The game of tennis is widely believed to have started thousands of years ago. One theory is that monks played a crude courtyard ball game which was played against the walls of the monastery. It was named ‘je de paume’ which meant game of the hand. Theory says that the monks would shout ‘tenez’ when they served the ball. ‘Tenez’ means to take, and the game seems to have evolved from there. Over time the game grew in popularity and spread beyond the monastery walls. At one point, it became so popular that the Pope as well as King Louis IV tried to ban it. The game continued and to this day it is still played avidly all over the world. Tennis rackets changed from rather strange looking paddle type things to wooden frames with string, and then to more modern versions. Tennis balls were originally made of wood but over the years they changed to leather filled balls.
In 1850 Charles Goodyear invented vulcanised rubber which changed the whole design of a tennis court and made the balls somewhat bouncier. These were the beginnings of tennis courts as we know them now. Tennis is now played all over the world and by millions of people everywhere.
What is tennis?
Tennis is a game which is played by either two or four players, in singles, or doubles. Each person uses a racket to hit the ball. The aim is to hit the ball over the centre net and into the opponent’s side of the court in a way that the opponent cannot return, and thus win the point. If the opposite players are unable to return the ball, then the point is awarded to the side that hit the ball first.
Tennis is played at all levels, from children’s tennis to social tennis and up to Olympic level. It is even played by people in wheelchairs. In fact, it can be played by anyone who can hold a racket.
According to a 2013 MIT study wheelchair tennis is now played in over 100 countries.
The rules of the game have changed very little since 1890, with the last change taking place in the 1970’s with the introduction of the tie break. Only recently has electronic review technology been added, along with the point challenge system.
Some of the most notable Tennis Tournaments are Wimbledon, the French Open, the US Open, and the Australian Open. The French Open is played on clay courts, while the Australian and US Opens are played on hard courts and Wimbledon is played on grass.
Drills for under sevens
Children who are under seven years old need entirely different drills from older children. While an adult may think of these as just games, they form an important part in teaching the little ones’ coordination and speed.
- Hula Hoops: have children line up with the coach about 10 feet away from and holding a hula hoop. The coach feeds a ball to the first child and they should try to hit it back through the hula hoop. This is designed to improve control.
- Shot variation: coach should demonstrate three different shots to the kids. Any more than this and they will not be able to concentrate. Soft, medium, and hard are all they need. Have them stand behind the baseline while the coach stands on the other side of the net. Coach feeds the ball to the students and the little ones return them as best they can.
- Freeze drill: after the kids have gotten the basic idea of hitting the ball, they can do this drill. Have them line up on the service line, with enough space between players so they do not hit each other when they swing their rackets. As the coach calls out the shot, they simulate them, but when the coach calls ‘freeze’ they must all freeze exactly where they are. This gives the coach the opportunity to check each child’s stance and correct if needed.
- Positioning drill: have the kids stand on the baseline and the centre with coach the other side of the net. Coach feeds a backhand ball to the student who must run to hit it, then immediately return to the centre of the court, and wait for the next ball. Coach should hit shots all over the court so the student has to learn to reposition after each shot.
- Three strikes drill: players line up at the centre of the baseline. Coach feeds the ball to the first student who must return it. Because they are so young, this in itself may be a good effort. If the student fails to get the ball over the net, he is given one strike. A second miss is strike two and a third miss means that he is out. The next player then takes over. Last player standing is the winner.
- Horse drill: coach specifies an area of the court that the student must hit to. Whatever stroke the coach hits, the student should repeat. If he misses the shot, then he gets the letter H and so on until the word Horse is spelled. Keep a check on how long it takes to reach the end and try to better it the next time.
- Bouncing drill: have the kids bounce the ball on the ground from the centre of the racket. In the beginning, they will only be able to do a few of these, but they should persevere and keep a score of how long they can do this for. This improves hand eye coordination.
Drills for beginners and kids
Drills are the best way for beginners and children to learn the basics of the game and develop correct techniques. They are also the best way to develop consistency and build up confidence.
Every tennis stroke is really just a process of putting together a series of movements, but these must be practised for the player to play to a reasonable level. Below is a basic running lines drill, although this can be hanged as the coach wishes.
