Play at least 3 times per week
You can compare tennis to going to the gym. If you go once or twice a week you are not going to improve your fitness. You will most likely maintain your level or add a little more strength and conditioning. The same applies with tennis. If you play an average of 3 or more times a week then you will continue to improve your game. If you don’t have the time to dedicate then be realistic about your goals. Don’t pressure yourself to achieve things that are unachievable. Like going to the gym, make it a habit and part of your weekly routine. Pick a regular day to play, book an ongoing court, attend a weekly private or group lesson, head to a weekly mixer. Anything that makes it easy to form a habit and get those extra sessions in. If you can't get to the court as often as you would like then try to stick in an activity that will help with your tennis such as yoga, hiking or the gym.
Play mini or touch tennis
Mini or touch tennis is a game of tennis that involves controlling the ball into a smaller space, usually the service boxes. “Touch tennis” is now an official sport, you can even enter tournaments. Check out their Instagram page below for more info or for any meet ups and tournaments near you. You can play your own game of mini tennis using the service boxes. Controlling the ball into a smaller area develops the skills in a more dramatic way than just practicing at the baseline. Topspin, slice, racket head speed and overall general touch and control will be improved greatly. Even pro players spend a good amount of time playing service box tennis to keep their skills sharp.
Also here’s a great fun game that a lot of pros use in the service boxes - demonstrated by toptennistraining.com:
Play more matches
There’s no doubt that playing competitively and under pressure pushes your game up a level. You evaluate both wins and loses in ways that you wouldn’t if playing only for fun. Sometimes you need to put yourself out there to see what you're made of and highlight areas where you can focus on improving. It’s easy to get into a comfortable groove playing against friends or people you know. Enter a tournament or league every now and then. Put yourself out of your comfort zone. This will match you up against players and styles of play you would otherwise never encounter.
Watch more tennis
Nowadays you don't even have to even turn on the tv set to watch some exciting tennis. There’s YouTube and an endless selection of social media sites where you can see clips of the world's best in action. It’s not only a way to take inspiration but also a way to learn both tactically and technically:
- tactically - listen to what the commentators are saying. See if you can spot any patterns of play or tactics used by players.
- technically - visual learning is one of the most important ways to improve. If you know how the shot or technique should look then it is far easier to implement it than trying to imagine how it should be. Pick your favorite players and watch some videos of their shots.
Fix a bad habit
There’s a chance you have developed some bad habits along your tennis journey. You may even be acutely aware of them. Try if you can to fix at least one of them, there's a reason they are labeled "bad". Mostly check you have the correct fundamentals. Some common fundamental errors include: wrong grip, incorrect ready position, bad court positioning, inconsistent swing shape. Having correct fundamentals is the key to improvement and also for preventing injury. Throughout my over 2 decades of coaching I have seen people around the courts who play, day after day, for years upon end who never get any better. The reason for this is that they never fix their bad habits. They have peaked at the level they can achieve without improving their technique. If you’re unsure of what's going on with your game, treat yourself to a lesson or two with a local professional coach who can give you some relevant pointers.
Learn a new footwork pattern
You could have the best forehand or backhand in the world but if you can't get to the ball in time then it doesn’t matter how good your technique is! Footwork is more important than technique. Even though it’s desirable to correct technique to advance your game and prevent injury, you can beat a lot of players by running down every ball and just bunting it back in the court. You will always win if you get the ball in the court one more time than your opponent. One way to improve your footwork is to learn about footwork patterns. Simply running about the court is not always the fastest way to be. There are certain patterns that promote a more efficient way to travel and also shift the body weight towards where you want to be for your next shot. A good example of this is using the cross over step instead of the shuffle step to cover more ground when recovering back to the middle. You can cover much more ground in less steps with a cross over vs a shuffle. Here’s a great explanation from Brady at Daily Tennis Lesson.
Add some daily shadow swings
This week I had a great reminder of how important shadow swings are (swinging your racket without a ball). My client didn’t have any time to practice between lessons, so I had him perform 5 minutes of shadow swings per day. We have been working mostly on his forehand. I was shocked when I saw him a week later. The improvement was drastic and perhaps better than if he was actually playing tennis. This is because shadow swings allow you to repeat the correct shape and build muscle memory. Add a tennis ball in and there is instantly more pressure. Pressure often equals technique break down. When you are learning a new skill it’s important to build a solid base of muscle memory before you progress to harder situations. Shadow swings are a great way to ensure you have enough practice with a good swing shape. You can then progress your shadow swings to a static ball using the TopspinPro. After this you can advance to slow moving balls, then onto faster balls, rallies and eventually points.
Click below for our YouTube Coaching channel for some tips on using the TopspinPro and technique:
Add in some strength and conditioning
As adult tennis players it’s all so easy to get an injury. Most of us step on the court after a long day or week at the office and then run around like we are playing the Wimbledon final. Doing a little conditioning work will not only protect your joints and muscles from injury but will allow you to commit to faster and more explosive movements around the court with less chance of injury. There are many website pages and social media sites that give you some great video examples of exercises you can do either in the gym or at home. If you're unsure you can ask your coach or hire a local trainer to create a program for you.
Keep your gear up to date
This includes your racket, clothing and shoes.
- Racket - if you are playing with a racket that is older than 4-5 years, treat yourself to a new one. Not only does technology change, but the fibers in your racket break down over time and the frame becomes weaker.
- Grip - change regularly (at least once per week for overgrips).
- Strings - change as many times per year as your play per week.
- Shoes - comfortable shoes are so important for speed around the court and also to protect your feet. Blisters and ingrown toenails are common with tennis players who have the wrong fitting shoes. Newer shoes will also give you the best support and protection so make sure you replace them at least every 6 months.
- Clothing - it’s surprising how many people struggle with their clothing on court. Get clothing that fits right. You don't want to be holding your shorts up as you run for a ball. Your clothes should also have space to hold a spare tennis ball. Weather plays an important factor in clothing choice too. Many injuries come from playing in cold weather without adequate protection. Compression leggings and tops are a great way to keep your muscles warm on cold days. And in warmer environments make sure your wearing a material that helps to keep you cool. Hat and sunglasses can also make a big difference.
Some of these tips are easier than others to implement. If you are really pushed for time try some of the more simple ones like 5 minutes of shadow swings per day.
It's important to not overwhelm yourself with too much pressure otherwise you will end up resenting your practice. Make your adjustments achievable and easy to form as a habit. For example having a weekly lesson is something your are likely to look forward to more than booking a court by yourself to practice your serve.
It can also help to have an accountability buddy. I bet you will find a number of other players you know who are in the same boat and would love to set some time aside for improving their game. Whether a friend, family member or coach, having someone else along for the journey will make you more likely to show up. They don't even have to be a tennis player. You can get yourself an exercise partner to do your strength and conditioning with.
We love to hear your feedback here at TopspinPro so let us know in the comments how you got on with any of these tips!
What other tips can I use to help my game?
Check out our article for some extra tennis tips to improve your game:
Where can I get some more in depth technical and tactical tips?
Check out our Topspinpro YouTube channel which features a number of coaching videos on both technique and tactics: