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Improve your position to dominate the point

By Paul Roetert and Todd Ellenbecker with the United States Tennis Association

Agility Training

Agility, quite simply, is the ability to change direction efficiently. In a typical match, players need to make more than four directional changes per point, making agility a critical component for being able to move efficiently and get into position to hit the ball. Agility not only requires the muscular strength and power to decelerate and then accelerate in a different direction, but it also depends on flexibility and balance. Great movers typically have great agility and a diverse athletic background that allows them to develop kinesthetic awareness of how the body can move in balance.

The great thing about movement and agility drills is that they often can be integrated into on-court training time and do not necessarily require separate training time. Several tennis-specific drills are included in this chapter.

As you would do with any drill that draws heavily on strength and power, perform these drills when your muscles are fully rested. This means taking appropriate rest between sets and doing these types of exercises at the start of a training session before muscles become fatigued. Quality is more important than quantity.

Maintain peak intensity. If you start to fatigue or you see a drop in intensity, stop the drill or give yourself more rest between efforts. For many people, this may mean performing a drill for only 5 seconds. More advanced players strive to do exercises for 10 to 20 seconds while maintaining technique and explosiveness.

Agility Drills

Lateral Alley Drill

Focus: Improve movement, agility, and footwork; improve tennis-specific conditioning when done multiple times or with other agility and movement drills.


1. Start outside the doubles sideline facing the net (figure 5.2a).

2. Shuffle (side step) into the court, getting both feet over the singles sideline (figure 5.2b).

3. Quickly reverse direction and shuffle (side step), getting both feet over the doubles sideline (figure 5.2c).

4. Repeat this side-to-side movement pattern for 10 to 20 seconds.

Variation: Perform the drill while holding a racket. Hold the racket in the dominant hand as if you were playing a point.

Spider Run

Focus: Improve movement, agility, and footwork.


1. Start at the center mark on the baseline, facing the net.

2. Turn and sprint right to the corner formed by the baseline and the singles sideline (figure 5.5). Decelerate and touch the corner with your foot.

3. Sprint back to the center mark, maintain control, and touch it with your foot.

4. Sprint to the corner formed by the right singles sideline and the service line. After regaining control, touch the corner and sprint back to the center mark.

5. Next sprint to the T and back to the center mark.

6. Then sprint to the corner formed by the left singles sideline and the service line.

7. Finally, sprint to the corner formed by the left singles sideline and the baseline.

8. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat in the other direction.


• Pick up a tennis ball at each station and return it to the center mark on the baseline.

• Simulate a shot at each station. Simulate all forehands, all backhands, or a combination, for example, forehand when moving right, backhand when moving left.

This is an excerpt from Complete Conditioning for Tennis.

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