Practice is fundamental to being a successful tennis player. Without it, you won't improve and you won't make the most of your talent. But how can you ensure you're making the most of every hour you spend on the practice court? Here are some insights from Martina Navratilova, as well as from Serena Williams' coach, Maria Sharapova's former mentor and Laura Robson's ex-coach.
Mark Hodgkinson
July 17, 2018

Keep score at all times on the practice court - that will help you to train with the same intensity that you'll need on the match court.  

"Count everything," Navratilova has suggested. "A lot of times, players will just hit, hit, hit. They miss three balls in a row and think, 'no big deal', and don’t change anything. And then you play a match and miss three balls in a row and it’s 0-40. Whoops. So when you do drills, count to 11 or 20. And practise match situations, which means playing sets."

Have a clear idea of how you want to play in the match you are preparing for.

"Before every match, I set up a strategy, taking into consideration both my player’s game, strengths, favourite combinations, and the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses," Williams' coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, has said. "During the warm-up before the match we repeat, as an actor repeats his lines in a play, how we are going to play during the match." 

Maria Sharapova, Wimbledon
Maria Sharapova (Getty)

Coaches can help keep a player focused during practice by putting them "under constant pressure".

"Tell them exactly what you want. And tell them what will happen if they don’t do it," said Sharapova's former coach Robert Lansdorp. "So you could shout out: 'You’ll be doing 20 press-ups at the baseline.' That will help to focus their minds. In matches, they will play without fear as they know that the shots work – they would have played them a thousand times on the practice court while under constant pressure." 

Pick your practice partner wisely - you'll want someone who is going to be as committed to the session as you are.

"If you’re dragging someone out to the court who doesn’t really want to play, that’s not going to help your level," Robson's former coach, Miles Maclagan, has said. "There are certain players, on the tour and at all levels, who, although they are great players, aren’t ideal if you’re trying to get a bit of rhythm." 

Laura Robson, partnering Jocelyn Rae (Getty)
Laura Robson (Getty)

Boredom is the enemy on the practice court.

To counter it, you must avoid monotony by always varying what you work on. "Work on something different every day - there's always plenty to improve," Navratilova has said. 

Before going on to the practice court, have a clear idea of what you are hoping to achieve from that session.

"I would recommend focusing on one specific at a time," Maclagan has said. "Motivation on the practice court comes from having clear, achievable objectives in mind. If you’re just randomly hitting balls, chances are you won’t stay focused for long and won’t get the maximum gain from your session. And, as a rule, if you can’t do it on the practice court, don’t expect to be able to do it on the match court." 

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This is an editorial. Views expressed do not represent those of WTA Sports Sciences.

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