Tips To Improve Your Tennis Game

With tennis courts across the country open once again, now might be the time to dust off your racquet. Whether you’re looking to get into the sport for the first time or are looking to brush up on your existing skills, here’s what the pros want you to know…
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First, Buy The Right Kit

“If you’re a beginner, there’s no need to spend a fortune on a racquet, but it’s worth knowing what features to look out for to get you going. In terms of price, there’s plenty within the £10-25 range, although it’s worth looking for a racquet with a larger head size if you are a beginner, which gives the racquet a bigger sweet spot, giving you more chance of hitting a clean shot. Play around with different grip sizes, too. A grip size of 1, 2 or 3 is best for a woman. When you wrap your hand around the handle, there should be a 1cm gap (or the width of your forefinger) between your thumb and first finger.” – The LTA experts

Hold Your Racquet Properly

“Place your dominant hand comfortably on the bottom of the grip and your non-dominant hand above for your ready position. If you’re just starting out, try holding your racquet as if you were shaking hands with it. You can also use a chopper grip (also called a continental grip), which is a more old-school approach. To do this, make a V with your thumb and index finger, slide that down the frame and take hold of the grip, like you’re holding a hammer. This type of grip makes it easy to switch between forehand and backhand sides and is the type of grip that should be used for volleys and serves. Once you are more advanced, your hand may move slightly further round the grip for groundstrokes to generate topspin.” – Matt Smith, LTA coach of the year and development learning manager

Finetune As You Progress

“As you improve your game, you’ll get a better understanding of how racquets feel. A heavy racquet can give you tennis elbow, but a racquet that’s too light can cause strain on your wrist. Large-headed racquets weighing in at around 320g or more are generally harder to move but have the potential to unleash more power. If you want to focus on improving control, consider a racquet with a smaller head size. If you want to level up your game, think about a racquet that brings out the best in your abilities – perhaps it’s something smaller that will force you to hone your technique or one that’s more generous and forgiving whilst allowing you to release powerful shots with less effort. You may even want to consider a vibration dampener if you are an aggressive baseline player or desire speed and spin in your shots.” – the LTA experts 

As you improve your game, you’ll get a better understanding of how racquets feel. A heavy racquet can give you tennis elbow, but a racquet that’s too light can cause strain on your wrist.

Stock Up On Low Compression Balls

“Lower compression balls are less bouncy and slightly easier to control, making them ideal for beginners. Because they bounce lower, it’ll give you more time to hit the ball, allowing for better control. A higher-compression ball, on the other hand, will bounce much higher, making it trickier to control.” – Jo Ward, British professional tennis player and LTA coach education and curriculum manager

Don’t Jump Straight In

“The most common mistake people make is not taking the time to prep before a game. It can be tempting to jump in headfirst, but if you go in too quickly and start hitting balls at 100mph without warming up, you’ll likely end up injured. The first ten minutes of your session should enable you to sustain the following 50 minutes at full speed. Think of it like a car, you wouldn’t try to drive at motorway speed as soon as you start the engine. Make like the pros and get your body going slowly – warm up with gentle, progressively intense activity, such as dynamic stretches, before easing your way into full throttle.” – Jo 

Build Your Fitness 

“Lots of people think tennis just works your shoulders and arms, but it’s actually an explosive game that works in both your aerobic (from long duration on the court) and anaerobic (powerful bursts of sprinting and hitting) systems. Therefore, building your aerobic fitness will improve your tennis game – think long runs and bike rides. Also consider building strength in your lower body, core and upper back. In an hour of tennis, you’ll use lots of lower body strength for running around the court, stopping, starting, jumping and crouching, for example.” – Isla Smith, professional tennis coach 

Add Power To Your Serve

“If you want to improve your serve, the most important thing to get right is the ball toss. The ball needs to be directly in front of you (no more than a foot forward of your front foot) and high enough for you to hit at full stretch. Remember – you get unlimited attempts to get it right before you strike, so take your time. To practice, stand under a netball hoop and see if you can aim your ball toss up through the hoop. If you are really struggling, you can always use an underarm serve instead.” – Jo 

The most common mistake people make is not taking the time to prep before a game. It can be tempting to jump in headfirst, but if you go in too quickly and start hitting balls at 100mph without warming up, you’ll likely end up injured.
Jo Ward

Perfect Your Footwork

“The most important thing you can do with your footwork is getting into position before the ball bounces on your side, giving you enough space to the side of your body to make a comfortable contact point with the ball in balance. Tennis is a ‘start, stop, start’ sport – getting your feet in position in this way guarantees the ‘start and stop’ elements. You’ll also need to practice reading the height, depth, direction, spin and speed of the ball and react accordingly, all of which takes practice. After you execute the stroke, you then recover (the second ‘start’) towards the centre of the court, ready for the next shot.” – Matt 

Stay Reactive

“If you’re serious about improving your game, it’s important to also see things from a tactical perspective. Firstly, keep moving – it’s vital to stay on your toes. Never stand still, and always be conscious of your footwork. Secondly, perfect your ‘get ready’ move. As your opponent hits the ball, get into a ‘split step’. Stand with your feet at least shoulder width apart, with your hands out in front of you. This will put you in a prime position to prepare for your next shot. Finally, make sure you get your racquet back early in preparation for your shot – this is important to ensure you’re ready to hit the ball in front of you, not behind, which will offset you on your feet.” – Harriet Dart, professional GB British tennis player

Stick With It

“If you’re just starting out, commit to practicing once a week, but to see improvement, it helps to play a couple of times a week. One session with a friend who’s at a similar level to you and another to put things into practice in a game situation is the perfect combination. Once you are feeling more confident, consider adding some local matches in on-top of this. Competing in Local Tennis Leagues is a brilliant way to meet new players and put your skills to the test, whereas Tennis Xpress coaching sessions give beginners the opportunity to learn the basics with other players of a similar level.” – Matt 

 

For more information visit LTA.org.uk

 

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