Tennis drills can be found all over the Internet, so what makes this any different? Well first of all we’re not going to fall into the mindset where hitting the ball harder is better. Far too many players just practice winding up and hitting the ball hard without any regard for how that plays into the strategy of the game.
Intuitively it makes sense to hit the ball harder if it means your opponent can’t get to it in time. A wide serve or overheard smash would be a good example of that. But if you look at most rallies they usually end when one player has over-hit the ball or hit it into the net.
Hitting hard under some circumstances can actually work against you. Now I’m not suggesting you become a moonball player, nobody will want to play with you, but have you ever noticed when you return a moonball it’s much more difficult to generate pace?
Let me give you an example from another sport. Baseball hitters love it when pitchers throw them a fastball. Once they get the timing of the swing down they can rocket a fastball right out of the stadium. Why? Because of Newton’s Law on the Conservation of Energy. I won’t go into all the details here but essentially the ball is coming in with a lot of energy and when the bat connects with the ball it’s just diverting that energy in a different direction. The same is true in tennis, if you look at some of the best returners in the game they can handle a lot of pace from the opponent’s serves and groundstrokes. They just redirect the energy. However, when you start putting spin on the ball it’s a different story (which applies to baseball as well).
So this first drill is all about contacting the ball early, hitting it over the net with good clearance and having the ball land within 3 feet of the opponent’s baseline.
To do this set the ball machine up behind the baseline with balls coming at you at medium speed, somewhere in the 70 mph range. That’s actually pretty fast but not when you compare it to a serve that might come in excess of 120mph.
Adjust the machine range so the ball is landing deep in your base court, within about 6 feet from the baseline. You can adjust that right from the remote control feature that is available to work with the Lobster ball machines (the grand remote or elite for instance).
If you could consistently hit groundstrokes that land within 3 feet of your opponent’s baseline and consistently return groundstrokes that land in your court the same distance from your baseline, you’re going to win a lot of games.
This is a tough drill to practice even with an experienced tennis coach. You want that ball to land consistently in the target area when it’s coming to your side of the court so you can practice your timing, grooving your stoke and moving your weight forward when hitting to the target area on the far side of the court.
A ball machine is the perfect solution. Take the phenom or elite series of Lobster ball machines, these can be easily be set up to deliver this drill for steady, endless hours of practice.
So to recap, this training is about grooving your backhand and forehand to hit consistently deep in your opponent’s court. Set the ball machine up on the far baseline to give you the type of time you would get during a rally to react and prepare for the shot.
Alternate strokes every 25 balls. For even more variety vary the pace on the Lobster ball machine so it’s delivering balls deep into your court but coming in from different trajectories. This will be a result of the different speeds you’ve set the machine at.