In order to move to the next level in tennis, players have to be committed to outstanding practice sessions combined with tournament play. However, the vast majority of players often takes the safer route and only play “practice matches.” Unfortunately, when we practice with friends, most people still have a need to win and probably won’t try new things. But, if players desire to graduate to a higher level, they must be willing to radically change their practice sessions.
If only two people are available to practice, the couple must focus on doubles drills and not singles play. For example, with two people on the court, set up a simple crosscourt groundstroke drill to enhance angle strokes. If the practice partners started from the Deuce court, switch after fifteen minutes and move to the Advantage side and repeat the exercise. To vary the drill, simply place one player at the net near the service line and keep the other practice partner at the baseline and now, each player has an exact purpose with this new alignment. In 45 minutes, each player has worked soundly on drills that will occur in their match-play as so many points move in a crosscourt manner.
Since the serve and the volley play a crucial role in doubles, make sure to do drills to enhance this part of the game. Again, one of the best methods of doubles practice is to set up in a crosscourt mode, so the doubles alley is in play just like in a match. One player serves to the Deuce court and the returner must fire his groundstroke crosscourt or they lose the point. To add a little drama and pressure, keep score. As we start in the “right court” (Deuce court) the first player to win 5 points wins the game. When the first game is completed, simply switch to the Advantage court and continue with the same drill. If one is an expert server and volleyer, this drill is so precise that the server must have great footwork to “hold” serve. As far as the returner is concerned, he can work on his delicate return as he may drop the ball at the server’s feet or even toss in a lob or two. The bottom line is that when players focus on specific items instead of just playing the same old generic doubles, they will see quicker results.
Whether we are professionals or recreational tennis players, we all wish to protect our turf. If we only play practice sets with our tennis cronies, we will play to win but not necessarily improve our overall performance. If we are true to ourselves, we know there is always something that could be enhanced and a specific drill or two will awaken the senses and drive our games in the right direction.
Like most practicing tennis professionals, I seldom make time to train but when I do step out of the box, the first thing I concentrate on is my service return. If I can get enough reps in, I feel that I may develop some offensive shots. Conversely, if I perform in an exhibition without practice, my return of serve will be as conservative as Barry Goldwater’s politics!
When I am unable to do with the ball what I would like, it is just not fun. The only solution is to hit the practice court and work on my strengths and weaknesses in order to gain some confidence. Too many people spend far too much time fixing their flaws. If you possess a huge forehand, keep feeding the monster. If you are a big server, do specific drills to enhance power and accuracy under pressure. In summary, it is vital to develop a great practice plan and then spend the time to execute. Good luck. Next column I will emphasize specific serving drills.
Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing his tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.