The Evolution of Footwork in Tennis

Traditional footwork was to hit the tennis ball in a squared way using the closed stance. It needed an extra step to hit the ball and developed a much longer recovery distance. With the advanced tennis racquet technology, the point (tempo) got faster and recovery time played a big part in the evolution of tennis.

Stepping out was the solution. When you are facing the net, you step out with the foot closest to the ball. For a right-handed player to hit a forehand, you have to move your right foot. It is important to have the right leg outside the ball when you hit it. That will allow you to step into the court pivoting, towards the center of play (“middle of the court”). This is called the “Load and Explode” method. If you have time, you can hit the stroke in a more squared, classic way. But, if you have no time, you can hit the ball in an open stance.

Open stance footwork didn’t happen in the old days, because you would often mishit the ball. Bjorn Borg was the first player to use the open stance with his phenomenal timing.

On the return of serve, stepping out is the key. You can often take a one-step move. In a wider ball, you can take a three-step move. On the baseline, three steps can get you to any ball. When the ball is placed short, then you need a five-step move.

On the left side it’s the same thing. You step with the left leg (1) then your right leg (2) and left leg (3) load and explode. Always use the unit turn. Don’t just bring your racquet back. Turn your shoulders and get in the initial position to start your swing.

Working on your step out technique will improve your movement on a tennis court and will help you to recover more easily. Try it next time you practice your game.


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