Many players lack a solid tennis game foundation due to poor footwork movement around the court. There is a debate amongst players as to which stroke is the core foundation for tennis. Some players’ would say it’s the serve while others say it’s the groundstroke skills. All of them are wrong, because it’s the footwork for tennis that is the foundation.
Footwork for tennis is a vital component to win tennis matches. Your skills in groundstrokes, volley shots, drop shots and other tennis techniques are useless if you can’t reach the ball or you are not in position to hit the ball. This is why tennis footwork is very critical.
Ready position footwork for tennis
The ready position is the foundation for your footwork when you are playing tennis matches. Your movement in the court during the game depends on your ready position footwork. The ready position footwork is also called an athletic position.
This position is accomplished by spreading your legs shoulder-width or more. The spacing between your legs can also depend on how comfortable you are. You can spread them wider or closer based on your comfort zone. Your knees should be slight bent and your weight should be on the balls of your feet.
The racket must be out in front of you body, with your right hand (if you are right handed) holding the racket and your left hand supporting it. The left hand touches the throat of your racket. Have your arms relaxed and your eyes glued to the ball. The ideal ready position height is one foot shorter than your normal height. This position allows you to move explosively around the court which is needed in any tennis match.
The split step footwork for tennis
In every tennis serve return you make in tennis, the split step should be the first response. The split step is a movement where you elevate slightly (1 – 2 inches high from the ground) and then land as your opponent is about to hit the ball. The timing of your landing should be perfectly timed. Spread out your feet while you’re airborne, at about shoulder width. When you land, make sure that your knees are bent slightly. This posture puts you in a ready position to react accordingly to the ball in any part of the court. Normally, this split step is executed when you return serves and you are on your way towards the net. The split step is also used prior to moving for a volley and any groundstroke.
The side shuffle tennis footwork
Proper footwork for tennis is always necessary in every tennis stroke. A shuffle step is a very important step when you are executing ground strokes. Once you hit a ball in any part of the court, you need to recover back to the center baseline. In doing so, you can’t turn around and run towards it. This is the time you need to shuffle back towards your original post and the same time look out for what your opponent is doing. The side shuffle footwork also allows you to move to the left or right and quickly return the ball. It will allow for a easy change of direction from left to right depending on the direction of the opponent’s ball.
You can execute the side shuffle footwork in tennis by stepping your left foot out (in a sideways direction) then shuffling your right foot sideways. You continue these steps until you reach the point where you want to be. If you want to go to the other direction, this time step your right foot out then bring in your left foot. Again, continue until you reach your destination. Just always remember that when doing the side shuffle, you should always be facing the net with your eyes on the ball.
One crossover step followed by side shuffle steps
The crossover step followed by side shuffle steps is normally used in baseline rallies and in groundstrokes. This footwork for tennis is used when you want to cover longer distances quicker during the recovery phase in a groundstroke.
Right after you hit the ball, you need to recover to the center of the baseline. Instead of directly doing a shuffle step, you crossover your left foot (if you are going to the right side direction) over your right foot and then do the side shuffle steps. Again, make sure that you are always facing the net to monitor your opponent’s movements.
Recovery footwork in tennis
The quickest method of recovering after you hit your shot is crossover steps while keeping your upper body facing towards the net. Crossover steps are done by crossing over one foot over the other, and can more effective than breaking into shuffle steps immediately to recover to your ideal position after the hit.
This tennis footwork is used mostly in ground strokes or baseline rallies. This footwork for tennis covers longer distance than the side shuffle and the ‘single crossover step followed by side shuffle steps’. Again this is used when you want to go back to the center baseline after you return a ball. What you need to do is to face right (if you are going to the right side of the court) then make two or three crossover steps followed by side shuffle steps as described above. Remember not to lose your eye contact with the ball and your opponent.
Sprinting Footwork for tennis
Sprinting footwork is used in many instances in tennis matches. One way to use this tennis footwork is when your opponent executes a drop shot and you are in the far side of the court. There is no other footwork to use here other than to run as fast as you can to reach the ball. There are also instances that running can be used in baseline rallies. Like for example, a full out sprint would be used if your opponent hits a winning shot in the left corner of the court and you are in the right corner of the court.
However, turning your body and sprinting is not effective in all cases of baseline rallies. There are obvious disadvantages when you run towards the ball rather than using the proper lateral movement footwork. In baseline rallies for example, running should be the last result to reach the ball. A full out sprint means you can’t see your opponent’s movement because you are facing the side of the court instead of facing the net.
Several steps and then side shuffle footwork for tennis
Forward movement is a necessary part of footwork for tennis. There may be instances where you must move forward up to the court to hit a short ball or an approach shot. This tennis footwork move is used when you are about to return a short ball. When you are in the center of the baseline (original position) and your opponent hits a short ball in the service line, you need to do several normal steps to run forward to reach the ball. Once you hit the ball, spring back to your original position with shuffle steps. The normal quick steps are use to cover long distances while the shuffle steps are used when you recover to the center baseline so that your eyes are glued to your opponent.
Return of serve footwork in tennis
This footwork for tennis is very important to be able to return serve effectively. Normally when your opponent is about to do the first serve, you stay a few feet away from the baseline. Once your opponent tosses the ball, you hop forward and take the ready position as mentioned above. This hop or split step will help you to cut the distance especially if the ball is served wide.
Small Steps tennis footwork
Small steps are used not to cover long distances but to adjust yourself when the ball is close to your reach. Once the ball is already close to your reach, long strides footwork are not ideal as they can cause you to be off balance as your try to reach for the ball. In addition, small steps are also very good to use when you need to make small adjustments to put yourself in the best position to return the ball.
In addition to preventing yourself from getting off balance when returning the ball, small steps can also put you in your comfort zone when you hit the ball. Being in your comfort zone means you can have an aggressive return or even a winning shot.
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