Learn to Play Tennis

February 15, 2020

If you're serious about learning to play tennis, I recommend this awesome masterclass from Serena Williams.

Video lessons with Serena cover everything from core techniques, pro-style fitness drills to improving your mental game. The class is paired with a 15-page workbook to help you add power to your serve and hit more aces.

How to start playing tennis

  • Decide that you want to play tennis. Duh!
  • Find a teacher to take tennis lessons
  • Find a court where you can practice
  • Find groups/friends to play with
  • Buy some decent equipment!

Getting better at tennis requires practice and finding a practice partner is very tough. Clubs should put together lists of people looking to practice, not just play, with other people and make practice items like cones, and poly drops available for use for free (maybe checked out like a library). No instructor/coach required.

How to quickly improve your tennis game

I play as often as I can with different players and skill levels. I've been playing doubles with 4.0 and 4.5's and know that the only things that are keeping me in the game is my forehand, volleys, and running. My first serve to their backhands get demolished so I know that I need to up my pace and placement. My backhand returns get picked on so I know that I need to work on that technique. And overall, my fitness level can be better.

I try to keep it simple and work on these points of the game. There are so many things to work on but my weaknesses get exposed by people who can play a good solid game that are smart enough to expose my weaknesses.

And I definitely like to take a step back and play against "weaker" players because even hitting slower pace balls are key to getting better technique and footwork.

Simply playing matches is S-L-O-W growth change if you're working on your backhand, serves, or volleys, even on proper footwork and timing. Unless someone is somewhat naturally athletic, only practice, and ideally good coaching, if one can afford it, will make improvement with any kind of satisfying speed.

Just playing matches is a formula for staying at the same level for a very long time. I do agree matches are necessary, otherwise why practice at all, and how would you gauge the effectiveness and success of the practice, if not in competition on the court? Improvement and winning by improving is the goal, of course.

The key to success is practice practice practice as in any area of life, but latent tennis ability is especially strongly correlated with all-round athleticism. If you are a good athlete you can get really good at tennis extremely fast. I've known great athletes who invest a lot of time and coaching money in the sport eclipse me (player of 12-13 years) in less than 2 years despite starting later in life.

What I've got: Spinny kick serve that I've been relying for my first that hits to the backhand on both ad and deuce side. Works at lower levels but gets killed at higher levels when facing people with better backhands or can run around it although that's super rare.

What I'm working on: Better serve technique to improve the power and consistency of my first serve. Working both sides of the box. Mostly this is for the ad side since it's far better to hit to the middle in doubles. In practice, I focus on my toss into the court, hitting it at the top of my reach, and ensuring I really get up and at the ball using my lower legs. The serve placement is mostly just muscle memory and feel for me.

Is it possible for a new adult player to become professional?

For every single one of these players that make it to the pro tour, there's another five thousand tennis juniors who had everything lined up perfectly and couldn't make it.

Parents had enough money to fund tennis; are willing to sacrifice their careers and marriage; found not a good coach, not a great coach coach, but an EXCELLENT coach; born with a body impervious to injury; extremely talented/athletic; had enough diversity and quantity and quality of hitting partners; born with good proportions and body type that helps with playing tennis.

Unless you grew up playing a lot of junior tournaments at the sectional/regional/national level, and knew mostly tennis players throughout your life, most people don't realize what a big world tennis actually takes place in.

Here's the thing: becoming "pro" at anything, is about how many open pro slots there are, and then fitting into one of those slots.

If you're a computer programmer, there's something like 400,000 jobs available in the US alone. So you only need to be the 400,000th best to be a pro, and probably make $60k+.

If you're an NFL player, there's 46 players on the active roster * 32 teams = 1500 players who make at least $420,000 per year, plus probably thousands of other pros in Arena Football, NFL Europe, etc.

