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CAtennis is a passionate discussion for serious tennis players, parents and coaches looking for something different. No talk about technique, no talk about useless theory, no gimmicks; just practical advice from first-hand experience on how to improve your tennis. Kick back, drink the content, bounce ideas, and pitch articles (or friend us on Facebook).

Unless otherwise noted, all articles are authored by the founders of CAtennis.  Enjoy!


Entries in Creative Practice (81)


Steal This Drill: Ping Pong Doubles 

Here's a fun way to practice your singles game with four (or more) people on the court: ping-pong doubles. In ping-pong, doubles players must alternate shots; so, after the first player on the team hits a ball, the other ball must be struck by her partner or the team loses a point. 

Players can follow the same rules on a tennis court. This game is not only fun but also hard-work (because players must hit and get out of the way - i.e., be constantly in motion). In addition, if the opposing team consists of players with unique qualities (e.g., lefty, touch player, good mover, etc.) one can practice playing points against various types of players without getting accustomed to any particular style. So, if one point is played against a right-handed player with a double-handed backhand, the next point can be played against his partner who may be a lefty with a one-handed backhand (and so on). This stresses the brain a lot more in that you will have to constantly adjust for the situation at hand. 

Another variation of this game allows a team to win 2 points (or more) for every point that the team wins inside of the service line. This is a great way to practice for doubles because the team learns how the two players think and construct points. That is, the team works on building doubles chemistry through singles play. This game also works with more than 4 players on the court and the rallies can be quite elaborate and lengthy. 



Steal This Drill: Cross-Court Intercept

Tired of the same-old cross-court routine?! If so, here is a variation on the drill to keep things fresh and exciting. Two players are in opposite corners rallying cross-court. One or two coaches (one on each side of the net in the middle of the service box) is positioned in front of the baseline player(s) at the net. Two coaches would be available when players are drilling against each other during a tournament. Without moving too close to the middle of the court (i.e. center line), the coach(es) attempt(s) to intercept the cross-court ball that is struck by the opposing baseline player. When intercepting the ball, the net player/coach makes the baseline player chase the the ball (either drop shot or to the opposite corner; the rally must continue). The key is not to intercept too many balls; just the easy ones...the ones floating too close to the middle of the court. 

Why is this variation important? First of all, most players do not have the discipline to group their shots in a designated cross-court area. Often times, their shots wander into the middle of the court, sail wide or float deep. Having a person at the net who's trying to steal your shots reminds you to "keep the ball out of the middle of the court" and to channel into deep into the opposing corner. Second, this drill is also (and obviously) important for doubles. In doubles you are faced with a net player who is trying to intercept your shot. This keeps you sharp. Float the ball a little too close to the center and you (and your partner) are toast/tagged. So, in other words, this is a great way to use a "doubles practice" to sharpen your singles game. 


Steal This Drill: Dynamic Cross-Courts

Next time you're drilling with your practice partner and s/he suggests doing cross-courts, throw this dynamic drill into the mix. In this drill, player One (red) hits 2 cross-courts and the third shot down-the-line. Player Two (blue) hits only cross-court. 

The benefits of this drill include not only learning to change the direction of the ball but also working on consistency and rhythm. Because the game of tennis is not static, a drill where players are static (i.e. basic cross courts) is not as ueful as one where players move the ball around and learn how to control the ball from various court positions and to generate angles while on the move. 

Incorporating this drill into your workouts is also important because, many times, this is exactly how points are constructed: you push the opponent, with 1-2-3 cross-court shots, into a corner and then flatten out the ball down the line. However, the foundation for this drill comes from control, feel, footwork and repetition in motion. 

To work on more consistency, consider changing the direction of the ball after more cross-courts: e.g. 4 or 5. Another variation is for the players to not have a strict pattern but for one of the players (or coach) to yell "switch" before one player changes the direction of the ball. In addition, the players can do ths drill down the line and change direction cross court. Similar to other drills discussed here, the players can also start the drill off with a serve or play points. Master this drill and you will be more confident that you can put any shot on your side of the court into any place on your opponent's side of the court ("from anywhere to anywhere"). 



