Picking up a racquet for the first time and learning tennis can be daunting, but armed with the right tips, you can quickly grasp the basics and start rallying competently. Whether you aspire to smash aces like Serena or just volley leisurely with friends, mastering essential techniques and court positioning as a beginner is crucial. With some dedicated practice to ingrain proper grips, footwork and strokes, plus logging actual match play, you’ll fast track your learning curve. This guide covers the core competencies needed to gain confidence on the tennis court, from your equipment and rules to drills, strategy and more. Don’t wait – dive into these essential pointers and enjoy the fun of your tennis journey.
Tennis Tips For Beginners
Stay light on your feet and move quickly to get in position for shots. Don’t get caught flat-footed. Keep your feet active and core engaged.
Avoid standing too close to the baseline when receiving serve. Give yourself more time to react by standing a few feet behind. Quickly split step forward when the opponent makes contact.
Learn the Rules and Layout of the Court
Before hitting the court, you need to understand the basic rules and court layout for tennis. Here are some key things every beginner should know:
- The court is 78 feet long and 27 feet wide for singles matches. For doubles, the width expands to 36 feet.
- Tennis courts have clear lines to delineate the boundaries and service boxes. The baseline is the back line. The service line separates the front and back service courts. The center service line marks the center of the court.
- Points start with a serve from behind the baseline. The ball must land inside the service box diagonally across the net to be considered good.
- Matches consist of sets, games and points. You must win 6 games to win a set. Matches often require winning 2 out of 3 sets.
- Scoring goes 15, 30, 40, game. You must win by two points if the score ties at 40-40 (called deuce).
- Players alternate serves every game and switch sides after odd games.
Got all that? The scoring can take some time to get used to, but you’ll pick it up quickly once you start playing. Understanding the basics helps you learn proper positioning and strategy right from the start.
Invest in a Quality Beginner Tennis Racquet
Having the right tennis racquet as a starter player makes learning the strokes much easier. Here are a few things to look for when selecting your first tennis racquet:
- Head size – Go for a larger head size around 100-115 square inches as a beginner. This gives you a larger sweet spot.
- Length – Adult racquets are usually 27 inches. Make sure the grip size fits your hand.
- Weight – Lighter racquets around 9-10 oz. are easier to maneuver when you’re learning.
- Power level – Pick a powerful, forgiving racquet as a beginner. You’ll generate your own power later.
- String type – Synthetic guts or multifilament strings offer nice feel and durability.
- Brands – Known brands like Wilson, HEAD, and Babolat make quality beginner racquets.
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Learn Proper Forehand and Backhand Grips
How you grip the racquet is vital for learning proper stroke technique. Here are some key grip pointers:
Forehand Grip: Use an Eastern or semi-Western forehand grip. Grip the handle as if shaking hands, keeping your palm flat against the handle.
Backhand Grip: For a one-handed backhand, use the Eastern backhand grip with your knuckle on bevel #2. For a two-hander, put your dominant hand in a continental grip and non-dominant in a strong Eastern grip.
Continental Grip: This grip with your palm on the top bevel is used for volleys and serves.
Take time to practice the right grips before developing your strokes. Proper hand positioning gives you better control and consistency right off the bat. Don’t forget those wristbands and grips!
Master Essential Tennis Strokes
Now let’s get into the bread and butter of the game – mastering the essential racquet strokes. These four strokes are your tennis fundamentals:
Use your popular Eastern or semi-Western grip. Keep your eyes on the ball and turn your shoulder to the net. Take the racquet back early and swing forward through the ball, brushing up for topspin. Strike the ball out in front of you at about hip level. Use your legs to drive upward momentum. Follow through over your shoulder.
For a one-hander, use your Eastern backhand grip and keep your eyes forward. Drive off your back leg and sweep the racquet forward, contacting the ball around hip level out in front of you. Follow through over your shoulder. For a two-hander, use a split Continental/Eastern grip. Swing both arms together on a horizontal racquet path, hitting through the ball.
Stand sideways at the baseline. Toss the ball high out in front. Hit full shoulder and racquet drop behind you and drive up, making contact in front of you. Snap your wrist for spin. Toss the ball well out in front and pronate through the serve. Follow through high.
Use your Continental grip and keep the racquet head up. Step into the shot and punch volleys straight ahead, keeping your swing compact. Let your arms absorb the ball’s force. For low balls, use proper volley technique – don’t just reach or swing down.
Practice all four strokes repeatedly to groove proper technique. Repetition builds muscle memory so these become fluid, automatic motions over time. Master the basics first before moving on to advanced strokes and strategy.
Improve Your Doubles Game
Once you have the essential singles strokes down, it’s time to improve your doubles game. Here are some key strategies and tips:
- Work on consistent, deep volleys and overheads – these shots are constantly hit at the net in doubles.
