Practicing Simplicity

In my blog ‘Keeping it simple’ I wrote that,

A good, if not great, rule of thumb is if your feet are behind the baseline hit your ball cross court and if they are inside the baseline then go down the line.’

Below are some drills and games that will help you to practice ‘keeping it simple’.

Feeding drills:

  • Feed Player X 10 forehands so they are hitting the ball behind the baseline. Make sure they start at the center so they practice moving out to the ball; emphasize the importance of remaining on balance. If Player X is balanced throughout the shot they will be able to put more of their body weight into the shot rather than trying not to fall over. Player X should aim cross court with as much depth and net clearance as possible, recovering efficiently after each shot.
  • Feed Player X 10 forehands inside the baseline.  Make sure Player X moves in a direct line to the side of the ball (taking the most direct route will lessen the opponent’s reaction as well as give Player X more preparation time), preparing their backswing as they go. Player X must give themselves a lot of space between them and the ball. When making contact with the ball Player X’s shoulders should be squared and facing their target.
  • Repeat above two drills with backhands. 
  • Feed Player X 4 shots – 1 deep, 1 short, 1 deep, 1 short or some such variation.  The feeder decides whether to tell Player X if they are getting 1 deep forehand followed by 1 short forehand etc. or whether they are simply going to get a mix. A mix will ensure that Player X does not preemptively move to the ball they know is coming though if they are struggling with any part of the drill knowing what ball is coming will give them extra time to prepare themselves.

Rallying drills:

  • Player A and Player B rally cross court.  Place a target 3 feet in from the baseline and 3 feet in from the side line (creating a good margin for error).  If Player A moves inside the baseline then they can redirect their ball down the line to another target (again one with good margin for error).  Player A must judge whether they are on balance enough with a neutral / attackable ball as to whether they redirect the ball. If in any doubt they should hit back cross court. The rally ends on the redirection and the coach and player can discuss whether the correct decision was made. After 10 minutes or 10 redirections (up to players and coach) switch and let Player B practice redirecting the ball. For the last 10 minutes let both players redirect if they are inside the court and on balance. If you’d like to further the drill you can see which player gets 10 redirects off the correct ball first.
  • Here is an advanced drill of the one above.  Both players can redirect if they are inside the court. If, for example, player A redirects Player B should run over and the return the ball cross court. The rally can then start again but now to the other side.  If Player B runs over and the ball is weak and inside the court they can choose to go down the line too.  Carrying on the drill like this rather than letting the rally end on the redirection lets the players work on the options their opponents have and not just their own.

Games:

  • Shooter - flip a coin or racket to see who is the shooter.  Feed in a ball and play out the point hitting cross court. The shooter can redirect the ball up the line whenever they want to but when they do then the whole court becomes open for both players. The non-shooter must go cross court until the shooter has hit their ball down the line.  If the shooter wins the point they get a point (i.e. 1-0, 2-0 etc.). If the non-shooter wins the point they do not get a point but they do become the shooter. A game to 7 should last a very long time as the non-shooter’s aim should be to keep the ball high, out of the opponent’s strike zone so that either the shooter is unable to attack down the line or that they hit an unforced error.  The non-shooter should NOT be going for any winner’s as they can only go cross court and the shooter know this. The shooter’s aim should be to hit cross court effectively enough to create a short ball which they can drive down the line and open up the court. It is up to both players whether they play a game of just forehands and then switch to backhands or whether they switch every point.

Things to concentrate on:

  • When redirecting make sure you approach the ball to the side and not head on. Give yourself more space than you think necessary.
  • Re-align your body when redirecting so that when you make contact with the ball your shoulders are facing the direction you want the ball to go in.
  • Make contact out in front especially when going down the line.
  • Make sure your body weight is going down the line when redirecting.  This can only happen when you are on balance. If you don’t think you can adjust your body weight then hit back cross court.
  • Be on BALANCE – create a wide base to hit from and use your legs to create support and power in your shot.
  • Keep it simple – if you’re rushed/confused as to where to hit/off balance etc. go cross court and wait for another opportunity.

Let me know how you get on!!!

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