At some point or the other, in any sport, you are going to need a coach. A coach, someone in person needs to be there to guide you and tell you how to improve your technique. However, Tennis drills can be a different story. You ask many experts how they began their practice, and they will tell you “We used to hit the wall all the time!” Well, not necessarily these words, but the intent is somewhat similar.
Wall hitting drills can be very promising if you learn how to use it. There is not much to learn though. How fruitful your practice is going to depend on all the tricks you use to make this drill successful.
Why is hitting the wall such a valuable drill?
It is crucial to your progress for one simple reason! It always sends the ball back always at the opposite angle. It happens so because when you send the ball at the wall, it bounces off at an angle that mirrors your original shot. So, now you can anticipate where the ball is going to come from and you can focus more on improving your form.
If you use the wall, you are bound to improve your control over the ball, over your hands and body, over where your racket is going and with how much force. You are forced to plan your shots yourself and this is where you turn yourself from a beginner to a pro. It will, however, take a bit of a time and practice to determine where you are hitting and when.
The wall aids in assisting you on how to aim your shots, and as you hit at the decided spot, the ball is going to bounce back at your anticipated pace and angle.
As mentioned earlier, there is not so much to learn but to take care of, when you are hitting the wall. So, here are some tips from professionals to help you get better at your game.
Tip #1: Choose a larger wall
The dimensions of the wall are generally of the least concern to so many people that it is just a bit devastating. This feature also, in so many cases, out of your hands. But practicing with an 8*8 wall doesn’t really do much justice to your tennis practice if you are looking to develop and sharpen your skills. Why do you ask? Because when you practice with larger walls, 15 or 16 feet higher and wider, your range for error is increased (and for beginners, this is a thumbs up).
Also, while playing on an actual court, you are supposed to hit the ball 6 or 8 feet higher than the net so that it properly lands on the other side. For implementing this habit, you need a wall of similar height.
With a larger wall, you have more types of targets to hit. This helps in enhancing your different forms. And you can get much better drills as compared to shorter walls.
Tip #2: Put a target area on the wall
Tennis is all about hitting at a target point. It is mainly a concern of your concentration. You need to realize that concentration and hand-eye coordination doesn’t just come that randomly but it is a skill that needs to be nurtured.
When you have a targeted point or a larger square or circle (square is easier to draw!) drawn out on a wall then you are specifically aiming to hit in such a way that ball hits this specified area. This kind of practice is forcing a coordinated move among your hand, eyes, and brain. You see (with eyes), you map out the distance (with your brain) and time and you hit (your hand). This way you can work on the basic set of skills efficiently.
Moreover, to spice it up, you can divide the entire wall into sections like this and have different targets for various sessions. This will help you focus on different forms. It is obvious that you are not going to be able to get along with this type of practice at the very first go. But determined practice will get you there. In the end, you will realize it is an efficient way to improve concentration, so it is worth a try!
Tip #3: Plan every session with a daily achievable goal
When you are practicing with a wall, you are independent to plan how your session is going to be. Better plan these carefully and efficiently! You need to be creative with practice sessions and challenge yourself on a daily basis so that it gives you some motivation.
One essential thing to include in this scheduling is you decide when you will stop for that day. That is, go in with a set of targets to achieve. For instance, it could be that you will try to hit 20 shots in a row without missing. Or, you will at least aim at getting 15 shots in that drawn square on the wall.
You can also focus on one form for the day and other on another day. The gist behind the goal setting is, you climb each and every step daily. And with every goal you achieve, you will be taking all your skills up and above.
Tip #4: Focus on various skills individually
This tip mainly focuses on how you can be your best coach. You have got a wall. You have aimed at different targets on it and you also have a set of goals to achieve for the day. But all these efforts are coming to this single point of getting your skills developed and preparing you for the real matches.
One of the main reasons why wall-hitting drills are believed to be progressive is you know about yourself and you think and can practice accordingly. If you are playing a game against the wall, you will be running left and right on the court as you hit that ball. And if you don’t run this hideously then you are forced to control your hits and serves in a way that your ball isn’t flying randomly. This enhances your skill set, whether you will hit shots with forehand or back-end, whether you will bend your knee or hop a bit.
