Saturday, May 31, 2014



The most important two shots in tennis are the serve and the return of serve. While many “modern players” today are extremely competent hitting ground-strokes, the very best players have also developed their serve and return games to a high level.

Unfortunately it’s normal that little more than 10-15% of practice sessions involve these two shots.

Serving practice involving a basket of balls is helpful to develop technique but it lacks those elements that would make it realistic. What you really need to help your serve and your return and make practice more realistic is to include the mental pressure, variable outcomes and spontaneous decision making of a real point.   We also need the serve and the return to be repeated many times so that they both become instinctive. The Combination Drill does all these things.

The Combination Drill will improve your “First Strike Tennis", meaning that you will become better at attacking and generally dictating the point earlier, something that can prove decisive in tennis at all levels.

Most points are won or lost on the serve or return, and by dominating your opponent with the serve or return you gain a huge advantage in the match.

Combination Drills give the player confidence in this critical early phase of the point. That confidence has a profound effect on the rest of your game.

Combination Drills can be practiced with 2-4 players on the same court. Designate where the serve, return and first groundstroke must go. For example the server must serve to the backhand side, the returner must reply cross-court and the first groundstroke must be hit down-the-line.  

·  If the players fail to find any of the designated targets stop them and start again.  This creates some healthy pressure on the player and adds discipline to the drill.

·  Start by achieving the 3 designated shots and then stop. The important thing is to repeat the combination many times for it to be grooved and for confidence and competency to build. Allow the players to focus solely on the 3 designated strokes.

· Once you feel the players are grooved, allow the players to play the point after the ground-stroke (3rd shot).

   Practice one combination per session. Don’t try to do multiple combinations in the same day. Again, it’s about grooving the combination to achieve confidence and competency.

· These are the options for combination drills:

The Serve has 4 options

1.   Wide to the Deuce court
2.    Down the middle to the Deuce court
3.    Down the middle to the Add court
4.    Wide to the Add court

The Return has 8 options
1.    Return (#1) cross-court
2.    Return (#1) down the line
3.    Return (#2) Cross-court
4.    Return (#2) down the line
5.    Return (#3) cross-court
6.    Return (#3) down the line
7.    Return (#4) cross-court
8.    Return (#4) down the line

The First Ground-Stroke

1.    Change direction by hitting cross-court
2.    Change direction by hitting down the line
(there are 8 variations for the “First Ground-stroke”)

There are many benefits to working on the various Combination options. It’s one of those drills in which you will see immediate results in competition.