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Guide to Tennis Drills: 6 Types of Practice Exercises

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 14, 2020 • 4 min read

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Whether you’re a tennis beginner or an advanced player, the game of tennis is a physically taxing sport that requires every muscle group of your body working in tandem for long periods of time. Tennis is also a mental game, requiring players to think quickly and decide which is the best shot they’re going to use to win the point. The more you practice your tennis skills, the more you can hone your abilities as a tennis player and improve your game exponentially.

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3 Ways That Practice Can Enhance Your Tennis Game

In tennis, practice is necessary to execute each move flawlessly. Tennis techniques need quick thinking and strategizing, like when to time your split step from the ready position, how to shift your body weight, when to hit cross-court or down the line, or when to go for an overhead.

  1. Trains muscles. Practice helps train your muscle memory for forehand and backhand groundstrokes, serves, and specialty shots. Practice can also get you into the right mindset for the game.
  2. Improves coordination. Practice improves hand-eye coordination, balance, and agility, and involves intense footwork and upper body movement.
  3. Improves timing. Bad timing can strain your wrist, shoulder, and elbows. Routine practice can greatly improve your timing, making you a better player, and protecting you from injury.

6 Tennis Practice Drills

Practice and warm-ups are the best way to improve your tennis game. Even if you can’t take tennis lessons, you can do tennis training with a friend or partner anytime. For a list of tennis practice exercises and basic drills you can try, see the examples below:

  1. Dribbling. One of the first and most basic exercises you should learn to master is how to dribble with your tennis racket. The dribbling drill focuses on your hand-eye coordination. Simply take your racket in your forehand grip and “dribble” the tennis ball, trying to keep it bouncing in the same place as long as you can, increasing the quickness and length of time each practice session. Dribbling the ball can also hone your focus between serves in a tennis match.
  2. Strengthening drills. Racket and string technology is steadily increasing and more open stance groundstrokes are being used in tennis, which puts extra strain on a player’s wrists and arms. Building strength in the muscles surrounding the joints in your arm can help prevent injuries during your tennis career. One simple drill you can try to build up your arm strength is to throw balls as hard as possible. You can start throwing with tennis balls, then graduate to baseballs and footballs. Incorporate this into your daily drills and throw for fun with friends when you can. Eventually, you may even be able to throw light medicine balls, which can help give your tennis serve some extra power.
  3. Groundstroke drills. For this drill, your tennis coach (or a partner) will toss the ball in front of you for a forehand. Once the ball bounces, catch it and throw it back. Then, the person throwing the ball immediately tosses it to your backhand, which you once again catch and throw back. The speed and distance should increase as the drill goes on. Once you have the motion of your tennis strokes and side steps down, you can add your racket and start hitting the balls instead of catching and throwing them (the thrower may need a basket of balls for this). You can also set up a ball machine on the other side of the court that automatically feeds you balls. Practice trying to time your split step with each shot.
  4. Volley drills. To practice volleys, player A stands at the net while player B feeds them different kinds of volleys from the baseline. Alternatively, both players can stand at the net, volleying to one another and keeping the ball in the air for as long as possible. To increase the challenge, the person at the baseline should feed balls directly at the center of the net player’s body, forcing them to decide in the moment whether to perform a forehand volley or backhand volley.
  5. Lob and overhead drills. This exercise has one player stand at the tennis court’s baseline, and the other at the center mark of the service line (the “T” connecting the service boxes). The person at the service line rushes close enough to the net to touch it with their tennis racket, and at the same time, the person at the baseline feeds them a lob. The person at the net will then have to practice running or backpedaling fast enough to catch the overhead smash at the right time and put away a winner. You can repeat this drill five to 10 times, then switch turns to practice your lobs.
  6. Serve and volley. Even if you’re too intimidated by serving and volleying, it’s a great serve drill that teaches you to be quick on your feet and decisive in your movements. Keep a basket of balls behind the baseline, and each time you serve, immediately rush the net afterward, trying to win the point against the returner. Do this drill from each service side, then switch so you can practice returning against the serve and volleyer.
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