Yes, you read the title of this article correctly! Up to 70 percent of unforced errors (U-Es) are caused by poor footwork.

Why? Because so much of the success of playing tennis is based on timing, balance, and moving your body weight forward. And, all that takes good footwork.

In fact, for the recreational, club and league players, the only aspect of the game that’s more overlooked might be the service return.

Think about it. You might spend hours working to hit the perfect ground stroke, but if you can’t get to the ball, let alone get in position to hit it … well, draw your own conclusion.

The fact is that the actual hitting or striking of the ball is only a small percentage of what makes up tennis. The majority is made up of movement, getting to and away from your shots, i.e., footwork.

Since every tennis shot starts from the ground up, well before the racquet gets near the ball, try thinking about reaching with your feet.

The idea being getting your feet to the ball with your racquet already back and in position can drastically reduce U-Es.

Some other benefits from good footwork include:

  • More power from being set up and balanced, allowing for more potential weight behind the shot (not just hitting with your arm alone).
  • Creating more shot options because you’re in position earlier. Simply put, placement and shot selection is enhanced. Otherwise, there are fewer options and greater chances to commit a U-E.
  • Improves agility, balance, coordination, court speed and fitness in general. The ability to get one more ball back than your opponent has more to do with footwork than shot making.

One way to start improving your footwork is to watch a player like Federer and how he moves after making a shot to get in position for the next one.

Another way is to stop running so much on the court. Only run if you’re a long way from the ball and it’s the only way to get there quickly. Otherwise, the majority of on-court movement should consist of side shuffle and crossover steps.

Consider taking a lesson or clinic and ask for a focus on footwork and footwork drills.

Fix your footwork and cut the U-Es up to 70 percent.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides custom-hybrid racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area.