A wall can return the ball faster than any of your opponents. (Illustration by John Devolle)

I love it when students hit off the wall. Why? Because the wall can teach skills that coaches and opponents cannot. As tennis gets faster, players need to have compact strokes so they can reply quicker. Monica Seles was as good at this as anyone I’ve ever seen. It didn’t matter how hard you hit the ball to Seles—she would get her racquet back in position and make good contact.

Practicing against the wall can help you improve this aspect of your game. Start out a good distance from the wall and move closer as you get more comfortable. Now the ball will be on top of you in an instant, right after you finish your follow through. That’s faster than any opponent can return the ball. This will quicken your backswing and force you to read the ball earlier and hit it on the rise, essential skills for every modern tennis player.