One of the most overlooked aspects of tennis is the importance of footwork. However, professional athletes and experienced players truly understand how important footwork can be when it comes to the sport. Much of the focus when it comes to tennis revolves around shots, such as the serve, or forehand — however, footwork is just as important. One simple way to understand the importance of footwork in tennis is to realize that the perfect shot cannot be executed if the player is not even in a position to execute the shot. Footwork is the true way to prepare for a shot, and allows the player to be in a position, to follow through with form and technique.
Tennis is a game of constant movement. Even when a ball is close to you, the right footwork can help you balance correctly for the right shot. This might prove more important for shots that might not be one of your strengths, as well. It should be stated that this doesn’t necessarily even refer to speed, as much as productivity in terms of footwork. The legs can also prove a great base in terms of a powerful return shot, as well.
A great way to think about why footwork is important is because the right footwork allows you to position yourself perfectly PRE-shot. There is an analogy that can help a true tennis player understand. Every tennis player understands that the best players in the world are constantly bouncing the tennis ball on the ground before serving them. Many of these players use this time to strategize and focus on the game, and even distract or irritate their opponent as well. Regardless, it’s obvious that these players could easily serve well without doing this.
So — why do they bounce the ball? The answer is simple. They have a certain routine to their technique, and bouncing the ball helps to trigger their muscle memory. They have become so suited to bouncing a ball before a successful serve that it is second nature to them. Similarly, whether the ball is close by or far away — the right footwork has to get the player in the right position to make the right shot and execute the right strategy. Without the right footwork; it is extremely likely that the shot will not go the way that you intended.
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that every situation is different. Many times, the lessons that tennis coaches try to instill in students is that it takes large steps to cover ground, while short steps allow the player to adjust perfectly to position themselves in relation to the ball.
For example, if someone lobs the tennis ball over your head, you first must need to rush to get to the ball in time — and that’s covering ground. However, if the ball is close to you — but you realize that you have to shift from a forehand to a backhand — then you will need to make the short steps to adjust to this new situation.
This is why footwork drills are so essential if you want to improve the way that you play tennis. The right footwork drills can ensure that you not only get to the ball in time but have enough time to adjust for the perfect shot. This will not only help you “stay in the game” in terms of actual points, but also help you have enough time to strategize.
In tennis, all it takes is a second or two of strategy to completely change the power dynamic of a point, which in turn, could alter a game. As we all know, the right game, can then alter a set, which can alter the outcome of a match. The beauty of tennis is that no matter how down you might be in a particular moment — at any given time, you can come back from a disadvantaged position to win.
We all know that tennis is a sport that not only requires great footwork, but also requires a certain amount of endurance, as well. This is not a sport where you can lean on other team members to pick up the slack — and that’s something that must always be remembered. Every point is always up to you, your psychological state, and how much energy that you have.
That’s why a great footwork drill includes jumping rope exercises. Not only do jumping rope exercise build your muscles when it comes to footwork — you can also keep doing the jump roping exercises until you improve your overall breathing and stamina, as well. These kinds of exercises will prove invaluable when you are playing under intense conditions or need the motivation to find the energy to win that critical point.
It’s important to switch things up, because it’s not as though you need to do jump roping exercises on the tennis court all of the time. You might want to try to do the exercises on asphalt. When that gets old, make sure to do the jump roping exercises on grass, as well. Of course, always make sure that the surroundings are safe and that you are not putting too much pressure on your feet. For beginners, the best place to try these exercises will be the grass, since it requires less pressure on the ankles.
A great exercise to start out with is doing a 3-minute jump rope exercise. This will help you develop your skills, agility, and your endurance — all at the same time. As a result, it’s the perfect footwork drill. After the 3 minutes, take 1 minute to rest. For more intermediate and advanced players, try upping the ante by doing multiple 5-minute jump rope exercises, while giving yourself 90 seconds or 2 minutes in between.
Another great and easy way to improve your footwork that doesn’t even require anything other than a tennis ball is by playing “mini tennis”. The game is extremely simple, and can help you even work on other techniques, as well.