In tennis, it's been said that around 100 players worldwide can make a living as a touring pro. It's so hard to be top-100 in the world at anything, especially a sport with worldwide popularity and high salaries at the very top, with most top players starting at age 5 and being homeschooled or at a tennis academy shortly after turning 10.

So the short answer is no. As an aside, the 10,000 hours idea is a joke to sell books. The Beatles weren't The Beatles because they played on stage longer than other bands, they were The Beatles because their group had three genius talents who'd been surrounded by music since they were kids ... the 10,000 hours helped but there was a huge amount of development before that.

How to improve your match game and tournament play

It's like dating.

The first date both you and the girl (yes, that pretty girl across from you who you like is nervous too). We're all nervous.

You go on enough dates, you get comfortable and start showing signs of your true self--you get better and grow confident. Hell, the girl might even start to take you seriously.

Why were you stressing? Lack of exposure.

Same thing here.

You play enough matches in exactly the competitive environment you want to succeed at and you'll become comfortable. It won't be a moment's notice; however, I guarantee you that you will start to grow. How fast? Depends solely on you.

Meanwhile in matches, focus on the moment of the ball impacting your strings and racket head. That's all that matters at that moment.

If even a sliver of doubt enters or you sense yourself tightening up, that's okay. Just towel up, grab a drink or bounce the ball like Djokovic a bit. Give yourself a breathe of air whatever works for you.

Try not to evoke those doubtful thoughts which can build false beliefs about yourself. Say "I am fucking good." when that little doubtful voice pops up in your head. Fend it off. Make it a habit. You don't have problems, you lack experience. Why you gotta make it personal against yourself? No judgment.

Point is, gotta allow ourselves to try (whether that's fail/win that's fine, that's not the end game) ; however, at the end of the day this is about growing as a person, as a competitor and as a man.

Play tournaments, play points with serve even when practicing, any aspect you can think of that resembles your matches.

Just a personal example: I was crushed and even began to victimize myself in high school varsity due to not being able to cope with the pressure. I actually didn't make it on the team the first try but that gave me a hunger. Come sophomore year, I told myself Idgaf. I'm definitely gonna leave it all out on the court for my coaches to see. Worked my ass off the previous summer with private coaches and court time.

We had a challenge system in place to keep our team competitive and fight for seeds.

Definitely helped me mentally adapt and allowing myself a scenario to be uncomfortable helped me grow the most (and quickly).

Our #1 singles was a top ranked junior out of Europe so also set real expectations for yourself too lol.

How to improve your mental game

Don't "try" to snap out of it or do anything which drags you even further out of the zone. You gotta play enough matches and practice enough that you reach the point where you can literally play totally with the subconcious on the court. The best matches I ever played were where I was totally in the zone - you almost can't even remember the points happening. When you play in that state results come easier and stuff like people watching can't matter, like you physically can't even notice them. It's easier said than done though because even when I was playing a ton I would still come out of the zone sometimes (and that's when I'd be screwed).

And the best general improving tip is to just keep entering tournaments, over and over, and that's the best tip any junior or rec player can ever have other practicing a lot. Nothing improves your play more than playing lots of tournaments. Your match play improves a shit ton!! Not crappy friendly matches with no mental stakes, but actual tournaments with stages and finals - even crappy local/regional tournaments help a lot if you never played any before!! I always tell this to people who ever say stuff like how do I improve lol, so sorry if it's a boring answer, but it's so true.

Tips for a shorter tennis player

If the person is a great server, don't be afraid to guess where they're serving, often turns out better than you would think.

Hard flat serves should be bunted back with a slice, let the momentum do the work for you concerning depth.

Generally a tall player will be bad at low/high backhands, or low/high forehands. Figure out what it is and your most consistent shot to hit to it. Force them to try and rally with it.

Depth is everything. Tall players can be pushed deeper into the court than they would like to and then finished off with a drop shot. AVOID GIVING APPROACH SHOTS AT ALL COSTS, the last thing you want is a competent tall player at the net.

