Inspired to start playing tennis? One of the greatest things about the sport is that you can start learning at any age and continue improving your game throughout your life. So whether you are a relative newcomer or returning after a hiatus from the court, here are a few basic tips to ensure you have fun.
While tennis is a non-contact sport with low risk of injury, like any sport it is important to take the right precautions to stay safe on the court.
Play it smart before you even step onto the court by checking with a doctor to make sure you can play and that you are using the right equipment such as shoes with good support to prevent ankle injuries. It is a great idea to speak to an expert about the type of racquet that is best for a player of your level of skill and fitness.
On the court, warm up appropriately by stretching and hitting a few gentle balls and practice serves. By establishing a great warm-up routine, you can mentally prepare yourself and get into your comfort zone while helping prevent injuries or stiffness.
Stay well hydrated, sun-smart and avoid playing in extreme heat. The Australian Open shows every year how even the fittest tennis players in the world struggle with high temperatures on the court.
After you’ve finished playing, ensure you cool down properly by stretching and moving about slowly to bring down your heart rate and reduce muscle soreness or aches.
There are four basic shots in tennis: forehand, backhand, volley and serve. It can be overwhelming trying to learn all these shots at once and that’s why it is best to start with the simple forehand and backhand.
If you are a beginner or a little rusty, using the simple ‘Eastern’ grip is often recommended as it is comfortable, feels natural and can be used for all strokes. The grip is also known as the ‘handshake grip’ because you hold the handle of the racquet as if you were shaking hands with it with your thumb resting on top of the handle.
At first your forehand is going to feel the most natural and powerful stroke to hit as it uses the dominant side of your body (the right for right-handed players). Your backhand will feel relatively unnatural as it is played on the weaker side of your body. Most players start with a two-handed backhand to develop their stroke.
Your forehand and backhand swing can be tricky to get right straight away so here are three golden rules to hitting effective and accurate shots:
Keep your stroke simple and focus on hitting from low to high across your body with full shoulder rotation.
Complete your forehand or backhand by following through completely on your swing for a clean stroke.
Try not to force your swing and keep it as natural and smooth as possible. As you improve, you’ll be able to increase racquet head speed and hit harder and add more topspin.
A big part of hitting a successful shot is being in the right place at the right time and that comes from developing your footwork. Tennis is a sport that requires players to frequently change direction and speed. Great footwork will help you conserve energy and reach balls more effectively. Here are a few key footwork tactics to incorporate into your game:
Whenever you are on the receiving end of a serve or shot, stand in the ready position with your knees slightly bent and shoulder-width apart. Hold your racquet up and keep your head still and eyes on the ball all the way through the swing.
The split step is a tactic used by players of all abilities to stay agile. This involves a small jump and landing on the balls of your feet as your opponent makes a shot. It helps centre your weight and keeps you on your toes and ready to move.
By working on these basic features of your game, you are building a solid foundation for your playing style. It will make adding elements such as the volley, serve and drop shot much simpler later on.
Ultimately the best way to improve your game is to practise, practise and practise, but most of all ensure you’re having fun!