- Running the lines: this serves two purposes of warming up the players, and also teaching them the names of the lines as the coach may vary the lines from single to double lines.
Jog to the net from the baseline
Backpedal all the way back to the baseline
Sidestep left to the sideline
Jog to the net
Backpedal to the baseline
Sidestep to the right sideline
Jog to the net
Backpedal to the baseline
- Frying Pan: this drill is a good way for anyone just starting to play tennis to become used to hand-eye coordination. Players who have been playing a while will already be familiar with this drill.
The player should hold the racket in the dominant hand just as they would a frying pan. Place a tennis ball on the face of the racket and slowly start to move the racket up and down so that the ball starts to bounce on the strings. Once it starts bouncing they must see how many bounces they can do, and progress to a timed amount. This can also be done as a competition between players to see who can bounce the ball the longest.
Once they have mastered this, the variation of turning the racket 180 degrees between bounces should be tried and mastered.
- Dribble: the player holds the racket in the dominant hand and a ball in the other hand. Bounce the ball on the ground and hit it with the racket. They should continue with this so that they have a consistent steady dribble. A variation on this is that the player then starts to move around as they dribble the ball. They can start to walk forwards and then progress to walking backwards as they dribble.
- Forehands and Backhands: have the player at one end of the court positioned at the centre of the service line. They may take either a forehand or a backhand stance. Coach stands slightly in front and off to the side with a basket of balls. Coach tosses the balls one at a time so that it bounces in front of the player at waist height and have the player hit the stroke. After hitting the bucket of balls, and keeping a count of how may went over the net, coach switches to the other side and the player changes the stroke. Again, keep a track of how many balls have gone over the net.
- Ball Toss: have the player stand at the centre of the service line ready for either forehand or backhand. Coach stands off to the side. Coach tosses the ball short to the player so that they must run towards the ball, hit the shot, and return to the line before hitting the next shot. Make sure the player makes good contact with the ball and that their footing is correct when they take the shot.
- Side to side drill: coach stands off to the side and calls out to the player if they are to play forehand or backhand. The player must react and move quickly into position to play the correct shot. Coach should make sure that the players racket is head high in readiness for either shot. This drill may be varied, by the coach not telling the player which shot to play. Leaving it to the player to decide will mean that they start to think more about the game and which shot to instinctively to play.
- Hit/catch: here the coach has a cone and the player has the racket. Have them stand at the centre of the service line in the ready position. Coach stands halfway between net and player. Coach tosses the ball to the players forehand and they must hit it back to the cone so the coach can catch it. Then repeat the drill with the coach using a racket and the player the cone. This drill improves hand eye coordination as well as accuracy when hitting a ball. A variation is when the coach does not tell the player where he is going to throw the ball and the player has to react rapidly and accurately to return the ball.
- Service accuracy: the service toss is very important to start a rally. Have the player in position to take a service shot. Place a racket on the ground where the perfect shot should land if the player was not to hit it but rather let it drop. Place a bucket of balls close to the player. Player throws a ball up and takes the shot but does not hit the ball. The ball should drop right onto the strings of the racket on the ground.
- Service movements: once the player can serve reasonably well, it is time to move on to drills to develop correct service movement. No racket is needed here. Have the player hold the ball in the dominant hand. This drill is broken down into three positions. First, they should raise their arms, and keeping them straight, into a ‘t’. Second position is where they drop the dominant elbow and raise the tossing hand to form what is known as the ‘trophy pose’. Third position is where they drop the tossing arm, twist the torso, and extend the dominant arm forward until it is fully extended. They then release the ball and drop it into the service box. Repeat the service motion so that you can watch their action and comment on it.
- Toss and Blocks: this drill involves volleys. Have the player hold the racket as if it were a hammer. They should be off to one side of the court and standing on the service line. Coach heads to the other side of the net, also along the service line. Coach tosses the ball over the net and the player, while keeping the racket in front of them, should punch the ball back with their racket. This shot is not a swing, rather a block and stop shot. Once comfortable with a forehand block, have the player change to the backhand. The variation is where the player alternates forehand and backhand block shots.
