When I first got into tennis at the age of 12, I was like a fish out of water. I had no idea what I was doing, or what I was supposed to be doing. The only thing going for me was my never say never attitude, that helped me with a lot of other things in life. I was fortunate to have my brother as my hitting partner. It helped me out greatly in my tennis journey.

Fast forward 10 years, I have become a better than average tennis player, went to college through my tennis skills and still enjoy playing and learning about the game.

If you are at any stage of your tennis journey, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or even advanced, I have compiled a list of 20 tips which will surely take your game to the next level. For all the advanced players out there who think these tips might just be too basic, I advise you to read through the article. You will surely find something that you didn’t know before.

There Are Two Stances To Play Tennis

Most amateur players don’t know this but there are two stances through which you play tennis. The two stances are known as the open stance and the closed stance. Both of them are used in different scenarios and can increase your tennis efficiency over time. This video goes over the details and use cases of both the stances.

 

Most of the time players focus on learning just one stance, whether it is the closed one or the open one and hamper their ability to play different balls. Imagine a situation when there is a high bounce on the ball and you only know how to play the square stance, it will be extremely difficult for you to play that ball because 9 times out of 10 you need and an open stance to bring it under control.

Coaches tend to forget this and most players just learn one stance, so if you think your coach might have forgotten about this then consult him about learning both of the stances. In my Ultimate Forehand 5 Day Guide, I go over this concept in much more detail. Don’t make the mistake of waiting and learning bad habits. Always be on the lookout to improve your game, and learning these stances is a step in the right direction.

Always Keep Your Eyes on The Ball

If you ever watch a pro player in slow motion, you will notice one thing that is quite a bit different from the average rec player. And that is their eye contact with the ball. Roger Federer is a great example of that, but you can take any other professional and see where their eyes are at all times. More often than not, they will have their eyes dead set on the ball.

Whenever Federer serves, he keeps his eyes on the ball and keeps them there for a split second even after the ball leaves the racquet, just to make sure that the contact point is perfect every time. Most amateur players are not concerned with watching the ball, they rather spend time either looking at their opponent or their next shot which hampers their ability to hit consistently good shots.

I recommend going on to YouTube and watching your favorite pro players hitting or serving in slow motion, you will see many new things that they do better than the average player. Most important of all, you will learn how their eyes are always glued to the ball. They are not concerned with how their opponent looks, behaves or tries to deceive them. When your main focus is on the ball, your mind will thank you for it and help you hit the correct shot in any situation. Forcing yourself to keep your eyes glued to the ball is gonna be a tough skill to learn, especially if you have been playing for some years and never thought about learning it. But you will notice a huge bump in performance after you get this skill down.

Intent Drives Your Consistency

I see intermediate and even advanced players complaining that they lack consistency. They practice for hours on the court every day, thinking to themselves that if I have the correct technique down, I’ll eventually become more consistent.

Well, I hate to say this, but that’s the wrong mentality. You will never get consistent that way, maybe your execution will become smoother and you will make fewer technical mistakes, but your shots won’t land inside the court every time.

Having the right intent is going to help you become more consistent. When you make your mind up that you are going to hit a particular shot and practice hitting a few times, only then will you start becoming more consistent. To start this process, set up two cones on either side of the court and get your partner to start a slow rally with you. Your task is to try and hit close to the cones 10 times. You will notice that when you have a set target in mind, your body and brain will automatically make your shots more accurate.

This video will go over this concept in more detail, and it also has a pretty nifty drill for you to practice.

 

Intent drives a lot of things in our daily lives, practicing it during your tennis journey should help you in other aspects of practical life.

Always Play With a Racquet That Fits Your Skill Level

This is directed at beginners more so than intermediate or advanced players because those skill levels are set with their racquets and don’t really change them all that often.
If you want to go into details as to which racquet fits your skill level, my Babolat buyers guide should help in making a good decision. It goes over every skill level and the pros and cons of all the racquets, so you can make the right choice and won’t regret buying a racquet that didn’t even fit your playstyle.

A beginner will most likely need something that’s light, has a big head size and a higher Stiffness Rating. Beginners are struggling with form, consistency and overall knowledge of the game, so a racquet that can eliminate any of the complications should be a God-send for them.

I would recommend getting something like the Babolat Pure Drive 110, which I have recommended to countless beginners in my local vicinity and most of them have appreciated it. Good swing-weight, not too heavy and a great sweet-spot, make this racquet a great companion for beginners.