Besides that just make sure you're in good physical shape, as a shorter player you have an easier job being an effective retriever. I play an all court style and I have very good, consistent groundstrokes from all heights and depths. The way a shorter player can beat me is by limiting my aggression with good topspin that pushes me deeper into the court, and by just making me hit one more ball than I feel I should.

Focus on improving your footwork, presuming you're playing threee setters, endurance will be much less of a factor, assuming you both have a basic level of fitness, however if you have proper footwork you can maximize your consistency while minimizing your energy expenditure, which leads to the effortless look players like Federer are known for.

How to play against a "pusher" player

Basically in tennis you want to be looking for that chance to MOVE IN and attack by finishing the point as close to the net as possible, whether it's an aggressive approach shot or a volley - you must limit the area of play for your opponent. Contrarily, you want to increase your area of play by giving yourself as much court to hit into as possible, In order to do that you must keep the ball deep. Pusher's are THE HARDEST players to beat because they get every ball back and are technically sound on both the forehand and backhand.

For you to beat a pusher, you must at least be able to keep the ball in play of both sides. Then it becomes a case of finding which shot will produce either 1.) the most short balls or 2.) the most errors. You can do this by ruining there rhythm and mixing it up. During the rally, try to hit a deep, high ball (backhand is generally weaker for most players so try there first) and then a deep low ball (like a slice where they must change grip to get under the ball). Try and find a balance of deep shots of varying height from both sides that will produce one of the two opportunities. Once you've found success, you can then try draw them in with a short slice forcing them into the net while having to hit a ball with enough height to clear the net. Here, you can test their volley and your passing shot/lob. Then it's just rinse and repeat.

If you're advanced, the same still occurs only I'd be aiming deep and for the corners. Once you get the short ball, the whole court is in play so I'll always try for the short angle (if there's enough height to hit down on the ball), drive deep and hard down the middle (because their next shot would be defensive and have no angle) or to the open court moving inwards looking for the put-away volley. If they play a short slice, you must also try and play the slice back to keep the ball low, keep the net as an obstacle and to force them to hit up, giving you more chance to play an effective volley.

Pusher's generally have weaker volleys and if you can consistently draw them to the net and produce an error from them - keep doing what works. However, encouraging a player to the net is a matter of policy is incorrect as that is prime position to close out the point - especially after setting yourself up from a good approach shot.

A low slice away from the player is your best defense against a lob. It forces the player to prepare for the shot as they're moving to the ball while the low trajectory of the slice makes it difficult to get under the ball effectively. This shot should produce a mediocre lob for you to put away.

To counteract a passing shot, drive hard and deep down the middle. You will draw either an error or a weak return, without any angle, for you to put away.

You just have to stick to the basics, and SLIGHTLY adjust your gameplan. If you're thinking someone's a pusher, that means they aren't putting you under any pressure with their shots. So instead of trying to force winners, just rely fundamentals. Slow the pace of your shots a little, and focus on building points SLOWLY, but in the same way you normally would. It's always tempting to want to be overaggressive vs them but that's what they're counting on to win (errors creep in when you take risks).

Pushers at low level tennis aren't gonna be hitting good shots very often, and give you a lot of leeway to hit mediocre shots. You should rarely feel under pressure against a pusher. So really it's kinda relaxing to play them, just be patient and build points SLOWLY. If you don't self destruct with some stupid overaggression, then it'll come down to who trades shots better. And a tennis player is defined by the level he/she can trade at. Just trade with them until you can end the point normally, if they end more points than you in a neutral game then you just need to improve. Bad pushers will get stomped by patient, higher level players.

The problem comes when that "pusher" can consistently hit good shots off of your safer shots, or in other words can attack well too! Then they're just a better player haha. But when that happens you're playing at a higher level of tennis and need to practice some more to catch up.

