Try 'short-court' tennis to improve full-court game
No matter what the weather, hot or cool, your tennis warm-up is more important than ever.
Getting those muscles stretched and warmed up before going full tilt on the court will greatly reduce the chances of injury that could keep you out of the game for extended periods.
A great way to warm up, which I've been having students do at the beginning of lessons and clinics, is to rally at "short court" tennis. We stand about two feet behind the service line and rally in the service boxes (think of the service line as the new base line), using "ROG" transition balls, which have low compression.
Not only does this make for a great way to warm up, it promotes control and helps develop rhythm, and the slower balls allow for more rallying.
As players get more proficient at rallying, we move up to regulation balls which are faster and more challenging to control.
By positioning yourself a step behind the service line, your target is to aim inside the service boxes and work at keeping the ball in play. A key factor here is proper footwork. It starts with a small split step when the ball leaves your hitting partner's racquet, then quick little steps after you hit to get back to position ready for the next split step, and repeat.
Establishing a rhythm pattern helps you to keep moving and be ready for the next shot. Keep in mind that the only big difference in your overall stroke between hitting short court versus full court is controlling the speed of your swing in order to keep the ball inside the service boxes.
So, your stance and swing technique should be the same as if you're hitting full court. Whether you hit from a square, closed or open stance (definitely practice all of them), a full follow through is a must for the short court. This is how you'll learn to control the speed of your swing.
The overall goals to be achieved from this type of warm-up are multi-fold: By rallying as many balls as you can continuously (try for 10, then increase in increments of five) in close quarters, you improve movement, footwork, consistency, control, watching the ball, anticipation and so much more.
Just think: If you're playing in league matches and did this type of warm-up 10 minutes before the customary 10 minute warm-up allowed for most matches, how much more comfortable and prepared would you feel?
Warming up with short court tennis can make for better long term results.
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area.