Steps to a Better Tennis Game

Steps to a Better Tennis Game

How Good Do You Want To Be In Tennis? It Depends On How Many Steps You Take.

How do the pros we watch on television make it look so easy and effortless? Try to notice how they move; smooth and organized. Their constant flow creates energy and when organized with purpose it translates into incredible power. Over 20 years ago I attended a Tennis convention led by USPTA Master Professional Ken DeHart, one of our best teaching pros in the business and a mentor of mine. It was Ken who back in the 90’s related the number of steps in between tennis shots with level of play. It was simple, if you wanted to get better, take more steps. His equation looked something like this:

  • 3.0 players generally take 2 to 4 steps between shots
  • 3.5 players generally take 4 to 6 steps between shots
  • 4.0 players generally take 6 to 8 steps between shots
  • College level players take 8 to 10 steps between shots
  • Professional players take 10 to 12+ steps between shots.

Keep in mind that these step counts are an average, which means things fluctuate. These steps can be broken up into Recovery steps, Split-steps and Positioning/Adjustment steps. Recovery steps are those steps that should immediately follow any shot you just hit to help you prepare for the anticipation of your opponents next shot. Try not to stand still and watch your shot; you should be recovering and anticipating what your opponent is about to do.

The Split-step is meant to prepare you to change direction in order to go get the next ball. So up to this point after you hit your shot, you’re recovering to a good position on court based on where you think your opponent is going to hit the ball and when they are about to hit the ball you split step. The Split-step should leave you balanced and ready to take off for the ball that is now on its way back to you.

On your way to the ball, you have Positioning or Adjustment steps, often times referred to as the little steps as you get closer to the ball to put yourself in better position to hit the ball. This is hard for the Recreational player who often times arrives to the ball not prepared to hit or they overrun the ball or miscalculate the incoming shot trajectory or bounce. This struggle often occurs because the player didn’t recover very well and they are now scrambling to get to the next shot.

You want to improve your level of play, improve how you move and what you focus on in between shots and the game will slow down for you and you’ll find you’ll be in better position for your next shots. Start with your Recovery steps, create a good flow leading up to your Split-step and once you’re on the move to the ball make sure you have a plan before you arrive to the ball (where, why & how) your Positioning or Adjustments steps will be more decisive and precise and your shots more accurate. Get better, take more steps, but understand which steps YOU need to improve!

-By: Mark Bergman, CAC – Silver Lake Tennis Director

Tennis for Beginners

How long will it take to learn tennis?

Beginner: “I would very much like to play tennis on a regular basis but, I’ve never played any sports outside of gym class. I don’t expect to ever be a professional. But I’d like to play competitively some day. Just wondering how much I should play per day, how many times per week. Approximately, how long will an average person take to get the hang of the game?”

Former UW baseball star, a NASCAR driver’s dad: “I win – I don’t lose. If I am not first – I am last. What kind of training should I start with? What types of abilities and physical assets should a tennis player have to win?”

The questions are fair – get ready, here are the facts… Tennis is a SKILL-BASED sport. This puts it in the same category as learning other skills like typing, reading, or driving a car. It is true that the more you practice, the better you get, and the faster you›ll learn. However, you want to really stress QUALITY of instruction at the beginning. Tennis lessons are expensive, but you want to get put on the best path possible, because bad habits in tennis are close to impossible to break. You don’t want a friend, who might be a good player, but has no teaching experience, teaching you how to hit like they do. You want to find a teaching pro who specializes in PLAYER DEVELOPMENT. This person can put you on track to maximizing your inherent ability, and can assure that you will become the best player you physically are capable of becoming.

Also, remember that there are really only SIX shots in tennis. Once you are taking lessons and have good fundamental strokes in place, play as much as you can! Experiment and try to play matches and compete. Every ball you hit increases your sensitivity to the ball (your “feel”), and this will give your fundamental stroke more power, spin, depth, and accuracy, as you continue to play.

Something about the “next level”… Do not try to progress to the “next level” until you get the basics down really well: proper, uncompromised stroke technique, how to judge the ball, how to play with an arc, how to vary the speed of the ball, etc. I would very highly recommend attending one of the Bollettieri, Macci, Newcomb, or similar tennis camps, that are available in all regions of the U.S. They typically run in single week sessions and amount to about 9 hours of tennis per day. They are expensive and intense, but the benefits of attending one are tremendous for new or already semi-competitive players. This is where you will learn to be a more competitive player in a relatively short amount of time.

So to answer the question, ”How long will it take?”, you will never master tennis to your satisfaction! Even Federer misses shots, and that is the essence of the challenge in this sport. You will feel satisfied and happy with your playing level, when your technique and skill level will allow you to maximize your athletic ability, in order to win matches. Whatever level that happens to be, depends on your athletic ability, your competitive spirit, and your talent level.

I have played both at the local, low competitive level, and against excellent players from different parts of the world, and nowadays I teach others how to play. Whether as a player or as a tennis teaching pro, I have never shown up to court and felt like I didn’t have something to learn that day!

Enjoy the process of learning the game the best you can be.

Dusko Andreic, Head Tennis Pro, CAC – Pine Lake