- Split Step Shots: player should start this drill at the middle of the service line. Coach should explain the split step, where the knees are slightly bent so that the player is ready to play forehand or backhand. Coach signals to the player and then tosses the ball to the forehand. Player steps forward with the opposite foot to punch the ball back. Repeat until this is mastered and then change to the backhand. After that this can be done without telling the player which side you are tossing the ball to, and they must decide for themselves.
Drills for intermediate players
Many club and social players are in the intermediate range. They may become frustrated playing at club level because they lack the experience or training to finish off a shot. Tennis is a game where small improvements can mean big rewards. Having a consistent drill routine is a quick and simple way to improve the game.
- Deep rallies: this drill takes to players. The goal is to hit the ball past the service line for ten times in a row. First player hits five balls, the second player hits five, then repeat. By concentrating on the depth of the stroke, the players will be forced to lengthen the swing. Once they can consistently play 10 shots at the further length, then this may be increased to 20.
- Down the line and across: the drill is designed to make the player hit the ball in an assigned area, no matter where they are. The drill forces players to get into position rapidly while still staying in control of the shot. Players stand on opposite sides of the court. One player hits the ball down the line and the other player hits cross court. Try to work up to doing this drill ten times or more in a row to become more consistent.
- Approach shots: this drill makes players hit balls from different positions on the court, and also works on the need for correct footwork. The drill starts with a rally between two players who hit five balls back and forth before any scoring is attempted. After five shots players approach any ball and hit an approach shot at the net. If the player fails to hit this shot, they lose a point. The first player to reach 10 points wins.
- Play down the alley: this drill limits the size of the court and is designed to improve accuracy rather than power. Players stand on the opposite sides of the court directly across from each other. They must hit between 10 – 12 shots only into the smaller area to complete this drill. As the accuracy improves, the amount of shots played will increase. Players should practice this for ten minutes.
- Overhead hit and run: the goal of this drill is to work on the footwork that is needed to put away shots rapidly. One player stands at the net and the other at the baseline. The baseline player has a bucket of balls with them. The baseline player hits a reasonably deep lob and the second player hits the overhead shot, then sprints to the net and taps it to indicate he is ready for another shot. This is very tiring so continue until tired and then switch positions.
- Service drills: have at hand three baskets of balls and set up three targets, either using cones or similar. Number the targets 1,2,3. Coach calls out the number of any random cone and the player then serves as close to the cone as possible. Practise this for at least 30 minutes as far too little time is normally spent perfecting the serve, even though it is the most important shot of the game.
- Charge the net: this drill improves movement and aggression at the net. As a rule, the faster a player can get to the ball, the easier the volley will be to control. One player serves the ball while a feeder stands off to the side with a basket of balls. The balls should just clear the net, forcing the player to run into the net to play the shot. After charging the net and playing the shot, the player runs back to the baseline to wait for the next ball. Repeat until the receiver is tired and then swap.
- Standard return drill: this drill works with two players, one at the service line with a basket of balls and the other on the opposite baseline. The service player hits across and must alternate between different types of serves such as a slice, flat serve and topspin serve. The receiver is forced to adapt to whichever serve comes their way. Keep a count of how many successful returns are made and then swap sides and try to beat the score.
- Pepper drill: this drill is as it says in that one player literally peppers the other with balls. The receiver must try to get as many back as possible in a set period of time. This drill improves hand eye coordination very much. After the clock has stopped, change sides and try to beat the score. Pay attention to footwork and positions.
- Ball drop: this drill is very good to improve short spurts of speed such as when running to the net to return a ball. One player stands at the net with a ball in each hand and both arms outstretched to the sides in a ‘T’. Second player stands about 10 feet away from the player at the net. A ball is dropped and the second player must run and catch the ball before it has bounced for the second time. After catching the ball, the player returns to the position to repeat the drill.
- Pressure drill: Two players start playing but one of the players starts the set at 0-15 or even 0-30 and must work under pressure to win the set. Another variation of this is to only allow the players one serve. This will put pressure on them to be accurate and speedy.
