(By Larry Hodges )
Many players rally very well in drills, but not so much in matches. Once they get into a match, they not only lose consistency, but they also rally like a drill, hitting the ball right back at the opponent rather than trying to win the point with placement. Here is a progression of drills you can do to solve this problem – but do them in this specific order. (If working with a partner instead of a coach, take turns.) The key is to first build up accuracy from both the forehand and backhand sides, then do so off random balls, while always attacking (and reacting to) the three spots you should always go after in a match – wide forehand, wide backhand, and middle. (People often forget to practice shots to the middle and reacting to such shots, and so can’t do either effectively in a match.) A few notes:
- Do each drill until you are proficient at it. After that, perhaps two minutes each as you work your way through the progression. Once proficient at each, you should be proficient at these types of rallies in matches. (You don’t necessarily have to do all of these drills every practice session from here on, but once you gain proficiency in them, you should come back to them regularly as a “tune-up.”)
- The middle is where partner’s elbow (roughly the midpoint between forehand and backhand) would be in a rally, typically a little to the left of the middle line (for a righty). For these shots, partner stands toward the middle and plays his choice of forehand or backhand.
- “Side to side random” means partner goes randomly to both corners, but not middle.
- “Complete random” means partner goes randomly to all three spots, the corners and the middle.
1. Forehand to forehand warm-up.
2. Backhand to backhand warm-up.
3. Forehand down the line to partner’s backhand.
4. Forehand to partner’s middle.
5. Backhand down the line to partner’s forehand.
6. Backhand to partner’s middle.
7. Alternate forehand and backhand, to partner’s backhand.
8. Alternate forehand and backhand, to partner’s forehand.
9. Alternate forehand and backhand, to partner’s middle.
10. Random side to side, to partner’s backhand.
11. Random side to side, to partner’s forehand.
12. Random side to side, to partner’s middle.
13. Complete random, to partner’s backhand.
14. Complete random, to partner’s forehand.
15. Complete random, to partner’s middle.
16. Both sides serve topspin and rally placing the ball to any of the three spots – forehand, backhand, or middle.