Tennis: Rally with 3 zones

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Nick, Tennis coach


2 players rally together in cross court direction. 3 zones are set on each player’s side (Red, Yellow, Green). Player has to hit particular shot according to the opponent’s balls placement. If the ball lands in the red zone player hits defensive/neutral shot. If the ball lands in the yellow zone player hits neutral/offensive shot. If the ball lands in the green zone player has to attack it.

Drill specifications:

30-60 seconds and switch

4 players can work on the court at the same time while others can have different duties. Coach can put 2 players next to the net post and let them say “stop” when the ball goes over the net. This is the signal for the player and feedback at the same time of their perception time. If there are more players on the court coach can make them do some fitness drill or put them far behind the hitting players and work on ball perception on their own.


Simple cross court rally has much more to offer than we are seeing during many practices. All intermediate players can keep consistent rally without specific goals so coaches have to adjust the difficulty of the exercise to the level of the players. Looking at the best players in the world it is simple to observe that every cross court shot has a strategical goal. Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams don’t stand on the baseline and hit the same cross court shots over and over again but they rather neutralize deep balls or attack shorter responses. Working on simple tactical decisions can make a big difference in player’s game even without any technical adjustments.

 In this drill players work on tactical decisions. Coach should explain to players that early ball recognition is the key to successfully prepare the shot. The best players in the world can assess the incoming ball before it crosses the net so that is why it seems that they are always in good position. Coach should ask players to say the word (red, yellow, green) as fast as possible to see their perception. If players recognize the depth of the ball before it crosses the net it is a top level. If they realize where the ball is going shortly after it crosses the net it is still good. If they say the world right before the ball bounces or even after the bounce this skill has to be addressed more often.



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