Drills for groups
- Go to Jail: as many as 20 players can partake in this drill. Players line up at one end of the court and the balls are hit towards them, over the net and between the lines. They may either return using forehand or backhand. The aim is to hit the ball to a specific area. If they succeed then they are safe, if not they go to jail. Going to jail means that they go off to the side of the court and catch a ball hit by another player. A catch gets them out of jail. If they fail to catch they stay in jail. The last player has the job of releasing the prisoners by catching three balls in a row, and they are all free to start again.
- Around the world drill: this drill can be used for players of all standards. It can be done with as many as 16 players. The group is divided into two equal parties and line up on opposite ends of the court at the baselines. Coach stands near one of the net posts and feeds the ball to the first player., who then hits the ball into the court. After hitting the ball the player runs around the net post to the other side of the court. The player on the other side does the same. Should a player miss the shot, an out is called and the feed goes to the receiver on the other side. At three outs the player is dropped from the drill and the last man standing is the winner.
- Lob drill: this drill is very fast paced and can be done by a large group of plyers. Players line up at the net on the right of the feeder. The coach feeds a lob down the centre of the court. One at a time the players run and return the lob and try to hit the ball to win the point. If the player wins the point they run around to the end of the line, if the player loses the point, they become the feeder until someone else loses and replaces them. The players should be looking up towards the ball in anticipation of returning the ball as the drill is meant to be carried out rapidly.
- Five man drill: this drill is designed for doubles players to improve aggressive shots. Two players stand at the net and the other two stand on the opposite baseline. The fifth person stands behind the pair at the net and feeds them a ball. The point is played with the net players playing as aggressively as they can to win the point. They may use any kind of shot to win the point. The players at the baseline defend the shots as best they can with lobs, or any other shots. After two attempts, things are changed and positions reversed. The first team to reach ten points wins the game.
- Ten ball pick up drill: there should be at least six players to do this drill. They should make two teams and line up on the opposite sides of the court. The first player from each team should be at the centre of the baseline. Have ten balls in a basket at the centre of the net. At the coach’s whistle the first two players run to the net. First player to reach the net gets a ball and runs back where he drop hits the ball to the opposite side. The point is played out and the team who wins the rally gets to run for a ball to hit to the other team. The winning team is the one with the empty basket of balls.
- Champs and Challengers: players should pair up for this drill. One pair are champions and the other team are the challengers. Coach feeds the ball to the champions. The challengers must try to win two consecutive points. Once they have done this, the ball is fed to the other team who must try to win two points. The losing pair move to the back of the line and a new pair of challengers takes their place. The game continues until all the pairs have played points.
- 105 drill: the aim of this drill is to develop aggression and an attacking game. Up to 20 people can do this drill together. Players should divide into two groups and take positions on opposite sides of the court. Players play a game of doubles but with a different scoring method. Unforced errors are 1 point. A win from the baseline is 5 points and a volley win is 10 points. The overhead winning shot scores the most at 25 points. Pairs play for the team as long as they are winning. When they lose they are replaced by the next pair of players. The first team to reach 105 is declared the winner. This drill is very good for developing an aggressive game.
- Space Invaders: a group of 10players is divided into two teams with both teams spread put along the service line. Coach feeds the ball to a player who must volley the ball over the net to the other team. Continue the rally until the point is won and a player makes a mistake. That player is then knocked out of the game. This continues until one team loses all players. This drill is designed to make players more competitive.
- Kings drill: players are divided into two groups, one are challengers and the other are kings. The team takes their places at the net and play against the challengers. Coach feeds the challengers a ball for each point and they must then win 2 out of 3 to be able to dethrone the kings. Once they do this they must run to the kings’ side of the court to receive the ball from the next pair of challengers. The first pair to win 10 times as kings wins the game. Not only does this drill develop accuracy, but also builds up stamina.
Drills for adults
- Live drills: these drills involve playing out the game very like one that you may expect in a real match. Here there should be two players playing cross court points until one player reaches a certain number. Both players must start on the baseline, one player drops the ball and hits it into play. Any type of shot can be used to win the point. The winner of the rally gets a point and he then starts the next point.
- Figure eight volleys: this rill will need four players. Each player stands in a service box facing the net. The drill starts with the first player hitting the ball straight across the net to the player in front of them. Without letting the ball bounce, that player hits the ball diagonally across to the next player. The figure eight pattern continues and players should try to do as many figure eight rallies as they can. The variation is to the repeat the drill in the opposite direction. This drill is a very good way to perfect the volley.