The game does require another player, or coach. In this scenario, you two will only play the game in the service box and treat it as the entire court. No tennis rackets are needed. Instead, you will throw the tennis ball underhanded to each other, and focus on moving your feet to catch the ball. You must catch the ball after one bounce, and before the ball bounces twice, just like in the sport of tennis. However, you will be focusing more than ever on your short-step footwork, given the fact that you will be adjusting within the service box only. You can play as long as you want, and even play to 7, and with tiebreaks, if you choose to.
It’s very easy to see that this game helps improve your footwork, and helps you focus in on GETTING to the ball before anything else, which is essential to tennis. The fact that your movement is limited allows you to work on your short-term adjustments, which could improve your overall game immensely.
One of the most popular footwork drills is the horizontal repeater, and with good reason. For beginners, it helps them get familiar with the baseline, and the way that they should be maneuvering around it — and for intermediate players, it simply improves their overall footwork to make sure that they are in top shape for their next match.
The great thing about the horizontal repeater is that it doesn’t even require a racket or a tennis ball but is simply all about footwork and speed. The player starts at the double sideline, facing the net. The player should then shuffle to the center service line. Once they reach this line, however, they should shift gears and sprint back to the first doubles sideline.
That is only the first part of the exercise, however! After you reach the first doubles sideline, which was your original starting position — you actually have to sprint to the OTHER doubles sideline! It’s easy to see how this exercise can be grueling if repeated. After reaching THAT sideline, it’s time to shuffle again to the center service line. Once this is reached, sprint back to the SECOND doubles sideline, then once THAT point is reached, sprint back through the FIRST doubles sideline, which is where the entire exercise began.
All in all, this is quite possibly the greatest footwork drill for the sport. Why, you ask? Well, for one, the exercise is taxing — so repeating the exercise helps to increase your endurance already. However, there are many other advantages.
There are many footwork drills that focus only on speed, rather than actual technique or direction. Tennis is about constant adjustment. The sport requires the player to adjust from offense playing to defensive playing, and from going all-out to score a point to making sure that draw out the point to psychologically frustrate your opponent. It’s about switching up strokes, techniques, and positions, all to present an overall strategy that will outsmart and outlast the opponent.
That’s why the horizontal repeater helps you work on both your shuffle sidestep while ALSO working on your sprinting. These are very different skills, as the sidestep might not be that important to those who love charging the net after a serve. Similarly, those who stay by the baseline might not be too interested in sprinting, as they prefer long rallies where they can slowly plot out a strategy should the opponent be able to keep the point in play. The fact that the horizontal repeater forces the player to brush up on both of these footwork techniques helps the player not only maintain endurance, but stay well-rounded, and have a game with a variety of techniques, that does not just rely on one strategy.
The next exercise should only be done by intermediate or advanced tennis players and is not for the faint of heart by any means. In fact, this exercise should not even be attempted if you are not in a particular fitness stage. This is the hexagon test exercise.
As you know, a hexagon is a shape of six sides. The hexagon can be created using any material that you prefer, with many coaches and players using masking tape. Make sure that the hexagon has sides of 2 feet, specifically. It should be noted that this exercise requires another person, whether they are a coach, player, friend, or otherwise.
The player should then stand in the middle of the hexagon. When a signal or sign is given, the player should then jump “outside of the hexagon” with both feet, on the opposite side of the masking tape. He or she should start by jumping forward with both feet, until they have jump-stepped outside of the hexagon on all six sides, three times. After three revolutions, the exercise is over.
The exercise should also be timed, so that you can actually improve on your agility and coordination. As mentioned before, this certainly is not an exercise for the beginner, and you should take some time to rest in between hexagon test exercises, as well. This will also help your overall balance, as well.
Tennis is about constant movement and adjustment, because every shot is delivered at a slightly different direction, speed, and spin. The tennis player must always be working to make sure that they are in the best position to counterattack these shots, which is why footwork is absolutely essential to the sport. This comes into consideration even more when one considers the fact that the sport is played on different surfaces — the hardcourt, the grass court, and the clay court.
The right footwork drills can transfer the entire way that you play the sport, believe it or not, which is why these exercises can truly change the way that you even feel about your own game. They can help you position yourself so that you make less unforced errors. They can help you cover more court so that you can reach shots that you otherwise couldn’t. The right footwork drills can help you build the right muscle memory — that might even give you the confidence to take your tennis game to a whole new level.