If you've just started taking tennis lessons, it's a good idea to maximize your investment and keep improving your game even in between class times. Experimenting with different tennis drills and exercises in your off time will help you accelerate your progress that much quicker. Below are four beginner tennis drills you can do between lessons to help sharpen your hand-eye coordination, boost your stamina and improve your overall game.
1. The Frying Pan
This is one of the most basic--yet effective--tennis drills around, as it helps you fine-tune your hand-eye coordination and get a better feel for handling your racquet when making contact with the ball.
Hold your racquet out in front of you with your dominant hand, and make sure that the face of the racquet is parallel with the ground, much like you would hold a frying pan (hence the name). Place a tennis ball on the very center of the face of the racquet, letting it rest perfectly still at first.
Now gently move the head of the racquet up and down until the ball begins to lightly bounce on the strings. Gradually increase the height of the ball's bounce by exaggerating the up-and-down movement of the racquet head even more. Try to keep the ball bouncing for as many times as you can. See if you can accomplish 100 bounces without allowing the ball to hit the ground.
After you get more comfortable with the drill, add a new challenge by twisting the racquet head 180 degrees between bounces to further sharpen your motor skills and coordination.
2. Catch the Ball with Your Racquet
This is an often-overlooked drill that can add an incredible amount of finesse and technique to your racquet-handling skills.
With racquet in hand, toss a tennis ball into the air, and see if you can "catch" the ball on the face of your racquet without allowing the ball to bounce on the strings at all. This will require you to judge the speed of the ball's descent, and then try to match that speed with how quickly (or slowly) you should lower your racquet. You'll know you've done it right when the ball doesn't bounce or even hardly make a sound when you catch it with your racquet.
This drill can work wonders in terms of helping you develop a better sense of touch when using your racquet.
3. The Dribble
This drill is basically the opposite of the Frying Pan. Use your racquet to dribble the ball on the court, much like you would dribble a basketball. You can make a game out of it by either counting the number of dribbles in a row you can perform, or timing yourself to see how long you can go before the ball goes astray. If you want to add a little more difficulty to the exercise, try dribbling at varying speeds.
4. Running the Lines (a.k.a. the Spider Drill)
This is the exercise that many beginning tennis players love to hate, but nobody can argue with the type of results it can produce in terms of improving your footwork and coordination.
Start off by standing on the baseline at the center mark, facing the net. Sprint along the baseline to the singles sideline and touch the line with your foot, then return back to the center mark. Do the same thing with the opposite singles sideline, returning to the center mark again.
Then sprint diagonally to the corner where the singles sideline intersects with the right-hand service line. Touch your foot to that corner, return to the center mark, and then do the same thing with the opposite corner.
Now sprint straight ahead until you reach the point where the service line meets the center line (often called the "T"). Touch your foot to that line, and then return back to the center mark to complete one round of the drill.
There are several different variations of running the lines you can try, so you don't have to worry about being super-exact with how the drill is executed. You can incorporate different movements into this drill if you so choose, such as backpedaling when returning to the starting point, or doing side shuffles instead of sprints when appropriate.
As the old saying goes, "Practice makes perfect" - this is especially important for the beginning tennis player. Commit to consistently practice these drills between lessons, and you'll see how much more coordination, agility and stamina you can add to your overall game.