- Drop shot drill: this drill needs two players on opposite sides of the net, reasonably close to the net. With an underhand stroke, one player tosses a ball in front of themselves, lets it bounce and the using an undercut stroke, hits the ball. The goal is to angle the shot over the net to the other player where it lands in front of them as close to the net as possible. That player then returns the ball with the same undercut stroke. Players should continue this as many times as possible. This drill helps develop a finesse touch for the ball.
- No-bounce drill: this drill encourages the players to get close to the net. Two teams take their place as in a doubles match. One player serves first and then runs towards the net. With all four players at the net, the point should be played out. Should the ball bounce, the point is over and the other team wins a point. The other side then serves and the drill is repeated until one team reaches 10 points. This drill is a key element for winning games.
Drills for seniors
Even senior people may still enjoy playing tennis and to do this well, there are some exercises that can be done to keep them in good shape.
In an article from href=”https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232162553_Speed_Quickness_and_Agility_Training_for_Senior_Tennis_Players we read that these three qualities will improve a senior tennis
- Lateral jumps: for this drill a jump rope is placed straight on the floor. Players should jump over to the other side of the rope and back and try to clear the rope by a few inches each time. They should start off slowly but build up to three sets of 15 seconds at a time.
- Forward and Backward Jumps: this is the same drill except the player jumps forwards over the rope and then backwards over it. Start off slowly and build up to three sets of 15 seconds at a time.
- Criss-cross rope: in rapid movements straddle the rope, landing on one foot first and then the next, before jumping to the other side and doing the same procedure. Try to do three sets of 10 seconds.
- Assisted let go: the player leans forward until their shoulders are cupped in the other person’s hands at shoulder height. They then imitate the running stance with the support of the second person to stop them falling forwards, and then the player is let go and does a sprint. Repeat this drill 3 times with 6 reps, taking a break of a minute between sets.
- Zig zag drill: Have six cones laid out about 8 feet apart in the form of a ‘W’. Players must run through the cones without stepping on them, as rapidly as possible. Repeat three or four times and then take a break.
- Lateral throw drill: stand with legs shoulder width apart and arms at sides, with a ball in one hand. In an explosive movement raise the arm and throw the ball to the other player. This drill should be done as vigorously as possible. Try to do three sets of 8 reps and make sure to change sides.
Drills for footwork
- Lateral-movement footwork drill: for this drill, you need an agility ladder. Starting with the left foot, move it into the left corner of the first step of the ladder, then move the right foot up to the first step. Proceed all the way through the rungs in this way and then come backwards with the feet on the outside of the ladder. You should be looking down when you start this drill until you are familiar with the distance between the ladder rungs.
- Rope jumping drill: this drill should be done on a firm surface. Grass is acceptable, as long as it is not too long and soft. For beginners, grass is best as it is less hard on ankles and knees. Beginners should start with a 20 second rope jump, with a short break. As they become more proficient, the time can be increased to a three minute rope jump with a 60 second rest between sets. Aim to build up to 4 sets. This drill will improve alertness and endurance.
- Split step drill: at the beginning of the drill the players should position themselves on the baseline. They then do the split step which is when they jump into the sir about 1 – 2 inches from the ground, and open their legs while in the air, land with feet shoulder width apart, in a position ready to leap towards the ball. The knees should be slightly bent on landing. Upon landing, the player should run to the right corner of the alley and then back to the centre of the court with a side step movement. Repeat the drill for three times in a row and then take a rest for 60 seconds.
- Ladder agility drill: this drill is designed to improve the agility and foot speed. The single leg run is carried out with the agility ladder placed flat on the ground. The player steps into each ladder space between the rungs with one foot in each space and moves rapidly from one end to the other. It may take time to be done before feeling confident to do it fast, but this will improve. Rest as needed between runs and then try to be quicker each time.
- Double leg drill: this drill is done by running up the length of the ladder but having the feet land on the outside of the ladder instead of inside the rungs. Again, this drill should be done at high speed.
