The Best Tennis Drills For Beginners

Action shot of woman playing tennis
(Image credit: StefaNikolic / Getty Images)

Tennis can be a tough sport to get into. It’s easy to get frustrated as you thwack ball after ball into the net or out of bounds, rather than effortlessly stroking it down the line or powering it into the corners.

Taking the time to do practice drills from the start helps you progress more quickly and makes the sport more fun, because you’ll spend more time in matches hitting shots than you do retrieving errant balls.

To do effective drills you need either a coach or friend sending balls your way to hit, or a machine that launches them at you like the Slinger Bag tennis machine. Sure, at £795 it’s expensive, but it never starts whining that it’s their turn like a tennis partner might.

Once you have your ball delivery method sorted, you need the drills. Thankfully, Slinger Bag has recruited Nick Bollettieri as an ambassador. Bollettieri has coached some of the greatest players of all time, including Serena Williams and Andre Agassi, so we asked him for advice on which drills new players can do to improve their game, how long to do drills for, and how often to do them. The answer was simply as long and as often as you can.

“The more you do things, the closer you’ll get to perfection,” says Bollettieri. “So you can’t do it too much.”

Here are five drills, explained by Bollettieri, to get you started.

1. Forehand drill

Tennis court with Slinger Bag in foreground and person about to play a shot in background

(Image credit: Slinger)

Get the machine to hit the ball down the middle and go into a forehand. Take a few steps of movement, turn your hips and shoulders, and get the racket back. Do this over and over again. Then put little targets on the other side of the net and see if you can start directing the ball to certain places.

2. Attack short balls

Set the machine to hit defensive short balls. As you come in, pick the point where you’re going to hit the ball too, and don’t change it! When they arrive at a short ball, so many people think, “What is the opponent going to do?” And once in a while, hit the ball right at the machine!

3. Drop shot drill

The drop shot is a big weapon in today’s game, but so few people do it because they don’t use it enough in practice. Remember, practise until it becomes a habit, until it becomes automatic, baby.

On a short ball you can also practise your drop shot. The drop shot is a positive if you use disguise. Make believe you’re coming up to hit a big forehand, and on the forward part of the swing, open up the face slightly. Slow the machine down a bit to practise that shot.

4. Backhand drill

The big thing on the backhand is the use of the top hand. The bottom hand holds the racket in a neutral grip, the top hand does all the work. A great drill is to take your bottom hand [the one on the bottom of the handle] off the racket, and just use the top hand. Have the ball fed to you and just have the top hand on the racket, hitting the ball with the follow through taking the palm to the outside.

5. Volleying drill

What you want to do is start on the service line and keep coming forward. Most people volley, and go backward – no, no, no! The closer you get to the net, the bigger the court where you hit the ball becomes. A good drill is to start on the service line, move forward and volley. Move forward, volley. Move forward, volley – always coming to the net.

Nick Bollettieri is a brand ambassador and head coach for Slinger Bag

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Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.