- Aim your returns down the middle to take away angles from the net player.
- Poach judiciously – sneak across to volley your partner’s return down the open alley.
- Vary formations like Australian or I formations depending on your opponents’ weaknesses.
- Communicate constantly with your partner on shot calls, switches, and poaches.
- Anticipate where your opponents will hit and move early to cut off angles.
- Be aggressive at the net. Move forward when you have the chance to take control with your volley skills.
Playing more doubles matches will quickly improve this part of your game. Doubles tactics take time to learn but are vital as you advance in tennis.
Practice Smart Tennis Drills and Footwork
It’s not enough just to mindlessly bash balls – you need targeted practice to improve quickly. Drills build proper stroke techniques and footwork fundamentals. Here are some great drills for tennis novices:
- Forehand and backhand crosscourt – Sets up realistic rally patterns for grooving your strokes.
- Target practice – Aim for zones in the service box to improve serving accuracy.
- Feed drills – Develop consistency in your strokes by taking balls fed from a basket.
- Backboard hitting – Grooves smooth groundstrokes and provides solo practice anywhere.
- Approach shot and volley – Improve your transition forward to the net.
- Drop and lob – Practice hitting overheads and responding to lobs.
- Serve and return – Work on your serve and ability to return tough serves.
- Split step – Hop forward and back to practice exploding in either direction.
- Suicide sprints – Run side-to-side to build quick footwork and stamina.
Drilling the right techniques and movements will speed your learning curve exponentially. Train smart – don’t just bash balls randomly!
Play Matches Frequently
Once you have solid fundamentals with strokes and footwork, it’s time to test your skills in matches! Playing real points against different types of opponents is the fastest way to improve. Here are some tips for making the most of your matches as a beginner:
- Set goals like making a certain number of returns or serves in the court.
- Focus on consistency – try to keep the ball in play over forcing winners.
- Play the odds – hit high-percentage shots crosscourt and down the middle.
- Move your feet – guard against being caught flat-footed.
- Stay positive – don’t dwell on mistakes, move on to the next point.
- Observe your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. What patterns do they fall into? What shots break them down?
- Make adjustments – if something isn’t working, try a new tactic like more moonballs or attacking the net.
Compete as often as you can, whether in social matches or flex leagues. Match play experience will accelerate your progress more than anything else.
Continue Learning by Watching and Taking Lessons
To keep improving as a beginner, you need to continually learn more about tennis. Two great ways to do this are:
- Watch the pros – Study how top players compete. How do they move, construct points and handle pressure? Look for pros with styles you want to emulate.
- Take lessons – Even just occasional lessons from a teaching pro can do wonders to improve your technique, strategy and footwork. Lessons customized to your skill level accelerate learning.
You can also read tennis books and magazines to pick up new tactics and mental tips. Joining a clinic, camp or competitive team gives you structured development. Make sure you keep learning new aspects of the game.
What is the best tennis racket for beginners?
Look for a lightweight (9-10 oz) racket with a large head size (100-115 sq in), power level and string pattern geared for beginners. Major brands like Wilson, HEAD, and Babolat make quality starter rackets.
What grip size should I get for my first tennis racket?
Get your racket grip sized properly at a tennis shop. As a guide, measure from the crease of your palm to the tip of your middle finger – under 8 inches is a 4 inch grip. 8+ inches indicates a 4 1⁄4 inch grip.
How often should a beginner practice tennis?
Aim to practice tennis 2-3 times per week for 60-90 minutes as a beginner. Daily practice can lead to overuse injuries. Allow recovery time between sessions.
Should I start with individual or group tennis lessons?
Either is fine for beginners. Individual lessons allow customized instruction. Group lessons provide social play. Try both to see which you prefer.
What are drills every tennis beginner should practice?
Essential beginner drills include forehand/backhand targets, feeding drills to groove stroke techniques, split step for footwork and crosscourt rally drills to reinforce consistency.
How can I find tennis partners as a beginner?
Check with your local tennis clubs, parks departments and schools for beginner social play opportunities. Tennis apps like CourtReserve can also help you schedule matches with other players.
Congratulations on picking up this awesome lifetime sport! It won’t happen overnight, but following these basic tips will give you a strong start. Master the fundamentals, practice purposefully, play matches regularly and keep learning. With some dedication and persistence, you’ll be hitting topspin forehands and crushing aces before you know it. I’m excited for you as you begin your tennis journey – now get out there and start playing! Let me know if you have any other questions.
James Locus is a staff writer at Tennis Make More, a tennis education platform. He’s also the founder and editor of TennisMakeMove.com, a website dedicated to tennis instruction and tennis equipment reviews. He’s also an experienced tennis coach and a certified tennis instructor.