A few months ago I read an article about someone who in his quest to get fit was continually chasing the latest exercise craze: Spinning, Aerobics, Yoga, P90X, Zumba, TRX, etc. At some point he decided go back to basics: running, pushups, sit-ups, chin-ups and stretching and, to his surprise, achieved amazing results. His conclusion was that in the end, it is not what you do but how you do it that matters. Consistency and intensity are really the keys to great results.
After years and years on the court and experimenting with pretty much everything out there, I believe this certainly applies to tennis as well; so, I challenged myself to put together the most effective, yet simple program designed to improve any competitive-player’s game. Of the thousands of drills and exercises available I chose a group that works on every aspect of the game - a few good-old drills that done with consistency and intensity can achieve the same results as even the most elaborate and effective program.
Of course, I am aware of the merits of variety and understand that very specific drills may be better suited for specific problems, and I also understand that every coach needs a large drill date base to fine-tune the games of all the different players they coach, but effective does not need to be complicated. At the very least this group of exercises and activities could easily serve as a solid base for any competitive training program. Just sprinkle a few drills here and you are all set.
Here it is: A simple yet effective plan for competitive players.
Crosscourt vs. Down the Line Starting with Serve
Two players at the baseline start the point with a serve. One of them hits every shot crosscourt and the other one hits every shot down the line. They can play points or they can work on consistency. Players switch their roles after a while.
Variation 1: Crosscourt/Down the Line or Regular Points but One Player Only Hits High Topspin Shots
Variation 2: Crosscourt/Down the Line or Regular Points but One Player Only Hits with Slice
Variation 3: Crosscourt/Down the Line or Regulr Points but Players Have to Play from Inside the Baseline
Baseline Points Past the Service-line Starting with Serve
Players play points starting with a serve but have to hit every shot past the service line. A ball that lands in the service boxes will lose the player the point.
Baseline Points - One Short One Deep
Players play points starting with a serve but have to hit one shot past the service line and one shot in the service boxes. Only topspin allowed.
Baseline Points no Winners
Players play points starting with a serve and are not allowed to go for winners. If the winner is a consequence of opening the court it is accepted but the goal of the drill is to avoid unforced errors while moving the opponent around.
Players play points starting with a serve. Players have to call “yes” or “no” before the opponent’s shot crosses the net. “Yes” means the player will attack, “No” means the player will play neutrally or defensively. Mistakes on “No” shots should be avoided and maybe punished by having the player do a few jumps or something similar.
Players play points. The server has three serves (that is two first serves) but has to finish the point within the first three shots (including the serve) or lose the point.
Variation: The server has one serve and the returner has to win the point within the first three shots (including the return) or he/she will lose the point.
Approach Shot Points
One player feeds a short ball. The opponent approaches down the line and the point is played out. The player that wins the point feeds the next shot. The players play 3 different scenarios. They play the first point on half the doubles court approaching with a forehand. They play the second point on the other half of the doubles court approaching with a backhand. The third point is played on the full singles court. The person hitting the approach shot has to approach down the line and decides if he/she wants to start the point on the forehand or backhand side.
Crosscourt Points Coming In
Players play crosscourt points on half the doubles court. The server has to serve and volley every time.
Variation: Players play crosscourt points on half the doubles court. The server has one serve and the returner has to approach the net with the return.
Sets and Match Play
No training program will be effective without plenty of set and match play.
There it is, a complete training program addressing all the skills needed to develop every important part of the game.