How to learn playing left-handed if you're right-handed

I'm a righty myself, but I can play decent left-handed rallies. I noticed that I've been able to pick it up much easier, since I already knew how to play right-handed, so I think you'll learn it relatively quick. What has helped me is that when I started playing lefty, I held my racket higher on the grip (somewhere around the place your non-dominant hand is if playing a double-handed backhand), so that I didn't have to use a lot of force which made me able to focus more on the feeling of hitting lefty.

Besides, it also could take some strain of you arm since you're not used to using it that way yet. But I think within a few months you'll could be hitting some nice rallies with your friends and family and if you want to, it's very doable to play competitive again. Remember, it's going to be hard at first, but just keep playing and you'll get there eventually.

It's just going to be really, really difficult, and slow. If you can put yourself through the ringer of playing sloppily for months and months before you get comfortable, then yes it's possible. Basketball players learn to play with their left all the time after being right-dominant for years.

I would also consider you trying to use your left hand for everyday activities just to increase your dexterity with it. If you can hit a ball against your garage or side of the house on the brick wall, jsut doing the motion a few hundred times a day will help you a lot.

I tried it due to a worsening wrist injury. I only tried it for about 4 weeks. It was weird at first, of course. I went down from a solid 4.0 level to like 3.0.

Service was bad. Surprisingly, my backhand with the left arm was in some ways better than my regular backhand! I would approach the ball well on that side, since I am used to hitting on that side.

I wanted to continue, but my patience (or lack thereof) got the better of me.

How to get started in giving tennis lessons

If you're knowledgeable enough now you could start giving lessons, though if you really want to be able to charge a decent amount and ensure you're teaching students the right way, I'd suggest getting PTR or USPTA certified. It doesn't cost a ton, is pretty easy to get your certification, and having it gives you an additional credential and resources for attracting clients.

When I was in uni (I was 18) my local club, where I played, paid me to work with the little kids at school holidays “camps”. Basically the kids would come every day for a week.

They’d need a heap of coaches for this, more than they had. So employed a few of us to work with the littlies. I had friends I played with who did similar programs at different clubs, so know it’s a common thing here in Australia. I had to get my working with children certificate and a police check obviously

So yeah, maybe sus out, or even market doing something in the holidays also. Big market

How my tennis story started

I'm going to share my experience with starting tennis at a late age. I come from a tennis family so I was exposed to it my whole life, started hitting for fun in eighth grade and started playing matches soon after.

It wasnt until going to high school where I started group lessons, and those don't help much when you're only hitting 2 hours a week.

Starting junior year I began to train intensely. Private and group lessons with a fantastic coach and top 20 players from my region and I improved the skill part of my game immensely. I continued this until college and am on a weaker D1 team.

While it is clear I am up to par skill wise with all my teammates, my mental side of the game lacks compared to all of the ones who started young. That is what you miss the most, you learn so much from playing, how to construct and react to points. How to deal with mental stresses, you just see the game differently with the time put in.

I'm currently improving much faster than my teammates, but I have a lot of mental catch up necessary to be able to consistently beat them.

I think time playing with consistent technique and strategy is a crucial thing for development and is what makes the difference at this level, from what I have seen.

Because I have improved so much in the past ≈2 years, my game has changed dramatically. I have had to relearn what works best for me in matches as my game developed, and you do not have the time for that while refining your strokes. The time I spent switching from a western (extremely western) to a semi western forehand meant that I wasn't playing matches and wasn't developing the strategic part of my game as much, when all I was doing was drilling for 10 or so hours a week.

I have had to reshape my game as I have become physically and technically able, especially as a late bloomer physically. When you have the consistency down at an early age you do not need to focus as much time on technique (drilling) and can instead gain a lot of experience from match play, and then your will improve your game to a bigger scale as you physically mature, while keeping much of the same technique or habits.

I wasn't talking about being a mentally weak player in an anger sense, instead like tennis IQ. I'm not sure if this makes sense for what you said though.

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