Good footwork helps you run down more shots.
Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images
You hit a tennis ball with a racket, but you won't hit it well -- if at all -- unless your body is positioned properly. The faster and more efficiently you use your feet to get into position for a return, the easier it is to perform the proper mechanics that let you hit effective shots. Additionally, quick initial steps can help you track down difficult balls and extend the point when your opponent hits a tough shot.1.
Move to the correct court position as quickly as possible after you hit the ball. In a baseline rally, assume your opponent will hit to the largest available area. For example, if you hit a shot up the middle, position yourself in the middle of the baseline. If you hit to the far left corner, stand a few steps closer to your right corner. If you want to rush the net, sprint forward as fast as possible.2.
Assume a ready position as quickly as possible after you reach the correct spot on the court so you'll be prepared to return your opponent's next shot. Spread your feet shoulder-width apart or a bit wider. Balance on the balls of your feet and bounce your body lightly to help you move quickly as soon as your opponent hits the ball.3.
Run forward if the opponent hits a short shot. Begin by taking a step forward with your farthest foot. If the ball is hit short and to your right, for example, step toward the ball with your left foot. Remain erect as long as possible to maintain the greatest possible speed. However, don't run so fast that your momentum carries you into the net. You'll lose the point if you touch the net.4.
Backpedal if you're close to the net and your opponent lobs the ball a bit behind you. Take your first step with your farthest foot, as you did when running forward. If you won't reach the ball by backpedaling, run to intercept the shot, beginning with a crossover step. If the ball is hit over your head and to the left, for example, pivot on your left foot and take your first step with your right.5.
Run sideways to reach a ball hit to your right or left, beginning with a crossover step. If a ball is hit to your right, for example, take your first step with your left foot, crossing it in front of your right, then run straight to your intended contact point.6.
Position your feet in a proper stance when you reach the hitting zone, if you have time. With your front shoulder turned toward the net, spread your feet about shoulder-width apart and place most of your weight over your back foot. You'll step toward the ball with your front foot and shift your weight forward when you swing the racket.
- When you're moving into position after hitting the ball, take lateral shuffle steps whenever possible, instead of turning your body and running. Shuffling into position keeps your body facing forward, which lets you move quickly in either direction. If your opponent's shot runs you too far wide, however, you may have no choice except to run back into position.
- When you're running toward the ball, take smaller steps as you approach the hitting zone so it's easier to turn your body and get into your stance.