The popularity of tennis has steadily continued to grow since its inception in 1873. According to the International Tennis Federation 2019 report, 87 million people, or approximately 1.71% of the entire world population, play tennis at least once in a 12-month period.
In 2022, United States Tennis Association announced that tennis participation in the United States has gone up for the third consecutive year, reaching a total of 23.6 million players, an increase of 33% percent since the start of 2020.
In this article, we are going to look at ways to help you improve your game, some of which may surprise you. So, here is a list of tips on how to play tennis better.
Improve Your Tennis Knowledge
If you want to get better at anything, you have to do your research. Though it may sound counter-intuitive, there is so much to learn about tennis off-court.
Read a couple of books that explain the sport and its history in greater detail. Watch some of the best matches in tennis history (many of them are readily available on YouTube) and listen to players talk about their tactics and approach to the game. Hear how they felt and what they did when they were losing. Pick up an advice or two from those who know what they are talking about.
There is so much to discover when you analyze the sport beyond the surface. And next time you are on the court, you will not only feel more knowledgeable about tennis, but also more enthusiastic and excited to be playing.
Have a Plan When You Practice
One of the biggest mistakes recreational players make is that they head out to practice court without a plan. It is not enough to toss the ball back and forth with your trainer or sparring partner. You want to make the most of your time on the court, so come prepared.
To do that, analyze your game (this is again where theoretical tennis knowledge may come in handy) and establish your weaknesses. Then, spend extra time working on the practice court – perhaps that is your volleys, serve, or returns. In any case, having a plan before you step on the court is the key to maximize your training in the most efficient way.
Hold the Racket Lightly
Another mistake recreational tennis players make is holding the racket too firmly. They think their swing will have more power if they hold the racket tighter. However, the opposite is true. A lighter grip gives you a better swing, making your shots far more powerful.
What is more, holding your racket too firmly can lead to painful blisters and cause unnecessary strain on the arm’s ligaments, potentially leading to wrist strain and other wrist injuries. A near-infrared therapy device can help your body recover from these injuries, but it’s best to prevent them in the first place with proper technique.
You should also hold the racket down to ensure your shots’ maximum effectiveness.
Ease Up On Your Serve
Even though the serve is the most important shot in tennis that does not mean that you should hit the ball at maximum force and velocity. What is far more important is to set up your shot first. Instead of the maximum speed, focus on placement and accuracy instead.
Remember there is no good serve without a proper ball toss. That is why you often see professional players stop their serve when dissatisfied with their ball toss. Ideally, the ball should go straight up and come straight down approximately eighteen inches in front of your leading foot.
Try to accomplish that by practicing your toss over and over again without actually hitting the ball.
Focus on Footwork
Stroke technique is not the most common cause of missing a shot. It is actually not being in the right position at the right time. When that happens, you are caught off balance and unable to take a full swing. This is why focusing on your footwork is the key. Make it your goal to get to the ball as quickly and efficiently as you can.
Make sure your body weight is fully loaded on your back leg before playing a shot. If you can get your back leg and weight behind the ball, you will ensure more consistent shots. Position one foot in the direction you want the ball to go, which is usually diagonal, and the other one facing forward.
Before and after practice, spend extra time on footwork drills such as side-stepping, cross-overs, side-to-side, forward and backward sprints. This can also be done off court, wherever you have the space.
Watch Your Diet
Tennis requires exceptional energy and stamina and if you feel you are not getting to the ball fast enough, your diet may be to blame. All major top stars follow a strict diet regimen. For example, Novak Djokovic often credits his dairy, gluten, and refined sugar-free diet for his success on the court.
A balanced diet will help you improve your game. Eat lots of protein, fruits, and vegetables. Do not overeat carbs and keep sugar to a minimum. Do not eat right before you get on the court – make sure you give your body at least an hour to digest the meal. On the other hand, eat as soon as possible after the game to make up for the energy spent on the court.
Precondition Before You Play
Red LED light therapy, a form of therapy that uses light of red and near-infrared wavelengths, can improve the effects of physical exercise. A study has shown that a combination of near-infrared light and strength training is more successful in increasing muscle performance than strength training on its own.
An hour before you train or play a match, use a portable, ergonomic device like the Flexbeam for approximately 40 minutes by covering muscles that will be most used or those where you are experiencing soreness, such as quads, hamstrings, and calves. You can also apply the same protocol an hour after the match to help improve muscle fatigue.
As you can see from our tips on how to play tennis better, what you do off the court can be just as important as what you do on the court. So, make sure to take a holistic approach in order to improve your game, and your overall well-being.