The important aspect of movement is direction. How often
do you take a drop step or the back foot moving first in the direction opposite the ball, followed by the front foot? This
is counter-productive. You need to MOVE and INTO the ball, and it should
be done efficiently. Work to improve your footwork and you will be doing a victory dance more often!
Correct footwork in the game of tennis can be the difference
between a win or a loss. If your footwork is lazy you will loose several point from footwork alone. Poor footwork can effect
all aspects of your game forcing you to over compensate in the other parts of your game. Of all the areas of tennis, footwork
is the most important to be naturally flowing without ever having to think about it. Slow and lazy footwork will not allow
you to defend your court, and be the result of poor defense. If you cannot move to the ball you cannot be a good defensive
player, plain and simple. Luckily you do not have to be fast to be effective. Proper footwork can keep you in the game and
always a step ahead.
One of the more important aspects of footwork is to never
be on your heels. You always be on your toes and be ready to return any shot. The second before your opponent hits the ball
you need to "split step". The split step is the first reaction to every shot your opponent hits. The split step is a maneuver
performed when you jump up an inch or two onto your toes, as your opponent is about to hit his/her shot. Your feet should
be shoulder width apart, and your knees should be slightly bent when you land. This body position keeps you off of your heels
and ready to move quickly to any spot on the court. The split step should be used when you are returning a serves, ground
strokes, volleys, overheads and when you are approaching the net for a volley. Getting in the habit of the split step will
always help you to start moving towards the ball quicker each and every time
Avoid committing to one side of the court or the other too
early. If your opponent is setting up for an offensive shot, do not run to one side of the court well before your opponent
hits the ball. If you move too early and you open up the court before your opponent hits the ball you allow your opponent
to hit an easy winner.
There is a balance that must be struck for when to move.
You have 2 options, before your opponent hits the ball or after they hit the ball. Generally if you are not a sitting duck,
it is ok to wait until they hit the ball to start to move in one direction or another. However, there are times when you are
on 100% defense, like overheads, or a ball you might of miss-hit and it lands just over the net and sits up high for your
opponent. In these types of situations your opponent is in a great position. You will not have time to move far once they
hit the ball. In these circumstances you are forced to move to one side or the other in a guessing attempt.
Generally it is best to move just before your opponent hits
the ball. It is always better to guess and move to one side or the other rather than to just stand there and watch the ball
go by. Not only does this give you a chance of guessing right and getting to the ball, this also lets your opponent know that
you will not give up, which puts extra pressure on them to hit better shots with the knowledge that you are guessing and might
get there to hit the ball.
Good footwork is key to good defense. Keeping your feet
moving not only allows you to get to more balls, but it will keep the pressure on your opponent. Remember, you don't have
to be extremely quick to be extremely effective, just have good footwork!