If your regular drilling partner has cancelled and can’t make it to the court, all is not lost. You don’t have to rely on her to get in a practice session -- drill against a backboard or practice wall. Drilling against a backboard can help you groove or hone many of the strokes you use during a match. What makes a backboard so effective is that it’s a reliable all-in-one drilling partner that never misses or quits. It helps you improve your footwork, form, timing and ball control.
Make a temporary target on the backboard or practice wall to give you a spot to aim for. Take four strips of painter's tape, or a low-stick tape, and make a 3-foot square box on the wall. Most backboards and walls have a white line running across them to indicate the height of the net. Put the square 10 inches above this line.
Stand back from the wall 25 to 30 feet to practice your forehand ground stroke. Set a number goal and try to hit the tennis ball into the square that many times. You can make the goal of the drill to hit the ball a consecutive number or a total number of times. If you're a beginner, start with a goal of 10. Start with a goal of 30 if you’re an intermediate player and a goal of 50 if you're advanced. If you hit a ball that rebounds back toward your backhand, stop and start again at zero or from where you left off -- depending on the goal of the drill. Also, decide on how many ball bounces off the wall to allow before you hit it. For example, you may decide to hit the ball after two bounces. While drilling, stick to this number -- this helps you work on your footwork movement. Once you've hit your goal, take a 10-minute break and then repeat with your backhand.
Move closer to the wall to practice your forehand volley. If you're a beginner player, stand 3 or 4 feet away from the wall. Use dead tennis balls because they're easier to control. Intermediate and advanced players should stand at least 6 feet from the wall and use regular balls. Set yourself a number goal and aim for the square. Remember, you must hit the ball with no bounces. If you make a mistake or hit the ball to your backhand, stop and start over at zero or from where you left off. Once you've hit your goal, take a 10-minute break and then repeat with your backhand.
Perform an overhead smash drill if you're an advanced player and looking for a challenging drill. Remove the tape and stand 20 to 25 feet from the wall. The distance will vary depending on how hard you hit the ball. To start, toss the ball up as if you were going to hit a serve. Snap your wrist as you contact the ball and hit it down sharply 4 to 5 feet in front of the wall. If you've hit the ball correctly with the right amount of pace, it will bounce up, hit the wall and rebound high enough toward you so you can hit another smash. Set a number goal and try to hit that many consecutive smashes.
- United States Tennis Association: Practice Drills & Techniques
- The Tennis Drill Book; Tina Hoskins
- Work on "sameness" when you hit against the backboard -- hitting the ball the same way with the same form, over and over.
- When you practice your volleys, concentrate on moving your feet, keeping your racket up in front of your body and using short, compact swings.
- Avoid drilling against a backboard if the court's surface is wet. Even with the slightest amount of moisture you could slip and get injured.