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