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The Importance of Footwork in Tennis

24th May 2024

Introduction

Are you into the sport of tennis? Then probably you heard millions of times that a perfect tennis footwork is essential for success.

Have you ever wondered why so?

It is because your foot holds all the balance of your body while playing tennis,and missing footwork for a single moment can make the game move out of your hand. Today, we are here to discuss the importance of footwork in tennis.

Keep reading.

The origin of the term “Footwork.”

In the WaxMaster’s Track “Footwork” in 1995, the term “Footwork” was first mentionedin the Ghetto House scene in Chicago.

How Does Footwork matter as a game-changer?

Having a proper footwork in tennis is no doubt a game-changer. But what are the benefits of having the perfect ones?

They are-

  • You can hit harder as your body weight throws forward, and the hits get force
  • You stay in a good position to hit
  • You get out of danger of any unwanted sports injury

Why a good footwork in tennis is needed?

Just imagine how the levers and springs help cushion any instrument. On-court tennis footwork does the same thing while playing tennis. While playing, the tennis footwork on the courtpropels and cushions your body and protects you from any shock. Also, while you move side by side, footwork acts as brakes and pivots.

Science Behind thefoot structure that matters in footwork?

Your feet have three complex bony structures. One is the tall one on the inner edge of the foot, another one is that runs on the outer side of the foot and the third is the one that curves the sole all over the heels across.

Every individual has a unique structure of these bony structures that support them in playing the game.

Basically, the three structures together function as a support similar to the medieval church wall. Where the huge roof weight is redirected in the walls to a single buttress.

If we compare this church structure with our feet, then the heals are the buttresses, the first and fifth metatarsals are the two shafts that connect to the first and fifth toes.

However, even though we can compare the foot structure with the church wall and roof and buttresses, but there is a basic difference in both.

The church walls’ support is fixed. But in our foot, the arches are flexible that change with time depending on the strength and the downward force when you move. The arch of our feet consists of several tough, elastic yet flexible ligaments and tendons because of which the arch is flexible.

How can you master tennis footwork in 6 steps?

Here are the ways to master tennis footwork–

  1. Prep Steps:

The tennis game is all about focus and tactics. You have to stay focused on the ball to act quickly; from whatever direction it is coming. Often players miss out the chance of hitting the balls because they take long steps. So, one of the most important plan in tennis training is to make use of prep steps. Take small steps in all directions so that you can return back to your actual position fast and without losing balance. Prep steps are usually great for groundstrokes.

For prep steps, you must stand on your forefront, keeping your knees a bit bent. This posture will help you in taking control of your dynamics and hit balls coming from different directions with ease.

  1. Split Step:

You must have used the split step several times, especially for situations like hitting a groundstroke or returning a serve.

So what is a split step?

It is when you push off your toes to jump and move towards the ball’s direction to hit it. This posture helps you in moving toward the ball with force to hit it better.

While the split step may sound quite easy, it can get challenging actually for many players.

The split step is all about analyzing your opponent’s move and then taking the leap with the split step on time. So, it is all about the correct timing in a split-step performance. With a perfect split step, you will reach out to more balls and serve better.

A coach can help you in perfecting the split step by keeping a close eye on your footwork along with the timing while serving or returning a serve.

  1. First Step:

The first step is another crucial dynamic movement.

If you notice, tennis players usually don’t run above 5 meters in any direction. All that you must do is to take small and fast steps. So, these smaller steps are extremely crucial.

You take the first step after the split step. To be precise, after jumping and landing, the first 2-3 steps towards a particular direction are the first step.

Experts can suggest your on-court tennis footwork movement checking your first step. The first step sets the base for your movement’s speed. So, you must take the first step correctly for an effective bash at the ball.

When you take the first step, you lean toward the ball’s direction, over the leg that is in front. Now, to achieve a dynamic movement, you must attain an assertive and aggressive attitude. When your first step is forceful, the next steps follow accordingly. One of the most important suggestions is to lean towards the direction of the movement to enable stronger first 2-3 steps that is enough than many lighter steps.

  1. Cross Over Step:

A lateral movement is a great idea to confuse your opponents. You can make use of the cross over step to move laterally crossing your outer leg over your inner leg.

While cross over step is a crucial footwork, many players use different variations of this particular footwork. For example, players who have attained an excellent hip mobility, perform cross over step by facing the opponents and exerting more pressure on them. Many other players may face sidewards while trying this footwork. Even sideward facing has an advantage that the opponent will not know what actions you are about to take.

So, depending upon your flexibility and hip strength, you can try out different variations of the cross over step. Keep on practicing and you will excel in this tennis footwork on the court over time.

  1. Transition Steps:

You cannot always judge the direction from where the ball is coming. So, you should be ready for changing directions in which transition steps are highly helpful. This is one of the Roger Federer’s tennis footwork techniques.

Often one of the major mistakes that most players do is to focus more on the first steps. Well, it is not bad to focus on the first steps because it is an important component. But you should also consider the importance of transition steps that will help you in dealing with the ball coming from different directions.

Transition steps are mainly the way of slowing down your body after a hit so that you can be ready to change directions as and when required. Most commonly, it is a brake to the body acceleration to change directions immediately. You require a proper body balance and posture so that you can slow down after hitting the ball and then balance yourself to move on a multi-directional place, getting ready for the next hit.

As you keep on practicing transition steps, the chances of losing hits on balls coming from unexpected directions reduce to a great extent.

  1. Multi-Directional Step:

A multi-directional step can be mentioned as a combination of all the footwork mentioned above. You might require this step many times in your tennis playing career. When you have knowledge of multi-directional movement, you will have a good posture for maintaining a great position to achieve an excellent tennis performance.

Also, a great multi-directional step will increase your agility in the court allowing great shots.

Reactive drills like a ball chase is one of the best footwork tennis drills to learn multi-directional steps better. Practice the drill in absence of a racket so that you can focus completely on all the different footwork in combination.

Now when you have come across all the crucial footwork, it is time to practice them with different tennis footwork exercises to excel in them. Even an expert player will have to practice these steps continuously to keep the body agile and in proper posture.

Conclusion

To wrap up, tennis is not an easy game, and neither too difficult. The only difficulty is the footwork. Success lies in your footwork. So, when trying tennis, try practicing more tennis footwork. Once you master the skills of footwork and other related skills, you will undoubtedly be a rockstar in tennis and your tennis performance will enhance.