Movement around the tennis court has become very complex in the modern era. Most professional players will dedicate a significant amount of time to footwork and fitness to survive in todays game. Unfortunately this doesn’t just happen, it something that needs to be drilled in from a young age and the longer you neglect it the more difficult it becomes for the brain to send the correct message to the feet. A lot of our coaching revolves around teaching the correct footwork to efficiently get around the court. Lets breakdown a typical baseline rally.
The first thing we do is to perform a split step(this means we take a small hop,only a few cm off the ground landing on the balls of our feet so you can explosively push up off the ground in the direction of the ball) just before my opponent makes contact with the ball. Lets assume i’m right handed and pushing off to hit my forehand. Once my eyes pick up in which direction the ball is headed ill start moving by pushing off my inside foot (my left foot) and pivoting out with my outside foot (my right foot),all my weight has now transferred to this outside foot.I run to the ball making sure im using small adjustment steps as i get closer to the ball. I’m going to use an open or semi open stance(all my weight is on my outside foot) and allow my hand and hip to come through as i make contact with the ball. Once I’ve completed my follow through my outside foot will cross over in front of my inside foot(cross over step) then i keep side skipping back into position or i can go straight into a side skip to return into position. We find the cross over step more efficient but it may take a little longer to learn. If i’m moving to hit a backhand a similar sequence is needed. If you use a single handed or double handed backhand it doesn’t really matter your footwork will be similar. Once you’ve landed your split step you’ll push off your inside foot (now your right foot) and pivot out on your outside foot(now the left foot) again running to the ball remembering to make your small adjustment steps as you get closer to the ball. You have to decide if you will use a neutral stance (step forward onto your right foot staying side-on to the net,most single handed players will use this option)or an open stance (your weight is on the left foot with your hips open to the net). Once you’ve made contact and finished the follow through start your recovery into position again.If you have used a neutral stance then your back foot will come around slightly in front of you to allow the cross over step or the side skip-if you have used the open stance then you can go straight into your recovery using which ever method suits you best. You will use different footwork patterns through out the coarse of a match but this is just a typical baseline rally.
If you would like to improve your footwork or just learn the basics don’t leave it till it’s too late just ask your coach next time you have your lesson.