Getting a racquet that has a smaller head size when you are a beginner will increase the time it will take to learn tennis substantially. This is what happened to me at the start, I had no one to guide me and I started with a very heavy Yonex from that was not very wide, to begin with. Be smart and buy something that suits you, and slowly progress towards more advanced racquets.

Try and Stick to a Routine

Having a set routine and sticking to it helps in whatever you set out to do, and tennis is no different. No matter how busy you are, you can get some time to yourself and you can spend it doing whatever you like. If you stumble upon the beautiful game of tennis then I have to tell you, this game requires patience and time to be put into learning.
So, if you really want to get something good out of this wonderful hobby/sport, you will need a routine that you can follow. The routine is the only way you will end up learning the game. Try to follow it at least 3 days a week and slowly increase it if you find more time, but you will see actual results by sticking to it.

Whether there is a scientific explanation to this thing or not, spending a few hours every day towards something you’re passionate about really compounds into one big blob of awesomeness at the end.

Compliment Your Tennis Workout With Some Gym or Cardio

Only playing tennis can be a good thing but dedicating just one day a week to some good cardio can make your life a lot easier. Whether it’s going to gym to run on the treadmill, going to a dance class with your significant other or just a good 2-3 mile run in your neighborhood, it will increase your efficiency on the court.
Tennis is a game with quick side to side movements, and while we may think that we are running a lot, that is not the case for most amateurs and even intermediates.

You will play matches that will stretch to multiple hours and you can only survive those if your heart and body are up to the mark.

The good thing about cardio is that you can do it pretty much at any time of the day. Even if you work late hours, you can get a good 2-mile jog in less than 30 minutes, and it is even a great alternative to the times you do not get to play tennis, either due to work or any other commitments.
All the pro players have dedicated cardio days where they do not play tennis and only focus on movements that increase their overall stamina. If you do not know what kind of exercises you should start with, this video should help you learn the ropes.

 

Never Get Inside Your Own Mind

This is something I hear a lot getting talked about at the higher levels of the sport. Coaches and even pro players know this but this sort of information doesn’t trickle down the majority population.
There will be times when you have to play an opponent that uses intimidation to get the better of you. This is something they learn from their coaches and it is not even illegal to do. They might grunt a lot, praise you when you hit a bad shot, try and pass on some comments, etc.
This technique can be very annoying to deal with, especially for people who tend to question themselves a lot. When the other player does this, you start overthinking. It forces your mind to focus on the words said, and not the main issue at hand, i.e. the match.
Pro players are very good at this because of all the exposure they have had in their careers, but a normal rec player who goes for a local tournament is going to feel extremely helpless. The solution to this is to play as many tournaments as you can, as it’ll help in dealing with the pressure. Most of the times it’s the pressure which causes you to get inside your head and implode, and exposure is going to help alleviate that.

Footwork is Very Important

One of the biggest misconceptions that every recreational player seems to have is that they can play good tennis without moving their feet. Learning the correct footwork will automatically help fix a lot of mistakes.
Seeing a pro player move on the court is simply mesmerizing. Their ability to move this well is simply due to the hours spent on court, doing different drills catered towards good footwork.
Even doing some simple footwork drills are enough for most people, as not all of us are pro players. This video should help you get started with some good fundamentals.

Desensitize Yourself

This is a very vital step to tennis greatness because most people think otherwise but all the pros know this to be very important. People have the idea that, if you think a negative thought, your performance is gonna take a beating.
Well, today is your lucky day young grasshopper, desensitizing is something every top pro goes through when they are learning the game. No matter how many negative thoughts cross their mind, they will not get fazed by them and perform at peak performance every time. There have been countless matches where the greats of the game have had to dig themselves out match points, and it is all due to them focusing on their shots. They are human beings too, they get the same negative thoughts that we get on a daily basis, but they never get fazed by it. They go through different situations with their coaches and are able to overcome all the different pressures that they may encounter.
Amateur players can learn to do this through continuous practice. You should be so confident in your abilities that any negative thoughts just fly over your head.

This is one of my favorite videos regarding how to desensitize yourself.

Do Anything to Make Yourself Comfortable

This is a tip for the players that are either playing tournaments or are looking to jump into the competitive side of things. Whether you are a superstitious player like Nadal or a cool and calm player like Federer, make yourself comfortable on the tennis court.
Comfort is essential for good performance because if you are in a state of panic you will never be able to concentrate on the match at hand. Take as many towels as you need, take full advantage of the breaks and always hit on the court a good 30-40 minutes before your actual match.

