Mindlessly hitting crosscourt forehands without any purpose is both boring and ineffective. Here’s a simple drill, using targets, that will actually help you improve.
Put down three targets in the deuce court (the forehand side for right-handed players): one deep in the corner; one near where the service line and sideline meet; and one just a few feet in front of the net. Now you can work on three crosscourt shots: a deep forehand; an angled forehand; and a drop-shot forehand. You can also do this in the ad court with your backhand.
Have a hitting partner rally with you, while you dictate when you’ll go for the angle and drop-shot targets. This drill will both help you improve your accuracy, and help you work on building combinations depending on where you are in the court.
Here are two key points to remember:
Your court positioning should dictate your shot selection. If you’re pushed far back, aim for the deep target, so you can work your way back into the court. If you can step into the court and are pulled wide enough, go for the angled target. If you’re comfortably inside the court, and have a drop shot in your arsenal, try for the short target.
When you aim for the angled target, your ball doesn’t have to land inside of the service box, or even close to the line. It’s all about the direction your ball is going—that is ultimately what will pull your opponent off of the court. And when you hit a good angled shot, you’ll likely be able to end the point with a forehand into a wide-open court.
When you’re doing this drill, take note of where you make most of your mistakes. If you consistently hit into the net or miss wide, address that problem before trying the more difficult angled and drop shots.
In addition, many players close their racquet too soon when trying to hit an angle—they smother the ball in an effort to force it to drop. It may feel counterintuitive, but you need to let your racquet head lift the ball up, so the spin you’ve created with your upward motion brings the ball back down.
Another common mistake players make is not recovering after each shot. Staying planted in the forehand corner isn’t realistic during match play, so make sure you’re moving toward the middle of the court after you hit each shot. You can put a fourth cone down, about two feet to the right of the baseline center service line, to remind you.