I know the COVID-19 crisis is going to be resolved. It may take longer than we had hoped. This is a great time to practice tennis on your own.
I had not hit a ball in the last three weeks until the other day. I took ten balls and a racquet to the court. After loosening up by doing a five-minute warm-up which included jogging, stretching and a few light footwork drills, I hit ten serves very softly from the deuce side. I took up to 10 seconds in between serves. I was not too concerned about direction, aiming most of the serves towards the middle of the box.
I also tried to add just a little bit of racquet head speed as I got closer to the tenth serve. Next, I walked to the other end of the court, gathered the balls, and hit ten serves to the ad side of the court in a similar manner. After switching ends, I began to hit one first serve and then one second serve to the deuce court. If I missed the first serve in the net, I would retrieve the ball and hit a second serve to the same side. I would then hit another second serve to the deuce side. I repeated this sequence until all 10 balls were on the other end of the court.
After switching ends, I repeated this drill to the ad side. When I had hit 30 serves to both the deuce and ad side, I started with two balls in my hand, hit a second serve, took a step or two in, and dropped the second ball. As my serve was bouncing, I continued moving in as I hit a forehand to the opposite side of the court. I then repeated this idea to the ad side. After switching ends, I repeated the same drill.
This simple practice session took about 45 minutes and I really felt like I accomplished a lot. Please remember that more of your points will end after one hit than any other possible outcome. That means a service winner, a double fault or a missed return account for the majority of all points played in a match. 70 percent of points played on the ATP and WTA tours only consist of four balls or less. This tells you how important your serve is and if the opponent returns it, how important your next shot is.
Don't forget to practice your social distancing and tennis together. Stay safe and healthy and practice hard and smart!
Steven Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.