You don’t need to head to an athletic track or search for a steep hill to do sprint exercises for tennis. With racket in hand, you can use the court to perform sprint drills. Short sprints with quick changes of direction are optimal because they not only improve anaerobic fitness but also hone your tennis skills.
Before undertaking any sprint exercises, always do a warm-up. It only takes a few minutes to prepare your body for explosive drills and can prevent injury. An example warm-up is to jog around the court six times. Do a relaxed jog on the first lap. Change your gait to sidestepping with your body facing the court on the second lap. For the third lap, reverse the sidestepping and turn away from the court. Backpedal on the fourth lap. Swivel around and sprint all out on the fifth lap. Use the sixth lap to walk it off.
Baseline sprints are simple T-shaped runs back and forth between the baseline and the sidelines. These footwork drills help to improve your forward, backward and lateral movement. Begin at the center of the baseline, or the back line of the court. Sprint to the junction of the center line and the service line. Cut right to the sideline and then backpedal to the baseline. Repeat the exercise, but turn left at the T of the service court. Perform 10 to 20 reps for three to five sets.
Commonly called the suicide drill, the shuttle run will not only improve speed but also test your endurance. Although tennis players tend to hate this exercise, it will build strength in your quads and hamstrings. Begin at the baseline. Sprint to the service line, touch the line, swivel around and sprint back to the baseline. Perform five reps. Repeat the exercise but extend the distance of the sprint from the baseline to the net. For a variation, start the drill on the outside doubles sideline, holding a racket. Sprint to touch each line on the court with the racket, returning to the sideline on every sprint. Repeat this exercise three times.
Using Sequential Patterns
Develop your footwork skills to better cover the court during match play by structuring sprints in sequential patterns. Begin at the center of the baseline. Sprint to the junction of the baseline and the left sideline, or base one. Touch that point with your racket and return to your starting position. For the next four sprints, always return to the starting position. On the second sprint, head to base one but cut right and head to the junction of the left sideline and the service line, or base two. Run backward to the center of the service line from the center of the baseline, or base three. Sprint to the junction of the right sideline and the baseline, cut left and run an additional stretch to the junction of the right sideline and the service line, or base four. Sprint only to the junction of the right sideline and baseline, or base five. Repeat this sequence of five sprints three times. Time each sequence, and try to improve your time with each successive sequence.
- Game-Set-Match: A Tennis Guide; James E. Bryant
- The Tennis Drill Book: 245 Drills for Technique, Conditioning, and Match Tactics; Tina Hoskins
- Speed Training for Tennis: Improve Your Performance Around the Court; Manfred Grosser, et al.
- Serious Tennis; Scott P. Williams
- Sports Physiology for Coaches, Volume 10; Brian J. Sharkey, et al.
- The Men’s Health Guide to Peak Conditioning; Richard Laliberte, et al.
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.