. Stand 5-10 feet from the wall.
  • Serve and Rally: Stand 15-20 feet from the wall. Hit a ball at serve speed and rally your ground strokes.

It is important to use a low pressure foam, red or orange ball if the contact surface isn’t strong enough for the yellow ball. Be aware the garage or door could be dented with a yellow ball, but most likely not with a foam ball.

Mike Lipinski

Mike Lipinski

Mike Lipinski has been a certified United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) P2 since 2001 and has worked as a tennis professional at the Rochester Athletic Club since 2004. He teaches all levels of classes at the club from youth through adult and has been stringing racquets for 20 years.

Contact Mike Lipinski at (507) 287-9335 ext. 300.

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