Tennis for Dummiest
July 2, 2007 11:56 PM   Subscribe

Beginning tennis player here - I'd appreciate tips and links (of the "for dummies" genre) to help me improve my game.

I'm especially looking for information relating to:
- Body positioning
- Serving
- Footwork
- Grip
- Tennis-specific conditioning
- Drills (for practice when I can't find a playing partner)

Thanks for the help!
posted by charmston to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Keep your wrist firm when striking the ball. I can't think of many (any?) orthodox shots where bending your arm at the wrist will result in a better shot.
You should know "instinctively" whether or not you prefer a two-handed or single-handed backhand. It might take a while to work out which you prefer, but don't let anyone talk you into choosing one - it has to be your choice.
You should almost always try to return the ball behind the service line (i.e. if you served it there, it would be a fault). A deep return is usually harder to return than one which lands close to the net.
Follow-through on ground shots, so you sort of guide the ball with your racquet after you've hit it. "Punch" volleys, so there's very little follow-through.
posted by bunglin jones at 1:09 AM on July 3, 2007

Best answer: A really good set of links and videos can be found at the BBC Sport Academy site.

(For example:
Body Position and Grip
The Shots
Speed Drills
Much more to be found in the first link.)

Good luck!
posted by Hartster at 4:17 AM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

The best thing you can do is look up your city's recreation department and see what they offer. In my little town they offer lessons and tournaments for all skill levels. That's where you will find partners as well. They may even have a city-wide league, where players in your neighborhood compete against players from other neighborhoods.

Also, check out the USTA website.

Obviously, tennis can't be learned by reading, but by doing.
posted by The Deej at 5:47 AM on July 3, 2007

A pearl from W. Timothy Gallway: Don't just keep your eye on the ball. Watch the "laces" spin and note how they're oriented when they contact your strings. Always concentrate on the "laces".
posted by klarck at 6:10 AM on July 3, 2007

The USTA site has some great pages on tennis-specific conditioning that I've used with pretty good success.

Spend a little money to take one or two group lessons if they're available at a local tennis club. (I personally got *way* more out of my group lessons as a beginner than I ever got from private lessons).

Then get out there and play, play, play. Practice is the key.
posted by angry.polymath at 6:10 AM on July 3, 2007

Try to place the ball in the middle as close to the opponents baseline as possible. This will minimize the risk of you screwing up at the same time as the opponent will have a hard time putting any plays on you. Most players tend to play overagressive from the baseline and will shoot out a lot.

Also work a lot to make your 1st serve consistant, this will have huge psycological effect on your opponent.

If you manage this you will beat most recreational players.
posted by ilike at 7:24 AM on July 3, 2007

Many years ago, a tennis pro asked me the following question: "Who wins a tennis match?".

You'd think the answer would be something like "The better/stronger/faster player who can hit the ball where his opponent can't return it". But it isn't. The answer is: "The person who hits the last ball in".

Until you're a fairly advanced player, that should be your focus. Don't try to hit the ball around/over/away from your opponent. Don't try to overpower them. In fact, beyond looking at the ball as it's coming off of their racket, don't pay attention to your opponent at all. Just focus on consistently putting the ball back on their side of the net.
posted by toxic at 9:32 AM on July 3, 2007

When you are starting out certainly focus on getting solid returns vs. going for winners or hitting rocket returns or going for precise shot placement. Most of the rec players you will be playing against won't have this mentality and will make more errors than you do. That's where you profit. Overtime with practice you can add more velocity and placement.

I've also heard the adage that in doubt when both of you are at the baseline, cross court shots are effective to hit hard because of the greater "in bounds" area you have to land the shot.
posted by mmascolino at 9:42 AM on July 3, 2007

1. Play. A lot. A huge part of tennis is muscle memory and just knowing the proper response to every shot that is sent your way. Minimizing surprise and indecision is a huge advantage. When you first start out, you'll have times you become paralyzed just making the choice of forehand or backhand. Don't be surprised to have a ball hit you square in the chest because you vapor locked and couldn't choose. A moment of indecision in a game as fast as tennis just can't be tolerated. You have to get to the point that by the time you are able to see the ball leave your opponents racquet, you know which hand you're using, and by the time it crosses the net, you know where your placement is going to be.

2. Get a good racquet. It doesn't have to be a multi-hundred dollar exotic space material pro model, but you will be much happier with a good name-brand racquet than being hampered by a $30 store model. Larger sports stores will have a large selection of racquets, and may even have an area where you can hit pre-strung models.

3. Get your racquet professionally strung, and after a few months, if you feel like your racquet has gotten "wonky" have it restrung. You may notice that you prefer it strung one way when beginning, and your taste changes as you improve. Generally, you'll prefer a softly strung racquet beginning, and prefer more tightly strung as you improve.

4. Agree with toxic above: you will beat many players by simply keeping the ball in play. Most amateur, and some advanced players, beat themselves more than their opponents do. Most beginning and intermediate games are full of errors, not winners.

5. Learn patience and control. Tennis can be an infuriating game when you are starting out. Getting upset in the first set because a ball went out that you thought was in on a crucial point just jeopardizes the remaining sets. Keeping your composure and being patient will win matches. Again, many players are their own worst enemy. If a game goes to the later sets, impatient players will try to put it to bed prematurely. Being patient and in control will bring you through more often than not. Note this doesn't mean you shouldn't play aggressively, but be patient and wait for the proper times to play aggressively.

6. Leave the baseline. Learn how to play the net as soon as you can. Aggressive net play has a huge psychological effect at the club level. If you play the net properly, amateur players are just not going to have the skills to pass you. That leaves the lob. Lobbing over a good net player is difficult, especially for amateur players. Most of the time they will either hit it WAY beyond you and out, or they will hit it too high and shallow, allowing you plenty of time to hit an overhead winner (i.e. slam). Special note: overhead slams are among the most difficult shots in the entire game. They are flamboyant but often difficult to control, as you are staring straight up.

7. Play. A lot.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:31 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

one last thing. if you have trouble with your eye-to-hand coordination, then hit the ball off a wall for several minutes (half hour or so) will help.
posted by rsol44 at 7:02 AM on October 24, 2007

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