Optimising your physical conditioning is a major part of becoming a better tennis player.
It is important to be quick around the court so you can ultimately get to more balls, get more shots in the court, win more points and therefore more matches.
But being in good physical shape for tennis isn’t as simple as having a good overall level of fitness.
Whilst this certainly helps, there is a lot more you can do to improve your tennis specific fitness and replicate the movement patterns that you perform on the court.
In fact, if you want to fast track your tennis improvement, doing tennis specific agility drills could be the golden ticket you’ve been looking for!
There are a lot of aspects to improving your tennis game, from tactics to technique to the mental side of the game, but becoming more agile and moving around the court more efficiently is arguably the most impactful way to get better.
With that being said, let’s explore why improving your agility is so important and highlight some of our favourite agility drills for tennis!
Why Agility is Important for Tennis
Tennis has become a much more physically demanding sport over the last couple of decades.
With so many more juniors choosing tennis over soccer or basketball for example than ever before, there are a lot of great athletes playing the game nowadays.
You also need great endurance to sustain your playing level throughout a long match.
Therefore, improving your agility effectively gives you more time on the court, as you will be able to get your body behind the ball more quickly, giving you more time to prepare both your racket and your body before your shots.
This gives you a great advantage both physically and mentally, as you will be able to take a full swing at the ball in a controlled manner, whilst having better mental clarity and relaxation from not rushing your shot preparation.
Moreover, being more agile can help all areas of your game from a tactical perspective.
Being quick around the court is often associated with defensive players or counter punchers, because they are so adept at turning defensive situations on their head and winning points through a battle of attrition.
When defending, being agile is a great asset as you can get to the ball in plenty of time and play a high quality groundstroke that can push your opponent back and neutralise the point.
You may then be able to turn defence into attack and turn the stakes in your favour, or simply wear your opponent down, forcing them into an error.
Conversely, if you are the one dictating the point and playing aggressively, being more agile can help you get up to the ball more quickly and improve your footwork.
He is able to take the ball so early because he can move to the ball so effortlessly, making up ground with a few strides, then taking small adjustment steps to get his racket and body into the perfect position.
This gives him a lot of time on the ball, which allows him to focus on what his hands are doing rather than stretching for the ball, being off balance and playing a sub par shot.
Therefore, it is clear to see why improving your agility can be so beneficial to your tennis game.
It helps you to be better in both aggressive and defensive areas of the game, can improve your footwork patterns and actually save you energy as you move around the court more efficiently.
So, let’s dive into some of our favourite drills for improving your agility out on the court!
Best Tennis Agility Drills
Here are some of the best exercises and drills you can do if you want to improve your agility on the tennis court.
Service Box Agility Drill
This is a very simple but effective agility drill that anyone can use to improve their speed using the actual dimensions of the tennis court.
To perform this drill, simply start on the centre service line. Then, side step along the service line to the right, tap the side line with your foot and side step back to the centre service line.
Repeat this out to the left side line.
Then, once you are back on the central service line, run diagonally over to the net where the sideline intersects.
After you have reached the net, back peddle back to the service line where you started. Again, repeat this over to the left hand side.
Finally, run straight ahead along the centre service line to the net. Make sure to slow yourself down before you reach the net of course, then back peddle back to the centre line.
You have now completed the drill! Repeat it 3-5 times for a great agility workout.
Here’s a brutal drill that will help you improve your lung capacity as well as your agility!
Suicides are great for replicating the quick acceleration, sharp stopping, twisting and turning movements that are used all the time in the game of tennis.
First of all, start on the outside tramline on one side of the court.
The aim with this drill is to touch every line on the court with your foot and return back to the outside tramline where you started.
So, your first short trip is to the sideline, just a metre or so and back. Then, to the centre line and back.
Then to the opposite sideline and back. And finally, over to the opposite outside tramline and back.
Again, repeat this 3-5 times as quickly as you can for a gruelling workout!
Ball Drop Drill
This next drill requires a partner and a couple of tennis balls. The aim here is to work on your reaction times and small adjustment steps.
These are used all the time in tennis so are a great thing to practice.
Your partner will need to hold a ball in each hand and outstretch their arms to their sides.
Make sure they are standing a few metres in front of you (this can be adjusted throughout the drill to make it more challenging).
Your partner should drop one of the balls (you won’t know which one), and you simply have to run forward and catch it before it bounces twice.
Then return to your starting position and repeat as many times as you like.
Using a footwork ladder is a great way to improve your footwork patterns and your agility.
There are many different drills you can do using ladders, but a great place to start is with alternate step-ins.
Simply lay your ladder on the court and line yourself up so you are facing one of the latter boxes and the rest of the ladder is outstretched alongside you.
Then, step with alternate feet (one foot after the other) into the box and then the same out of the box.
Repeat this all the way along the ladder so you are continuously stepping into and out of the boxes.
You should do this in both directions so you get practice moving to the left and right.
Call and Shadow
This drill requires a racket and a partner. Another simple but effective drill that improves your agility and replicates realistic tennis movement patterns.
Simply hold your racket and assume your ready position on the baseline.
Then, get your partner to call out a shot for you to shadow. For example, they may call out slice backhand or topspin forehand.
If you really want to progress this drill, you can ask your partner to call out a position with the shot.
So, deep topspin forehand, short approach backhand, low forehand volley for example.
Overall, there are a lot of benefits to improving your agility out on the tennis court.
Agility is a key part of tennis and it helps to give you more time to pick your shots, get to more balls and prepare both your body and racket prior to contact.
But improving on court agility doesn’t have to be reserved to the game’s elite.
You too can use the drills we have detailed above to improve your agility and move like Novak Djokovic on the court!