Tennis isn’t the easiest of the racket sports to learn, let alone master and that is also what makes it a very sought-after sport. In this piece we look at the various attributes associated with tennis one can look to focus on to get better at the sport.
It takes time to get good at tennis and depending on which level you are aiming to play it at and your natural ability, it could take anywhere between six months to 20 years to master tennis.
Having said that, however, one can look to improve on one’s tennis performance and even get to those aforementioned levels quicker with a few of the tips mentioned below.
Ready to take note and inculcate these habits into your daily tennis routine to improve your game? Here goes!
How to Improve One’s Game at Tennis
Aim to Begin Slowly
If you are just starting out, the best way to do so is to play on a smaller-than-usual court to get used to things. As beginners there might be a temptation to try and emulate our tennis idols but they have gotten there after years of extensive practice and one needs to be mindful of the level one is at.
What this means is it could make sense to try and reduce the court size to within the service lines even during rallies.
In order to serve, it would make sense to do so in the service box that’s diagonally opposite to you or in either of the boxes depending on whatever’s comfortable for you and for your opponent.
Once you have gotten a hang of it and gone through the grind of learning newer strokes, you could turn to the full court but go slow for starters.
Focus on Your Strokes
While one is still practicing on smaller tennis courts, one can try and get used to the speed and power with which one needs to swing the racket to get the ball over to the other end.
Swing and hit too hard, it could go long or wide, while a softer stroke could end up in the net. This feel for the right amount of power for your strokes will come with regular practice till it becomes a part of your muscle memory.
Once you have gotten to understanding this, you could look to add the backhand and volleys and topspin and slice to your game using that same smaller court.
Play with a Better Player
Look to train with players who are slightly better off than you are.
Sure, it is a lot of fun when you play against those whom you can beat regularly but practicing with a better quality in their game can do a lot of wonders for your tennis.
Because when you are playing against someone better than you, there is a tendency to adapt your game to try and overcome your opponent. This makes even more sense when you are just starting out and cannot quite afford a coach.
Work Out Your Weaknesses
There is a line of thought that says it makes sense to work on one’s strengths and add more quality to that with practice but at an early stage of your tennis learning journey, it wouldn’t be too bad an idea to focus on one’s weaknesses as well.
At such an early stage, it is easier to mold one’s game and while you might love to play that rasping forehand, do not be averse to working on your backhand as well.
If you are a happy player of the topspin, see if you can play the slice as well as that. And so on.
Some of the areas of weaknesses you could look to work on include:
Using the Weaker Backhand
The natural tendency when one starts out playing tennis – or for that matter, any sport – is to get into a comfort zone doing what comes naturally to one.
For instance, playing the tennis forehand is something that is a go-to for most tennis beginners while it’s not uncommon for them to not use the more difficult backhand as often.
Which is why it makes sense to keep pushing oneself to consciously practice the backhand too, adding a different dimension to one’s game and in turn making it a part of your muscle memory.
Adding the Topspin or Slice to Your Game
Once you have become a regular at using your backhand, it might be time to start training on the topspin and adding the slice to your game as well. Typically this should be done at a point when you become very comfortable with your groundstrokes and can hold a rally.
At this point you might still be playing on a smaller tennis court but even when you shift to a normal court, it wouldn’t take you a lot of time to adjust once your basics are in place.
Improving Hand-Eye Coordination
According to Cognifit.com, Hand-Eye coordination is the capability to perform actions that need the simultaneous use of a person’s hands and eyes, “like an activity that uses the information our eyes perceive (visual spatial perception) to guide our hands to carry out a movement”.
Playing tennis requires a great deal of hand-eye coordination and the best way to improve on this is to consciously keep an eye on the ball instead of rushing things.
With time and practice, the hand-eye coordination muscle memory gets tuned like clock-work and becomes second nature to you.
Working on the Timing
There is always that possibility you could start off your tennis career with absolutely no timing while hitting the ball. The ideal way to hit the ball is with the arm extended fully and while that might not always be the case, the endeavor is to get that going.
In the early days of your tennis, there could be a tendency to get to the ball too early or too late, thereby sending the timing awry.
