By guest blogger April Gift, Head Tennis Coach

One of the keys to great tennis is great footwork.  It doesn’t matter how potentially successful the shot is if you don’t place yourself in a good position to hit it.  Every tennis shot starts from the ground up, so feet are engaged long before the ball nears the racket.

First, think about what happens you play:

  • You hit a great return off a wide serve by your opponent.
  • You are moving him or her all over the court, then your opponent attacks by coming to the net.
  • You attempt a passing shot, but he or she volleys into the opposite corner and you play a stunning running, single-handed, backhand pass down the line that even Roger Federer would be proud of.

Stop pumping your fist for a moment and think about what just happened.  You have just hit the ball eight times, but for the majority of the point, you were moving!

You moved to the ball to hit every shot and then to recover.  The time spent hitting shots is only a fraction of the time spent moving to and away from them.  So is this reflected in the way you practice?

Here are some tips to making a successful shot:

Greater shot power.

Developing your footwork results in greater power behind every shot.  When you are in a good position, you set yourself up to hit the ball using as many body parts as you can, instead of hitting the ball off-balance or using just your arm.

More shot options.

By improving your tennis footwork, you have more choices when it comes to making your shot.  Making it to a better position in less time means you can choose the stance you use (open, closed, neutral, etc.) to play the shot.

You also have more options when it comes to where you play the shot and with what stroke—cross-court, down the line, backhand, forehand, to name a few.  Without footwork, you will have fewer shot choices available, and those you do have may suffer from poor execution.

Reduced errors.

As many as 70 percent of unforced errors are due to poor footwork.  What would it mean to your game to reduce your unforced errors by as many as seven out of 10?

Stay in points longer.

Better footwork will improve your agility, balance, and coordination, which are all critical for higher levels of play.

Improved court speed and fitness.

Improving your tennis speed and fitness is a natural side effect of improving your footwork.  There will be more room for opponent errors in the short term, and over the course of a match, your speed and fitness will decrease your opponent’s stamina, leading to a greater potential for errors.

So if you really want to improve your game, leave your racket in the bag and work on your footwork.