Tennis is a game that brings out the best in the athlete. The will to overcome, the desire do better, and the courage to fight through challenges are just three that come to mind. Hitting the ball with your forehand, backhand, running volley, or your serve are all possible and dependent upon one variable. Your movement on the court is that variable and developing the correct Balance and Agility is key.
I have seen many athletes of different levels of capability hit a nice ball. Good stroke technique with tons of desire to play.
However, their game lacked one thing; consistent high quality mobility throughout the match. As a Performance Trainer who has worked with athletes for 25 years I would have to say that the ability “to move” efficiently is key for success on the court for the tennis athlete.
What do we mean when we use the terms movement and mobility? First, there is overall conditioning. If you are unable to chase down the ball in the tie breaker of the 3rd set then you definitely can not move.
Second, are you In proper position to hit the ball after running to the ball? This getting us to the concept of agility or balance. This is where many, many athletes require a lot of work. I once had a tennis coach tell me, “JR tennis is a game of fast to slow…I need you to get this player to realize this!” What did this coach mean? Basically, you run fast to get to the spot on the court where you are going to the ball, then all of the sudden a slower methodical pattern is executed when the technique of the swing occurs. You sprint, get set up, then swing. Fast to slow. Being able to make this transition occur in a consistent basis is hard to do at a high level of play. Thus, much work is done for agility.
Third, is what we here of a lot in tennis, the “first step” ability. How fast are you in generating foot speed for a 3 step sprint? This is very difficult to do the older we get. Fourth, (and not least) is overall speed. As part of the training I do for junior, collegiate, and professional tennis athletes is a high performance speed training system. If you are not fast you will get beat, period. Thus, the last part of being mobile and being able to MOVE is having consistent speed, regardless of game, set, or number of matches played in a tournament.
As you analyze your game break it down into categories of tennis and categories of fitness. On the fitness side, look at what we have talked about here; conditioning, agility, quickness, and speed. Where are the deficits in your game that need attention? Now that you are zeroing in…it is time to get started to make improvements.