Ramping up your tennis game requires more than developing a strong backhand or a powerful serve. The way you use your feet affects your ability to move across the court quickly and the amount of power in your return stroke. The ready position facilitates foot movement in any direction so you can hit the tennis ball to return a serve or volley. The split step, often overlooked by nonprofessional players, is performed from the ready position and adds explosive power to your game. Use of proper technique for adjustment steps allows you to get into position to meet your opponent's return.
Assume a ready position with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, your knees bent slightly and your upper body leaning forward. With your weight on the balls of your feet, in this position you are centered and ready for movement.
Keep your eye on the tennis ball. When your opponent strikes the ball, jump off the ground approximately 1 inch.
Split your feet apart and come back down on the balls of your feet with your feet wide apart. As you come back down, bend your legs at the knees, allowing your weight to load in your legs and create a spring. In the split position you are ready to move in either direction by leaning your body toward the oncoming tennis ball.
Take a quick step with the foot closest to the oncoming tennis ball. Turn your foot as you step, so your foot comes down parallel to the baseline.
Push off with your other foot and run toward the ball, if it is far from you.
Bring your feet back to parallel with each other and facing the net after you return the ball.
Side shuffle back to center court after returning the ball. Step your outside foot to the side. Follow your outside foot with your inside foot, making sideways moves. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet so you can quickly pivot, if needed, to get to the ball. By using a side shuffle instead of running to center court you're ready for a split step if your opponent hits the ball.
Cross step before doing side shuffles when you're close to the sideline of the court and need to cover ground quickly. Cross your outside foot over your inside foot. Move your inside foot toward center court and begin side shuffles.
Run step forward when you need to be closer to the net, or take running steps backward while still facing the net for a shot about to land behind you.
For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.