I used to think otherwise and not care about these things, and it made me lose easy matches. So, don’t make the same mistakes as I did and always get comfortable with the surroundings and the court.
You ever see Rafael Nadal before a match, he will always do his ritual no matter who he is set to play against. He probably is the best player to learn these habits from, because he always sits down for a minute, takes out his racquets, pulls out something to eat, then takes a sip from two kinds of water bottles and then sets them at very particular positions.
It’s this ritual that makes him very comfortable on any court he has to play on and you can learn the same good habits by sticking to something that you enjoy.

Drink Plenty of Water During Breaks

If you live in a humid region, then you might already know this but some people still avoid drinking water during their play time. Whether you are just practicing or playing an actual match, you should always bring a hydrating system with you. If you practice with a team, then a cooler with some icy cool hydrating salts or even normal water should be good.
If you are the solo kind, buy a good thermally insulating bottle that can hold up to a liter or two of water. You can always refill it from a fountain, but not bringing your own water is just asking for trouble.
Your body starts to perform less optimally when it starts losing water, so you have to keep that in mind. Even if you just sip it little by little, you’ll feel extremely energized and perform better because of it.
Ever see professional players, they bring a lot of different drinks and water to help them play the match at the optimal level. Sometimes, they even bring a snack to help with the depleting energy levels. Be kind to your mind and body and take water to your tennis matches or practices, your body is gonna thank you for it.

Know When Your Strings Are Going To Die

This is mostly directed at players that use a lot of polyester strings. Polyester strings are some of the most used strings on the pro tour and a lot of college players use it too.

Most intermediates and beginners are very intrigued by all these pros using them and start using the strings in their own racquets, thinking they would perform the same as synthetic or other multifilaments.

Polyester strings are very strong and generally tougher than other soft strings, and their main function is to provide topspin and control. Due to this property, they don’t break easily. I have been playing for quite a while and even I can’t break lower gauge polys easily.
A major drawback of polyester strings is that they “die” after a month of use. A dead string in tennis means that it will lose all of its trampoline effect and you will need a lot more power than you would usually require to hit a shot.
If you are someone who doesn’t break a lot of strings, then I would advise staying away from polyester strings because you may never be able to break them and will end up having to replace after a month.

Never Argue With The Chair Umpire or Linespeople

This is for the tournament players who get a little fierce on court. The ideal scenario would be to go play against your opponent, be at your best behavior, play the match happily no matter the result. But tennis is a game that can be very frustrating at times and when you are playing a game that you are solely responsible for, it can be rage inducing.
You have to remember that tennis is game of a lot of points, you can lose one point and then go on to win the next 10 points. No point depends on the previous point, so if you keep on pondering on a point that you lost you’ll end up losing confidence for the next point.
Fighting with the umpire and linespeople is going to hamper you more than it’s gonna benefit you. The umpire is the supreme authority on a tennis court unless there is a challenge system. Sometimes there is a mistake in detecting an in or out ball. Instead of wasting your time trying to convince the umpire, just take the one point loss and play the other points to the best of your ability.
Tennis is such a beautiful game that you can make a full comeback even after being 0-5 three set points down, so never fight with anyone and try to focus on your own game.

Get a Good Tennis Bag or Backpack

Being organized on a tennis court can take out a lot of hassle. The peace you get from having everything in one place is awesome, plus you can carry way more things than you can without a bag.
You can also express yourself with a cool and colorful bag because companies make a lot of cool colorways. I personally like backpacks because I don’t have a lot of stuff to carry around, just two racquets, a few shirts for humid weather, a towel, and a water bottle. Backpacks give me a lot of freedom and they look very compact too.
If you are looking for a bag, you can try the Babolat Pure Drive (6-Pack) tennis bag from Amazon, it has a pretty cool colorway and it’s not that bad considering price because you will get a good 15 years out of this thing.

For a backpack, you can buy anything you find attractive. I personally own an older version of the Babolat 2018 Pure Series Tennis Backpack. I really like the subtle style and color. You can check out the current pricing from Amazon here.

