Get the Most Out of Your Tennis Practice

Guest Authored by Michael Emmett, Tennis Professional, Mayfair Clubs, Lakeshore


As a tennis professional and coach at Mayfair Clubs Lakeshore in Toronto, I see members rallying on our courts all the time, sometimes for 2 hours at a time and sometimes 5 or 6 days a week.  “Rallying” to me is hitting the ball from one side of the court to the other, with no thought or plan.  I call this ‘mindless tennis’ and unfortunately it happens far too often.

To be clear, if you are looking for a workout (the fitness aspect of the sport) then this can be a good way to achieve this.  But if you are looking to get better at the sport, you are wasting your time.  Tennis is about strategy and tactics.  Tennis is a thinking person’s sport with many things to factor in. If you are not thinking on court, it’s impossible to excel to the highest levels.

To learn more mindful tennis, I highly recommend attending the Rogers Cup in August and watching the professionals on the side courts with their coaches, as they prepare themselves for tournament play. They always have a focus point. There’s ALWAYS a singular objective and a highly focused goal to be met while on the courts.

If you are rallying on the Mayfair Clubs courts or just ‘hitting’ – make your practice about a specific objective – watching the ball, the depth of your hit, the spin, consistency or transitioning on the net.

There are hundreds of examples of focus points, unfortunately, most of the people I see and talk to are just bashing the ball without a technical or tactical focus point.  This leads to a false sense of success.  People who like to play rally games (first to 11 or 21 with no serve, the point starts from a fed ball) feel like they are accomplishing a lot, but in reality when they are asked to play ‘real’ tennis and compete in events like the club championships, they often fail because they have been practicing the WRONG way.

Don’t get confused, going out and just hitting for 45 minutes is better than nothing at all.  The reality is, there are so many drills and patterns that can be worked on with 2 people on the court — there is so much potential for progress to be made – it just takes a little knowledge & understanding of the positions on the court and what exactly needs to be the focus point.  Remember, everybody’s game is different and not everybody benefits from the same drills.  If necessary, divide your time in the hour where each participant gets to be the coach and call the drills.  This can be fun and challenging all at the same time.

Being a good basher of the ball in tennis equates in my mind to being a good range player in the golfing vernacular.  There are thousands of good ‘range’ players who look unbeatable when striking the golf ball in a no pressure situation (like a 200-yard wide golf range).  All of a sudden, when they are asked to perform on the course, when it’s now ‘real,’ their game falls apart.  If you can’t drive the ball in the fairway when there are trees, water, bunkers, fescue & hazards all over the place, then you can’t score up to your expectations.

The same can be said in tennis. If you can’t serve in the small box and start to the point in your favor then the game is going to become a lot more difficult, challenging & frustrating.  You must learn to build the point from the ‘true’ starting position. Most amateurs only have a few hours a week to practice their craft (family life and jobs get in the way) so maximize your time by practicing the correct way and give yourself the best chance to be a good as you can be.

Tennis is about the serve and the return of serve. If I were starting with a talented up-and-coming child who showed tremendous skill and had aspirations of going to the professional level, most of my attention would be on the serve and the return of serve.  Obviously, there are other areas of the game that need attention but this is where it all starts.  Be amazing in these two areas and the game becomes easy in my opinion.

Next time you hit the courts and your opponent that day say’s ‘let’s just hit’ you can say “ok but let’s add a few more goals to our hit today.” For the first 15 minutes when we rally the first 2 balls must go cross-court and whoever receives the third ball is the first that is allowed to change direction.  This exercise adds all kinds of variables to the equation and can be a great learning exercise.  Try to always put some stipulations or guidelines into play when you are just hitting.  Know your strengths and your game style & build your practice time around your best shots.  Develop a plan that will best suit your type of play.

Always practice with a purpose and have goals that are measureable at the end of the hour.

If you make these changes to your practice time I guarantee you will see the results in a very short time frame.  Remember, tennis is sport that requires a brain.  Those that play mindless tennis never win.  Make it a life-long goal to always play with a plan and maximize your abilities to the fullest whether it’s in practice or in the biggest match of your life.

If you’d like to speak to Michael or learn more about our tennis programs at Mayfair Clubs, email us at