5 Tennis Drills for Beginners to Improve Footwork
Improve your footwork, ball control and precision with these five tennis drills for beginners, led by pro tennis athlete Katrina Scott and her coach David Kass.
While the pros make it look easy, racket sports take time, dedication and patience to master — even for the most talented athletes. There’s a lot that goes into the game of tennis, and it can be frustrating as a beginner on the court — but it doesn’t have to be, as long as you practice the right skills.
Professional tennis player Katrina Scott and her coach David Kass, founder of Kass Tennis Academy, demystify the elements of tennis that often confuse new players, breaking them down into simple drills that develop fundamental skills on the court. Though Scott is in the professional circuit, she still uses drills like these to tune up the basics — something that all great players do. “That’s the trick of tennis,” said Kass, who has coached Scott for the past two years. “People watch and they see these great shots and great athletes and think that’s what it’s about, but really the difference-makers are the basics. The best players in the world, they take care of the basics better than everyone else.”
One of Kass’s tennis tips for beginners is to focus on prepping correctly for your shots so you’re set up for success before your racket touches the ball. “I think the preparation and just getting a really good, solid turn is probably the number one thing beginners need to build a habit of, because if you don’t have that, it’s a struggle from there for the rest of your tennis career,” said Kass. “We always say the three most important things are footwork, footwork, footwork.” The drills below will help you with footwork, aim, and precision, as well as implementing proper swinging technique. If you need a refresher on how to swing a racket, read our guide to learn how to swing forehand and backhand before jumping into these exercises.
5 Essential Tennis Drills for Beginners to Practice
For all these drills, it will be helpful to have a partner to feed you balls. If you’re training alone, you can use a ball machine, hit against a wall, or drop-feed balls to yourself. There’s no set amount of reps for each drill because best practice is to do them until they feel like second nature, which means it might take a lot of hits. Try hitting at least 20 shots per drill before moving on to the next one.
Equipment: You’ll need five spot markers. Kass and Scott used a mix of different types, but use whatever you have available, like cones or paper.
1. DOUBLES ALLEY
Skill: Develops ball control and aim, and how to follow through in a long hitting zone and get under the ball.
- Set a cone on the other side of doubles alley.
- Standing on the opposite side of the net at the baseline of the alley, hit a ball straight down the line, aiming for the cone.
Form tips: Focus on smooth, long strokes, bringing your palm all the way to the net before bringing it up and over your shoulder.
2. FIGURE 8
Skill: Develops quick footwork and smooth grip changes for preparation of forehand and backhand swings.
- Set up two cones about six feet apart on the baseline.
- Bounce a ball to the player, who hits a forehand, then weaves through the cones to hit the next ball on the backhand side.
Form tips: This drill should move at a quick pace to practice agile footwork and preparation.
3. QUICKSTEP DRILL
Skill: Develops explosive speed and getting into position quickly.
- Set up five cones in a semi-circle pattern, with a home spot in the center at the baseline.
- Starting from the furthest forehand side, you’ll hit four forehands moving to the left, returning to the home spot after each shot. Your fifth shot is a backhand.
Form tips: The goal is to get there quickly, set up your shot, use your footwork to get back around the cone and to your home base to recover before the next ball.
4. 3-VOLLEY SHOT
Skill: Power in tennis comes from the lower body. This drill teaches you to use your body to get to the shot, rather than your arm. This drill also teaches you how to get more comfortable playing at the net, which is an important skill when it comes to winning points.
- Starting at the service line, you’ll work forward to hit a forehand volley, recover to your ready stance, then hit a backhand, recover, then finish with a forehand.
Form tips: These are quick shots that develop quickness to get your body to the shot, and hit it with control.
5. MIDDLE FOREHAND DRILL
Skill: Trains you to use your forehand to attack the court and place the ball where you want it.
- Place two cones on either side of the midcourt opposite the net.
- Stand in the middle of the court and hit eight forehands, moving in a circle to recover between each hit.
Form tips: Each hit can go to either cone; the goal is to switch it up to work on using your forehand to hit the ball to the left or right side of the court.
Following Through: A Pro’s Key to Success
Katrina Scott picked up a racket when she was seven years old, and basically hasn’t put it down since. Growing up on the court takes a lot of dedication, and it can be a grueling process at times.
“You have to be patient. It’s a long and hard process,” said Scott. “It’s not something that’s going to be done in a quick one or two days, or even a year. I think really the mental part of it is staying focused, keeping your eye on the process, and looking at the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. Tennis players at every level know the frustration when the ball isn’t going where you want. When you stay dedicated to improving your game, you’ll start to feel more confident — and nail more shots — on the court.
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