Practicing tennis with a backboard is a great way to get in a tennis session when you don’t have a partner, access to a ball machine, or just feel like doing some solo work.
From time to time use a tennis practice wall for your workout. There’s minimal set-up time as it’s just you and the wall. A backboard can be the ultimate tennis partner. Within minutes you could hit 20-30 balls and feel a rhythm in your strokes.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s never a substitute for playing tennis on a court against an opponent. But when you practice tennis using a backboard, you’ve got one heck of a substitution if you go into the session with a plan.
While aimlessly hitting tennis ball after tennis ball against the wall may feel like you’re practicing, without structure you’re selling yourself short.
Here’s my approach to an effective tennis wall workout.
Planning Out Your Tennis Backboard Practice Session
#1 Set Parameters
Determine how many bounces of the ball will occur before you hit EACH shot. If you’re always going to hit after one bounce, committing to that is necessary. If two bounces is the number you choose, stick with that.
Don’t hit a few times after two bounces and then a time at three bounces and then one bounce. Be consistent. Consistency will require constant footwork adjustments – just like in a match situation.
I’d recommend going with two bounces before each hit for two reasons.
One, the time it usually takes to hit the ball over the net and receive a return shot is a similar timeframe to two bounces.
Second, your body positioning will be further from the practice wall to better simulate hitting groundstrokes (when that’s the drill of choice).
#2 Use Backboard Targets
Divide the backboard into sections either physically (using tape or any marks already present) or mentally – thirds, half, low, high, etc.
By focusing on hitting the ball to a specific area, your practice session has more purpose.
#3 Set Drill Goals
Got into each session knowing exactly what you want to accomplish. When I am planning to hit at a tennis backboard, I always to the following 5 drills:
- forehands only
- backhands only
- alternating forehands and backhands one after the other
- forehand volleys
- backhand volleys
I set a numerical value of how many of each I’ll hit in a row before moving on to the next drill. If I determine that 15 is my magic number and I miss at 11, I’ve got to start over back at 1.
#4 Focus on Footwork
Using a backboard can cause a tennis player to be lazy with their footwork. Since you’re not hitting to another person or receiving shots back, you could stand in place and just wait for the ball to return to you.
That’s not the most effective use of your practice time. It’s also where the “commit to a certain number of bounces” comes into play.
If you’re going to strike the ball after two bounces and that means you need to move forward two feet, do so. Don’t just stand there and wait for the ball – go TO the ball.
Tennis Backboard Drills
I tend to begin any tennis wall session hitting groundstrokes. You may prefer to start with volleys. Do what makes sense for you, but make sure to cover the basics.
Hit as many forehands in a row as you can. Focus on pace, placement and footwork. Be mindful of your distance to the backboard and how hard you hit the ball as it’s coming right back to you.
Keep your bounce commitment and move to the ball for the second bounce. If the ball is heading to your backhand side, run around it and hit a forehand.
Hitting with pace isn’t your focus – consistency is. By spending time to really get into a groove with your groundstrokes, you’ll be amazed at how much more comfortable you are with them.
Repeat for the backhand side. For many, it’ll be more difficult to maintain control on the backhand side. The lack of consistency on your backhand side is a sign that you need to spend more time hitting backhands!
Once you’ve gone through forehands and backhands separately, it’s time to combine them by hitting alternating groundstrokes. Hit a forehand and backhand and a forehand…
The idea behind this drill is control of where you hit, focus on footwork, consistency, and comfort.
Hitting alternating groundstrokes off a backboard may feel tedious. However, the next 20-ball rally you have in a match, you’ll be ready because you’ve prepared yourself to settle into the point and keep hitting another shot.
Tennis players don’t often consider hitting volleys against a wall, but doing so is so great for hand-eye coordination and the sheer amount of repetition available.
The ball is coming right back to you and will highlight the angle in which it was hit. If you hit too far to the left, the ball will likely angle away from you and it won’t be easily returned.
Start out slowly and let the strings on your racket do the work. There should be very little wrist or racket movement.
Hit volleys on both your forehand and backhand sides.
Is it Good to Practice Tennis Against a Wall?
It’s great to practice tennis against a wall. In addition to not requiring another person, you’ll build confidence in your ability to keep the ball in play longer. You’ll also get an incredible workout.
The way using a backboard starts to work against you is when you get get lazy with your footwork. As long as you stay light on your feet and move to the ball, using a backboard is a fantastic tennis tool.
A tennis wall doesn’t have to be fancy. Even a fence or garage door could be your backboard. By using any sort of wall to hit against, you’re employing a tool to improve your game.
Footwork and overall movement are crucial to tennis success. Though you’re practicing tennis using a backboard, don’t be a lazy player. Pick up your feet, make every shot count, know that you’re a better player for having kept your focus on the task at hand.