We rightly spend a lot of time perfecting our technique in tennis, but sometimes, we’re not as quick to practice our footwork. The thing is, in order to get our technique right, we’ve got to be in the right position to begin with. This means tennis footwork drills can have a big impact on your game, and help take you to the next level.
When you watch the pros, you notice all the little adjustment steps they take to make sure they’re in the right position. Indeed, when you watch them on hard courts, you can hear them squeaking away as their feet move like pistons.
Now, if someone as talented as Roger Federer has to put so much energy into his footwork, then what chance do us mortals have of hitting the perfect shot without putting in some serious steps?
We want to make sure you’re giving yourself the best opportunity to hit some great shots when you’re out on the court, so we’ve put together some tennis footwork drills you can do from anywhere.
Ladder drills are great for working on those fast-twitch muscles and your coordination. While you need to cover plenty of ground in tennis, the most important steps are often the small steps you take before hitting the ball, so practicing those small steps on the ladder can be a real help.
You don’t need to be an elite player to benefit from doing ladder drills, and practicing these tennis footwork drills will help improve your speed, coordination, and stamina so you can go out and dominate the court.
Simple Ladder Run
Let’s start it off easy shall we?
Set your ladder up and simply run through the ladder putting one foot in each box, then turn around and come back the other way. This is a good warmup and an opportunity to get the blood pumping through the body.
The less time your feet spend in contact with the ground the better. You want your steps to be short and sharp, making sure to maintain accuracy by landing in the middle of the square.
2 Step Ladder Run
Stepping things up a bit, you can start by putting both feet in each box, making things a little tougher. Make sure you’re maintaining the clean footwork, focussing on minimizing your time in contact with the floor, and putting your feet cleanly in the middle of the box.
This exercise mimics the small forward steps you take on the court nicely, so it’s important to get these right and keep making your footwork cleaner and faster.
Lateral Quick Steps
Much of your time on the tennis court is spent running laterally, so it’s important to practice these movements too.
Again, you can start with one foot in each hole and then progress up to two feet in each hole. Moving sideways is a little more challenging than moving forwards, but it’s an important part of tennis that you can easily practice from home.
Take the lateral quick steps up a notch by adding some high knees. This really gets the heart pumping and adds an extra layer of difficulty to the drill.
Some tennis points go very long, and you’ve still got to be able to keep your feet moving so this footwork drill is a good way of replicating that added intensity. The more you can keep your footwork precise as the drills get more intense, the more you will be able to cope out on the court.
This is a personal favorite, and if I had a ladder at home I would almost certainly be in the video showing off my skills!
Start on the left side of the ladder and put your right foot in, then your left foot in, right foot out, left foot out, and then repeat the other way.
This tennis footwork drill really challenges your coordination and your fast-twitch muscles. Your brain has to coordinate with your muscles to get your feet in the right place just as it does on the tennis court, so this is great practice for when you’re out doing the real thing.
It can also be beneficial to hold a tennis racket while doing the drill and perhaps hit a shot at the end of each run.
In and Out
Another challenging but enjoyable drill!
This one’s exactly as it sounds, one foot in, the next foot in, one foot out, the next foot out. Again, this footwork drill challenges your coordination and precision when it comes to placing your feet.
This is exactly the same kind of control you want when you’re trying to find the right position on the tennis court.
The Carioca footwork drill is great for getting the hips moving and challenging your foot placement.
The hip rotation helps you with changes of direction that will give you that added agility around the court.
On the Court
There are a number of different tennis footwork drills you can do on the tennis court without having to hit the ball. Sometimes we need to put the racket and ball away because they complicate things a lot, and it’s easier to focus on your footwork when they’re not involved.
Without the distraction of having to hit the ball, you can focus in on getting your footwork right and practicing those steps that are going to allow you to hit the ball better.
This is a pretty well-known tennis drill and it’s really simple to practice.
Place a tennis ball on the corners of the court where the baseline and singles line intersect and another two balls where the service line and the singles line intersect, and then one in the middle, where the service line and the centerline intersect.
Your job is then to grab each ball and return it to the center point at the baseline (putting it on a tennis racket is a good option).
The movements in this drill are very similar to the ones you make when playing a point and there is a big emphasis on your change of direction. This drill is about speed and precision, making sure you get to each ball quickly, but can also change direction and recover to the baseline.
The quicker you can do this drill, the faster you’re going to find yourself getting around the court.
These balls are brilliant for practicing your footwork. It’s hard to explain what they are, so I won’t try, and you should just check out the video.
Because of the Z ball’s shape, you never know quite what bounce you’re going to get, which means you’ve always got to be ready to react. Taking those short, sharp steps is crucial to doing this, and makes all the difference in being able to catch the ball effectively.
If you’ve got a partner, then you can get a little game of tennis going in the box, making sure you move each other around and put each other in challenging positions.
I can’t put this in the fun category like the Z ball, but I can tell you it’s going to help your footwork. This one is more about fitness than footwork, but it will help you to keep those feet pumping when you get tired.
Start on the outside tram line and touch the inside tram line before returning to touch the outside tram. Then repeat the process with the center line and the far tram lines. If you’ve got more than one court then you can keep going if you want.
During a point, you can run from one side of the court to the other many times, so you need to be able to keep going and maintain your energy throughout the point.
Running lines is a great way to practice this and make sure you’ve got the stamina when it comes to match time.
With a Racket and Ball
At the end of the day, your footwork is only useful if you can translate it into hitting the ball well. So at some point, you’ve got to transition your tennis footwork drills in actually hitting the ball.
There are some simple exercises you can run with a partner that can make sure you’re taking the right steps towards the ball and they can be very effective.
All you need for this is a racket, ball, and a cone. Place your cone just in front of the baseline, and have the student start just in front of the cone. The coach then hand feeds the ball deep behind the baseline to the forehand wing and the player has to retrieve the ball before recovering in front of the cone. The coach then throws the next ball deep to the backhand side, and the process is repeated.
Continuing to recover to the baseline when you’re tired and your legs start to feel heavy is one of the most difficult things to do with your tennis footwork, and this drill is excellent at getting players to improve this area.
The Inverse V
You can also turn this drill around and turn it into a drill designed to encourage players to attack into the court.
Move the cone on to the baseline and drop short balls for the player to attack. The player must then recover around the cone and then hit a short ball on the other side. This really challenges the player to get the steps right on the short ball and still keep moving their legs for the recovery.
All that work you’ve been putting in on the ladder should come in handy here, but it’s still challenging to get everything coordinated and repeat it over and over again, especially when you begin to get tired.
There are all sorts of different ways you can practice your footwork and we’ve just listed a few. Footwork is a very important part of tennis though, and it’s one we often neglect, so make sure you’re busy practicing your tennis footwork.
As we write this, we’re stuck in lockdown, so we’ve all been doing what we can to try and keep our tennis sharp and there’s lots you can do from home.
If you’ve got any more tennis footwork drills to add to the list then why not let us know in the comments!
Article by: Will