Steal This Drill: Catch the Return

Are you the type of player who can serve his way out of trouble but have some difficulties when it comes to breaking your opponent's serve?! If so, this drill may be helpful. One of the keys to successful returns is to rely on the feet more than the racket. The return should be attacked and, yet, too many players rely on the racket rather than the shoes to get them to the ball. They are reactive as opposed to being proactive. The problem with this attitude is that the further back you intend to make contact the greater the distance that you have to cover. This distance is not only measured left-to-right but also up-and-down (since a good server's ball can really bounce high if you let it). 

To assist you with the concept of attacking the ball with your feet, put the racket down and grab a baseball glove (or two - one for each hand). Have your coach or practice partner mix up serves keeping them as far away from you as possible. Have her slide serves out wide; kick them to your backhand or hammer them into your belly button. Your goal is to move forward and catch as many balls around your waist as possible. By moving forward (like a team handball goalie: video below), you will learn to cut off angles and to do less with the racket and more with the feet. In the process, you will learn how to adjust your positioning by being light but quick and explosive.

When you master 10-15 good catches in a row, switch things up by alternating regular returns with catches. Transfer the skills from the catching to the returning and learn to use more of your opponent's pace and angles against her. By being a proactive returner, you will put yourself in a better position for break opportunities. 


500 Sets a Year!  

I tell parents all the time, take one private a week and go play matches.  Sometimes I tell parents take one private every two weeks.  It's just overkill to do anything more until you reach the higher stages of the game (professional).  Players need to be playing 8-10 sets a week, thats where the real learning happens.  Tennis is a game of trial and error, not about feeding out of a basket and focusing on technique.  Players need to learn how to compete and cope with stress.  There is nothing stressful about doing crosscourts for an hour, it doesn't get to the essence of what tennis is...a nasty contest between two people where there is a winner and loser. Black and white.  You are judged by the bottom line. 

8-10 sets a week is a great benchmark to set.  Play with anyone who will play with you.  I'm tired of players or parents saying "I won't play with So and So because they push...because they cheat...because they aren't good enough..." All lame excuses!  All you are doing is saving the player from the realities of the world.  You will play pushers who will make life miserable, do you want me to ask them to stop missing?  You will play cheaters who will cheat you on the biggest point of the match.  You will play parents who cheer against your double faults.  You will play hackers, net rushers, grinders, counterpunchers, flat hitters, dinkers, rabbits- you can't simulate this through drilling or feeding.  Simply impossible.  

(See Picture)...Djokovic has angled his wrist and changed his grip slightly to somehow, someway, fight his tail off to get this ball back into the court.  This can't be duplicated without competing and playing matches where your pride is on the line.  

There are no limits on who to play against.  Whether you play someone you can defeat 0 and 0, see if you can beat them 0 and 0 coming to the net.  Can you beat them 0 and 0 with just a slice?  Can you beat them 0 and 0 if you spot them a 30-love lead?  There are endless amounts of ways to skin a cat, but the point is to build some pressure into the matchplay to make it worthwhile.  The reason people hate to compete is because people hate dealing with uncertainty, the small chance that they put their pride on the line and lose.  Yes!  You need to be able to handle that kind of pressure consistently, never let your guard down.  Its an absolutely necessary skill.  

For the parents who protect their kids from playing people below them, your child will never reach its full potential.  This is the same player who tanks against players equal to their ability.  This is the same player who looks at the parent after every sign of poor play.  This is the same player who pouts when a bad line call comes their way.  This is the same player who yells, "What a tree!"  The coddling needs to stop.  

Imagine if you played 10 sets a week for 50 weeks a year?  500 sets!  Now compare that to the kid who maybe plays 1 set a week?  50 sets a year.  No comparison.  I wonder who will win.  Doesn't matter who your coach is, doesn't matter if you have a world class trainer, or use the best string.  It just won't matter.  Get out there and compete, its what makes tennis fun.