Whether you’re a beginner or intermediate tennis player, improving your game is no doubt always on your mind out there on the court. Coaches and advanced players can offer their advice on strategy and technique, but being bombarded with so much information can be overwhelming, especially for someone just learning the game. Simplifying the most talked about tips can help you mentally prepare for success. Plus, while you may not be playing like Serena Williams or Tim Smyczek anytime soon, your game should drastically improve by keeping these tips mind.
Be Mindful of Your Posture
Amteur tennis players like Amir Landsman of hCapital, have found that maintaining proper posture is key in tennis. Many beginners often forget this aspect, which means they’re trying to play on a rocky foundation. Proper posture ensures you’ll have sufficient power, increased flexibility and ideal range of motion. It’s also important to keep the head still, which is something most rookies tend to forget. Keeping the head steady and balanced instantly improves your tennis posture and assists your follow-throughs.
If you’ve already picked up bad habits where your posture is concerned, focus on strengthening your leg and core muscles. You should also warm up and do stretches before a match to loosen the muscles. Avoid slouching. Keep the spine straight without bringing the hips back and keep the bulk of your weight on the midfoot by using light, springy steps. This not only ensures proper posture, but also poises you to be ready to hit the ball from all angles of the court.
Perfect the Forehand Grip
You may not think your grip needs work, but perfecting your forehand grip is key to mastering the game because it’s considered to be the foundational grip of a solid performance. Most professionals use the Continental Grip for overheads, volleys, serves, defensive shots and vices. This is a standard grip for serves and overheads because the wrist and forearm pronate through contact, resulting in a more versatile, explosive shot without putting too much stress on the arm.
Beginners may want to practice the Eastern Forehand Grip, which is the easiest one for learning the forehand. Another popular grip for groundstrokes is the Semi-Western Forehand Grip, which is often seen on professional tours and encouraged by instructors. The Western Forehand Grip helps generate a tremendous amount of topspin on the ball. Familiarizing yourself with each of these forehand grips will give you more versatility on the court.
Tackle the Toss
Being coordinated enough to toss the ball in the air and connect the racket to it at just the right time, with the proper grip and with the right amount of power is often an elusive skill for beginners. This is likely because many players feel an overwhelming sense of pressure to nail that perfectly timed release. In general, releasing the ball a little late helps because your tossing hand will be nearer to where you’re aiming the ball, and most people find they have greater control over a shorter toss.
One instance where the later release won’t help is when using a circular tossing motion. To nail this toss, release the ball early, though not too early. That sounds a bit vague, but it’s important to practice the timing of this toss. Not doing so will result in disastrous, unpredictable serves.
Exaggerate the Follow-Through
The follow through occurs after contact with the ball. It’s the fluid, relaxed motion of your arm and racket extending out in the direction in which you hit the ball. The wrist and forearm then turn as if you were checking a wristwatch and the upper body continues to rotate. Beginners may not think a movement that happens after the ball leaves the racket strings is important to the game, but developing a smooth follow through is crucial to advancing your skills as a tennis player.
Follow through provides the racket with a path to follow. It allows for the completion of the rotation that gives you maximum momentum, it ensures proper acceleration through contact with the ball and it helps reduce injuries.
Find the Right Recovery Position
Properly positioning yourself after a shot is important because it sets you up to hit your opponent’s next shot. The general advice has always been to recover in the center of the court, but it’s more correct to say you should recover in the center of your opponent’s potential shots. This takes practice and forethought, and it can be difficult when you have to anticipate two possible extreme shots that could take you to either side of the court, but this is why you want to set yourself in between these potential shots.
Recovering correctly reduces the winning hits your opponent could make, but it doesn’t guarantee success every time. Even if you recover in the correct position, there’s still a chance you’ll miss, but don’t dwell on it. Brush it off and keep perfecting your positions.
Prevent Tennis Elbow
Consistently playing tennis may result in tennis elbow, especially when you lack strength and flexibility. Injuries certainly impact your performance and chances of improvement, so be aware of possible physical stresses and try to avoid them. This means learning proper hitting techniques, practicing a two-handed backhand instead of a one-handed grip, playing with a lower tension racket that features flexible strings and loosening your grip.
Just as you would stretch your body before practicing or playing a match, perform some basic movement exercises prior to hitting any balls. These include a basic squeeze and release on the racket, wrist rolls and wrist flexion stretches. Keep in mind, however, that if you already have pain from sustained stress on the joints, don’t stretch past the point of pain. You also don’t want to get back on the court too soon following an injury, even a minor one, since it can become aggravated and lead to even more time off the court.