This is something you can get better at with more time on court. Slowly you will begin to realize the pace at which you need to come at the ball, and the kind of speed at which you need to hit the ball along with the angles associated with your racket.
All of this is something to keep an eye on as you grow into the game.
Work on Your Fitness
While it is imperative to work on your tennis technique and improve that with time, a factor that plays a huge role in your overall development as a tennis player is your fitness.
And this is not just restricted to a tennis player’s early days but right throughout his/her career.
Take the example of Novak Djokovic, who was a very good player even before he became this mean, Grand Slam-winning machine. Fitness had, however, been a major concern – so much so that he found it difficult to move from his then world number three spot and break the mold.
Injuries are a part of sport and tennis but Djokovic struggled more than most other top-10 players and needed trainer assistance more times than most other players on tour. Fellow players like Andy Roddick and Roger Federer had commented on it.
It was after a match Djokovic lost to Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2010 Australian Open from being two sets to one up that the Serb realized things weren’t quite up to the mark.
Helped by a certain Dr. Igor Cetojevic, Djokovic changed his fitness and diet regime and the effect was astounding. Grand Slams were won by the dozen and today, Djokovic is one of the three candidates discussed as the greatest male tennis player of all times.
Fitness plays a big part in a tennis player’s development at every level and working regularly on it has an automatic positive effect on a player’s game.
Invest in Paid Coaching
While using online resources like RacketSportsWorld.com – and other YouTube channels – is a good way to kick-start your tennis career, if you are serious about improving your game quicker, you would want to consider getting a professional tennis coach for yourself.
Hiring a professional coach isn’t an inexpensive option, sure, but one can always begin with a free coaching clinics and move on to taking paid group lessons with the said coach.
The other option is get coached in a group instead of taking private lessons, which imbibes the best of both worlds – there is a possibility the coach could pick up on any bad habits you might have picked up but at the same time could end up paying a lot lesser than getting coached privately.
Think of working with a paid coach as a long-term investment in your game, the fruits of which you could reap in the years to come.
Invest in Better Equipment
As mentioned earlier, it is necessary to play with and against those who possess at least the same level of the game as you, if not better.
And in order to not just improve one’s game but also compete against them, it becomes necessary to invest time, effort and money into better equipment.
This could include better tennis rackets, ball machines and even backboards and while not everything will come cheap, there could be a gradual progression made towards investing in it.
At times, for instance, you might not get a hitting partner. Or can’t afford a coach. You wouldn’t want to stop practicing because of this now, would you? Which is also when it could make for a lot of sense to practice tennis on your own, and a bit of equipment like the aforementioned might be desirable.
Spend Time Analyzing the Game
This is something you might be doing in your downtime anyway or at least at a subconscious level but make it a habit to spend a few minutes every day thinking about your own game.
Also look to watch tennis matches with the intent of picking things off of players, including the mental side of the game.
YouTube and other such video websites have made things that much more accessible to those wanting to learn more – tennis or otherwise – and you could take advantage of this if you really want to.
One of the best premium tennis coaching websites, TopCourt.com offers paid coaching online where you have a gamut of top-ranked players to choose from.
And it’s not just about the technical aspects of the game that one can pick from TopCourt. A lot of the analysis on their site is based on the mental aspect, the preparation, the diet and the fitness required.
Of course, if you do not want to spend any kind of money on this, you can refer to our top coaching websites guide here, which has some free material you could look to use as well.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Needless to say, but this understated point needs to be told often. Nothing works like practice and once you have picked on the various technical skills mentioned in this piece above, you need to get down to the business of practicing.
Make it a routine.
If you can find three days of practice every week, so be it – spend a couple of hours on each of those days and ensure you don’t miss it.
As we had mentioned here, it takes months of tennis practice to even get to the recreational level, let alone the next, intermediate level. Professional tennis players need anywhere between 10 to 20 years to get break into the top 100 of the world and while your goal might not be that for starters, you will still need to imbibe consistency in practice into your routine.
Final Words on Improving One’s Tennis
There are multiple ways in which you can improve your tennis. By sticking to a routine and tweaking it slightly as you go along learning the sport, you could reach your goal of becoming a solid tennis player quicker than others despite tennis being such a difficult sport to master.