Regardless of surface, tennis agility means being able to accelerate, decelerate and change direction while maintaining proper balance and posture [all while trying to hit a fuzzy ball traveling at excessive speed].
"To optimize on-court performance, a tennis player must learn to synchronize recruitment patterns [of individual muscles] as well as recruit the proper firing sequence of multiple muscle groups," says Jason Riley, director of performance at the Athlete's Compound at Saddlebrook Resort [Tampa, Fla.]. By developing these patterns, you will enhance your movement, first-step quickness and power capabilities, as well as preserve energy during a match. To achieve all that, Riley has had his top clients, including Maria Sharapova, Tommy Haas and the Bryan Brothers, perform the Crossover Step Drill and Forward Sprint Drill.
Crossover Step Carioca Quickstep Drill [With Partner]
According to Riley, tennis players use a crossover step at three specific times on the court:
1. Receiving a serve
2. Moving from midcourt toward the singles line
3. Moving from a wide forehand or backhand shot to recover back to the middle of the court
• Place two cones seven yards apart
• Place resistance belt around waist, and position body so left shoulder faces far cone and right shoulder faces partner
• While partner resists, drive right knee across body without letting hips rotate
• Continue carioca movement with minimal ground contact until reaching final cone
• Perform next set in opposite direction
Sets/Reps: 2x4-5 each direction
Coaching Points: Stay on balls of feet to reduce ground contact time // Concentrate on driving knee past midline of body and driving foot down to ground // Keep toes pointed toward shin to aid in quicker ground response time // Lean body in direction of movement // Maintain tight core with belly button pulled in
Forward Sprint Drill [With Partner]
Getting to drop shots and volley-style play require you to move quickly from the baseline to the net. This drill enhances that ability.
• Place two cones two yards apart on baseline
• Assume athletic stance on baseline between cones; partner stands between baseline and service line holding one tennis ball in each hand
• When partner starts to drop either ball, perform a quick split step, and sprint forward to retrieve ball before second bounce
Sets/Reps: 2-3x6-8; after each rep, partner takes one step backward. Continue until you can no longer retrieve ball with proper form
Coaching Points: Stride frequency should be fast // Concentrate on minimal ground contact time // Hips, knees and ankles should be flexed, with weight on balls of feet // Focus on proper running mechanics during ball retrieval // Do not compromise form for distance
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