- Side step drill: start this drill by doing a single leg run, except doing it while going sideways up and down the ladder. Take care at first and start doing the drill slowly until you are familiar with it, before speeding up.
- Shuffle drill: using the agility ladder, the player should step with left and right feet on each step of the ladder. It does not make any difference which foot goes first. On the third step the player should jump outside the rungs with both feet. Continue to the end in this manner, and then do it backwards slowly, until more confident.
Drills for backhand
- Inside service line drill: this drill needs two players. Each player should position themselves on opposite sides of the court. The first player stands on the service line, and the second player needs to be in the centre of the baseline. The second player then feeds the ball to the first player so that they must play a backhand shot. The first player returns the ball to the backhand corner using a deep ball. Continue the drill for a set period of time and then swap sides.
- Backhand drill: this drill needs two players, each one side of the court and positioned at the centre of the baseline. One player feeds a ball to the second player, who hits it and returns to his original position. The feeder then feeds a short ball so the other player must hit a cross-court ball abut still using a backhand shot. This is continued for a certain period of time before changing roles.
- Deep and short backhand drills: this drill needs two players. One player is the student and the other the feeder. The student starts play at the baseline and the feeder at the centre of the baseline. The feeder feeds the ball to the middle of the baseline and the student then runs to return the ball. He must use a backhand shot. The second ball is fed short so the student must run to hit it. The feeds are alternated between deep and short, but the backhand is the only shot that must be played.
- Backhand down the line: the drill requites one player and a coach. Coach is at the centre of the baseline and the player is in either of the doubles alleys. Coach feeds a ball to the player and it is returned. Next shots are to be hit down the line as winning shots but always as backhand shots. The aim of the drill is to learn accuracy down the line as these are powerful shots which win points.
- Lateral backhand drill: the drill requires a player and a feeder. Player gets into position in the forehand side of the corner. The feeder then hits the shot to the backhand side of the court. Player must get to the ball as rapidly as possible while still watching correct footwork and backhand style. Player hits the ball and returns to original position for the next shot. After a set length of time, they switch ends and positions are reversed.
- Simple backhand drill: this may be done with several players and a coach. Coach acts as feeder and players are in a straight line. Coach is on one side of the court and players are on the other. Coach feeds the ball to the first player, they play the ball – backhand only – and move around to the end of the line. Players missing the shot or hitting the net, sit out the game. Last player standing is the winner.
- Forehand and backhand drills: this drill works with two players on either side of the court. One of them is the feeder. Both should stand on the centre baseline. Feeder hits to the backhand of the player who returns the ball. Feeder then alternates and hits to the forehand which is returned. This continues, counting how many rallies there are and then the players switch positions. Player with the most rallies is the winner.
- Backhand drill: this drill works with several players and a coach who is the feeder. Players line up on one side of the court and the coach stays on the other side. Coach feeds the ball to the forehand and backhand alternately, and the players hit two balls each before going to the back of the line.
- Backhand and recovery drill: the drill needs a coach and one player. Coach is on one side at the centre of the baseline and the player on the centre baseline of the opposite side. Coach feds the ball to the forehand and player returns it then must return to the centre line before hitting the next ball which should be a backhand shot. The drill is designed to improve the agility and speed of movement.
- Dead ball drill: there should be a coach as the feeder and a player. Coach is based in one side of the court and player at the centre baseline on the other side. Ball should be fed to the players backhand and the player should move to hit the ball and return to the original position, which is centre baseline. Coach quickly plays the next shot which is forehand down the line side. Player must move quickly and alternate between backhand and forehand and return to position between shots.
Things you might like
For anyone taking practise seriously, this pack of 12 cans is exactly what you need.
This Junior tennis racket will make a great gift for any youngster.
This racket holder is exactly what you need to carry all your tennis gear with you.
For playing in cold weather, this Argyle Men’s Sweater will be perfect!
For anyone serious about practice, this electronic pitching machine will be a great bonus.
Tennis is without a doubt, one of the most popular games in the world. It can be played by any person who can hold a racket. Whether you choose to play the game socially or turn professional, this is a game that will reward you when you practise. Not only is it a great game to meet people and make friends, but also a wonderful way to get fit and healthy.