Tired of doing the same drills? Work on these fundamental shots in new ways:
Serve — Add topspin
A flat fastball up the T is a great serve, but the serve that says you’re a player to be reckoned with is the arcing kicker that bounces up above your opponent’s eyes. It’s a safer serve that forces your
opponent to move out of his or her strike zone to make the return.
How to get started: Stand a few feet from the net. Hold the racquet with a Continental grip, but choke up. Without moving your legs, toss the ball a few feet above your head (lower than your regular toss). Lightly make contact with the ball. Brush up from left to right (right to left if you’re left-handed); think of the back of the ball as a clock and brush from 7 to 1 o’clock (5 to 11 for lefties). Don’t worry about where the ball goes—just make contact and watch it as it spins.
Lob — Make it a weapon
A topspin lob is the antidote for net-rushing opponents. They won’t be charging with the screaming approaches the pros use, so you’ll have more time to get under the ball and lift it over their heads.
How to get started: Stand at the service line with a basket of balls; have a partner stand a few feet from the net on the other side while extending his racquet over his head. Pop balls over his racquet, then move to the baseline and do it again. After that, stand at the baseline with your partner feeding you balls. On the first ball, hit a lob. On the second, hit a groundstroke. On the third, hit either. On the fourth, hit either and then play out a point. This will help you learn to make your lob feel similar to a normal groundstroke.
Volley — Feel confident
You already know how to volley, you say? Technically, that’s probably true. But do you feel comfortable enough with your volley to use it as a weapon? If not, you’ve still got some work to do on your net game.
How to get started: Gather in a group of four players, with two standing at each service line and facing each other. Begin by taking one ball and hitting it among the four of you. Focus on control rather than power. The goal should be to go as long as you can without letting the ball bounce. Once you’ve hit like this for about 10 minutes, play a doubles match where you must take the ball out of the air at all times. After the serve and the return, if the ball touches the court on your side of the net, you lose the point.