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Tennis Drills to Improve Your Ground Stroke

written by: CatNorth • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 5/24/2011

Learn about ways you can improve your tennis game. Follow instructions for basic tennis drills to improve your forehand and backhand ground strokes. Discover the benefits of practicing drills solo on a tennis backboard as well as practicing drills with a partner.

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    Fierce ground strokes in tennis are at the center of any good tennis match. As important as a good serve is, or as critical as a perfectly timed volley can be, the true fight between opponents takes place on the court while firing balls at each other via precise ground strokes. Being a ferocious competitor is more than just being able to return a ball. Learning to strategically place a tennis ball determines whether or not you'll be a champion. Practice and repetition are the keys for developing solid ground strokes. Start with tennis drills to improve your ground stroke.

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    Tennis Backboard Drills

    One of the best tools for any tennis player is the tennis backboard. First of all, you don’t need a partner to drill with the tennis backboard, and second, you can practice both your forehand and backhand ground strokes.

    To start, be sure and allow enough distance between you and the backboard. At the same time, you don’t want to create too much distance so that you have to struggle to return the ball each time, especially if you’re just starting out with drills. Also, the last thing you want do is struggle to hit the ball or injure yourself in doing so. Remember, it is a drill, and the goal is to develop your ground stroke.

    Next, for developing your forehand ground stroke, practice hitting the tennis ball above the line on the backboard in front of you and returning it each time, after it bounces. If the backboard doesn’t have a line drawn on it, try to estimate how high the tennis net would be so that you aim above that height when you hit the tennis ball. Avoid playing around with angle shots, and just practice hitting the ball in front of you for now. Practice the tennis ground stroke drill for about 15 or 20 minutes, and you will see a marked improvement in just one session.

    Practice hitting the ball in the same way for the backhand ground stroke. Keep in mind that you might instinctively want to hit the ball with a forehand stroke, but discipline yourself for this drill to only practice backhand ground strokes against the tennis backboard. It’s easy to get in the habit of hitting forehand strokes, but training yourself to be just as ready for backhand strokes will surely pay off when it comes to match time. Your opponent will quickly learn your weaknesses, and if you shy away from backhand ground strokes, you can bet your opponent will make sure and send you as many shots requiring a backhand stroke as possible. Practice backhand tennis ground stroke drills for approximately 15 to 20 minutes as well.

    Mix it up next by alternating between ground stroke drills for forehand and backhand hits. Try hitting the tennis ball at a slight angle so that you have to switch between forehand and backhand strokes. Finally, move back a bit from the backboard and challenge yourself more with a bigger distance between you and the tennis backboard. Continue to alternate between the forehand stroke and backhand stroke. Also practice hitting some balls that are too high so that you can learn to redirect them right across the tennis net at your opponent.

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    Tennis Target Practice

    When practicing solo, targeted ground stroke tennis drills will help you with controlling the direction of your ball. Besides aiming at a target on a tennis backboard, try aiming at a target across the net with both forehand strokes and backhand strokes. Repeat 10 times each and then move your target.

    If you’re practicing with a partner, ask her to throw balls from the net so that you can return them with a forehand or backhand stroke. Try and control the ball’s return by aiming at your partner so that she can catch the tennis ball each time. Next, play around with different distances and locations, and have your partner hit the ball underhanded with a tennis racket across the net to you from different spots. Your partner will not need to catch the tennis ball each time for this drill. Next, work toward hitting all the way to the opposite baseline each time.

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    Side-to-side Drills

    During any tennis match, you're most likely to be moving from side-to-side to return balls with ground strokes. Since your opponent wants to win, he will likely do all he can to throw you off and return balls you’re not ready for. After practicing basic ground stroke drills solo and with a partner for a week or so, work on side-to-side drills, so you'll be ready for any challenging game.

    With a partner, practice angle shots by moving side-to-side during tennis ground stroke drills by staying on one side of the center line of the court at the baseline to return balls at first. Ask your partner to hit balls across the net from different places on her side of the court so that you are required to return them with either a forehand stroke or backhand stroke. Do this without leaving a designated area, either on the left or right side of the center line. Practice for about five minutes on each side of the center line. This requires your partner to run the baseline on her side of the court.

    Ask your partner to reverse roles with you for the second side-to-side ground stroke drill. For this drill, you will run the baseline while your partner stays in one designated area on the baseline, either right or left of the center line. You will run up and down the baseline on your side of the court to return balls. Don’t allow yourself to stay stationary even if it’s easier to hit from the same spot each time. Practice both forehand and backhand strokes this way.

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    Beyond Basic Drilling

    With these basic tennis ground stroke drills, you will notice an improvement in your game and ability to precisely return balls. Explore variations of these drills and similar tennis ground stroke drills to continually develop your skills as a tennis player.

    As always, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any kind of sports training or actively participating in games. To avoid injury, always warm up and stretch before working out.

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    References The Official Web Site of the United States Tennis Association: “Improve Your Game" Instructional Tennis on the Web and Much More: “The Lesson Lounge hosted by Tennis4you!"

    Videojug: Get Good at Life: “Practice Drills For Stunning Groundstrokes"

    YouTube: “Tennis Backboard Drills"

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