Always Have a Game Plan and Stick to it

This is something I am guilty of doing in the past. I go into a tournament, promising myself that I will stick to one game and try and execute it to the best of my ability, but what ends up happening is the extreme opposite. I forget the game plan midway through the match and have to play catch up to my opponent.
Whether you are in a practice match or in a real tournament match, make up your mind and stick to something that wins you points. If you see an opponent with a very weak backhand, make them play it several times. They will be extremely annoyed at the consistency with which you are putting the ball to their backhand and you will win the match quite easily.
When playing a match, you should strive for efficiency. There is nothing better than closing off a match quickly and having more time to concentrate on the next one.
Aiming towards something is always better than having no aim at all. Try this thing, the next time you go to your local tennis court, have a small goal in your mind no matter how small it may be. When I first started out I aimed to hit balls at a specific point on the tennis court, this helped me increase my consistency and made me think about my next point, rather than just playing aimlessly.
Rafael Nadal is a great role model, in his book he confessed that his game plan against Roger Federer was a high topspin forehand to his backhand, and we have seen in the countless matches the two have played together, Rafa was able to use this strategy pretty effectively.

Never Try and Break Your Patterns Mid Match

This tip goes hand in hand with the tip above. You should never try and break the patterns of play that you set before the match. This not only breaks you down mentally because you start overthinking but also starts to take a physical toll on you.
If your forehand is strong, always try and hit with that. There is no need to add some variety to the play that you have never practiced before. This can break a perfectly won match. This has happened to me loads of times because I always thought that I could win a match with less effort than I was already employing. What started happening was totally the opposite, I would be 4-1 up and I would change my pattern of play to a more laid back one and the other player would sense it and start hitting bigger shots. I would panic and start making unforced errors, and in just a few minutes what looked like a done set for me, the other player was up 5-4.
So, keep your patterns consistent because that creates doubt in the other player’s mind that this guy is not budging, what a strong player. This, in turn, creates a mental dominance for you over the other player.

You Are Only As Good As Your Second Serve

All the top pro players except Rafael Nadal win free points on their first serves. You watch Roger Federer and the average game time he has on his serve is just over a minute and he has been able to maintain that for almost 15 years. His first and second serves are extremely consistent and he can probably hit an ace on his second if he wanted.
If you have a good consistent second serve that goes in 99% of the time, you get so much freedom on your first serve that you can hit it with as much power and direction as you like. This will not only make you hit more aces than usual but also frustrate the opponent on the other side of the exchange.

Work on your second serves as much as you can. No matter what skill level you are, a good second serve is going to benefit you a lot more than any other shot in tennis. Someone who can’t get their serves into the court can never even dream of playing good tennis, and I learned that the hard way as my second serve was extremely bad. Consistency was almost absent from my second serve, I was scared when I had to serve a game because I knew that I had to go to a very embarrassing frying pan grip and just put the ball in play on my second serves.
Never make this mistake, start learning the correct second serve whether it is a kick serve or a slice serve.

Never Make Your Weaknesses Obvious To The Opponent

Exploiting the opponent’s weakness is fun and games until they figure out your weak points and start exploiting them. This was true for Rafael Nadal’s early career as his serve was extremely weak, and players could take advantage of it and break it. He did what every great player would do, he improved his serve a bit but most important of all, he improved his groundstrokes to such a high level that players could never hit a clean winner. He would force the other player to hit two or three winners at a time, just to win one single point.
This helped him greatly in masking his weaker serve and frustrating his opponents. There was a time on the pro tour that everybody was scared of paying Rafa because it was nearly impossible to hit a winner on, and he would just end up frustrating you, no matter how hard you hit the ball.

Watch a few Youtube videos, get a drill plan setup with your coach or by yourself and practice that serve, and you’ll end up having a much better time playing tennis.

The amount of free points you will win with your serve is going to save you from getting tired faster and you will enjoy your time at the court more because when you hit a blistering first serve, you get that dopamine rush that makes you very energetic.

Adopt a Very ”No Mercy” Attitude During Matches

I got this tip from the great Rod Laver himself. He said to never give your opponents free points and adopt a very “No Mercy Attitude”. People should know that you don’t give away points easy, every point they win they will have to work hard for it. If you can beat an opponent 6-0, do not slack off, and beat them 6-0. You will feel on top of the world and you will end up winning more matches.
Don’t make the mistake of giving away free points. Even if Roger Federer is winning the match 2 sets up 5-1 up in the third, he would never play to just have fun. Tennis is a game that can turn on a whim and if you have the advantage of being ahead, just finish it before the opponent sees the opportunity.

Practice New Techniques During Training

Practice is the time to learn new things, never in a million years should you try something new in a match setting. I see beginners and intermediates learning one thing during training, and doing something completely different when they get on the court for a match.

You can practice as many new things you like during training, want to practice your drop shots? Make sure to get them down during practice sessions, because there is no time during matches to do new things and play the match to your optimal level.

 

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