For fruitful and fun drills, you are entitled to remove all the glitches from your skill set. You work on the week spots so that wall practicing seems fun.
Determine where you fall short. If your backhand shots are a problem, go for an entire day practicing only with the backhand. If you are not able to perform well with high shots, keep throwing hard enough so that high shots is all you get today and become a master. Working with the wall is all about improving control, and you will find that taking the time to practice with the tennis wall is the best way to improve your tennis game.
Tip #5: Pay attention to your position and keep experimenting with it
Your distance from the wall matters. This is a deciding factor since returning ball’s angle, time and speed depends on it. So how can you use it to your advantage? You practice one day standing away from the wall and keep coming nearer and nearer in the days that follow. This is going to give you a clear idea of how fast and forcefully you are throwing, in what time is ball coming, so you get prepared to serve back. This prepares you for final matches where you are the sole keeper of the track you are standing on.
There is a lot of experimentation you can carry on in this area. If you stand at a distance too close, the ball will faster and harder and your response time will be much lesser than usual. This way you are working on impulsive serving. If you stand far apart, the ball will take time and bounces and you get enough time to improve your form since you will respond with a firm decision (and hand, which has rested enough!).
And this way you can practice as you would want to play in official matches by keeping the distance similar to what there is between two players.
Tip #6: Determine when to serve back
When practicing against a wall, we have an option of giving ourselves enough time to hit the perfect stroke, the skill we ultimately want to achieve. One way to do this is hit one stroke, and then catch the returning ball (not hitting it back, just catching). What this does is, it lets you improve your technique of servicing. You achieve perfection in that without worrying about hitting another stroke right away.
Another tactic is determining how many bounces you allow before taking the second stroke. Usually, two are fine and recommended. However, this goes against the rigorous on-court demand that you should not practice with two bounces allowed. But, this applies when you have a partner. Against the wall, you are your own planner. So feel free to break the rules!
This enhances you to focus on the weak spots you want to improve with the pattern set. And, it is believed to help a lot of people because once you practice with different types of service techniques and back serving techniques, you will feel more comfortable while playing against different people.
Tip #7: Record yourself while playing against the wall
Allowing yourself to play against the wall with a camera recording you is the best thing you can do in monitoring your practice sessions. Playing against the wall suggests that you are practicing alone, all by yourself. There is no one around to tell you what you did wrong. And while you are playing, you are simply too busy to determine that by yourself.
Imagine this! You are trying to implement all the tips mentioned above and you think you practiced well. You worked on your backhand strokes; bent your knee in that particular shot. But hey, you can’t be sure if you did all that and did all that correctly. So while you record, you become sure.
This also helps in pointing out your weak areas. You go back to your clips and watch that if you had jumped on that stroke, you would have got it. So next time, you keep that in mind and hop on strokes like that.
Of course, having a camcorder is only of use if you know what to look for. On the contrary, the person who had lessons from the trainer would be bombarded by the instructions to keep in mind for the next sessions. But here you are, peacefully determining where you need to improve with your previously recorded clips.
Using the wall compels you to focus on yourself. If you want to keep hitting continuous strokes without any misses, you will need to monitor every move of the ball and your hand. You are determined to plan and place each shot carefully, something that is quite unachievable for most of the beginners in the early session days. The tennis wall helps you to work on your aim, as you can aim for a specific spot on the wall that will send the ball back to you.
It’s a good activity for beginners to get comfortable making contact with the ball consistently in the sweet spot of the racket and learn the basic concepts of how spin works.
The most discussed issue is that hitting against a backboard doesn’t give you a realistic rhythm of playing an opponent. If you are striking the ball properly, it is going to bounce back at you from the board before you can finish your follow through and prepare to hit another shot.
But the above tips are useful to sharpen your skill set and experiment with your gameplay. As mentioned earlier, sooner or later you are going to need a coach to keep you updated with new skills and techniques and also, a guide to work with old established techniques. But why waste a session if you do not have anyone else to play with! Grab your racket and go start hitting the wall. You may get to know a thing or two better!