Winning Wimbledon may be a long shot, but hoisting the women's club championship trophy may be within reach if you practice, practice, practice. Tennis is harder than most people think, and becoming a good player doesn't happen overnight -- it takes hours of on-court drills. If you took lessons as a child, the fun, carnival-like drills you did were designed to help you figure out how your body moves, with a few tennis basics thrown in. But now that you're older, stronger and have better coordination, the drills can still be fun, just a bit more structured and advanced.
Cross-Court Point Play
Drills that involve playing points are considered "live ball" drills -- they involve playing out situations close to what you might experience during an actual match. For this drill, two players play cross-court points until one player has reached a predetermined number. The boundaries are from the singles sideline to the center service line with an imaginary extension of this line to the baseline. Both players start on the baseline, and one player drops the ball and hits it into play. Players can hit any type of shot to try to win the point. The player winning the rally gets a point and starts the next point.
If you can convince three of your tennis buddies to join you, try figure-eight volleys to help you perfect your volley and develop a feel for the ball. Each player stands in a service box, facing the net from 5 feet away. You start the drill by hitting a volley straight across the net to the player in front of you. Without letting the ball bounce, she hits a volley diagonally across to the next player who then volleys the ball straight ahead to the next person. This player then volleys the ball diagonally back to you to complete the figure-eight pattern. Set a number goal and try to complete that many figure eights. Once you do, repeat the pattern in the opposite direction.
Angled Drop Shots
A finesse shot, the drop shot requires a feel for the ball. The angled drop shot drill helps you develop the perfect touch. Stand in one of the service boxes, 4 feet from the net near the singles sideline. Have a practice partner do the same in the service box diagonally across from you. Underhand toss a ball in front of you, let it bounce and then cut underneath the ball with your racket as you hit it. This puts backspin on the ball, which is crucial to an effective drop shot. Your goal is to angle your shot over the net toward your partner and get the ball to land in front of her as close to the net as possible. She then hits a drop shot back to you and you continue back and forth as many times as you can.
Playing no-bounce doubles encourages you to get to the net -- a key element for winning doubles. Start with two teams standing in the usual doubles formation -- one player near the net and the other at the baseline ready to serve or receive. You decide to serve first and after you do, you run toward the net. The serve is the only ball that can bounce. The receiver returns the ball and runs toward the net. With all four players near the net, the point is played out. If the ball bounces or a team makes an error, the point is over and the opposing team wins a point. The next serve is served by your partner, and you continue to alternate the serve with your partner until one team has won 10 points. The serve than goes to the other team and you repeat the drill.
- Bollettieri Classic Tennis Handbook; Nick Bollettieri
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