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