| By Philip Feingold

It’s obvious that speed plays a key role in tennis. However, speed is more than just how fast a player moves on the court. It also refers to reaction time, readiness and the ability to make tactical decisions on the spot.

Good tennis players have perfect command of all of these skills. They can move around the court quickly, complete various maneuvers with skill, return the opponent's serves efficiently, and react to unexpected strokes in a timely fashion.

The ability to react and move fast can be developed, and it depends primarily on the strength of the muscles. For this reason, it is important to pay a lot of attention to the development of a player’s muscle strength, using a set of special exercises. In professional tennis, "explosive power" is the goal—a sudden acceleration that is achieved through muscle strength in the legs and good joint mobility.

Specifics of speed skills development in tennis
As I have mentioned, "explosive power" is achieved through the development of leg muscles, as well as knee, ankle and hip joint mobility. To achieve this level of fitness, regular exercises are required.

Professional coaches put special emphasis on developing the speed skills of tennis players ages 11-14. Later, these skills are developed by an increasing complexity of exercises, number of repetitions, length of distance and running speed.

Types of exercises for speed development
To achieve the most balanced development of leg muscles, an individually tailored exercise plan should be followed. Such a plan includes:

►Relay races and outdoor games (usually practiced in youth tennis during the early stages of learning).

Various types of sprints (speed run, running with acceleration, running with change of direction, etc.).

Jumping and squats (to develop leg strength).

Ball throw exercises with weighted baseball and tennis balls (to work out the muscles of the upper back using powerful throws that require considerable strength).

These exercises are always performed under the condition that the player is in good physical health, and allowing for a period of rest and recovery.