10 Drills to Establish Better Groundstroke Rhythm and Timing

Here are ten “easy to do with a friend”, “live ball” drills to improve your rhythm, timing and ability to sustain a rally under different hitting situations.

  1. Match pace, trajectory and depth. Maintain a rally with a friend (hitting partner) where your focus and objective is to match the pace, trajectory, spin and depth of each shot you receive.  If your hitting partner hits a high, loopy shot, respond with a high, loopy shot.  Respond in kind to any type of shot you receive in a rally exchange or point sequence.
  2. Maintain a two bounce rally. Establish a cooperative rally or point sequence where the requirement is to hit the ball on the second bounce (with the second bounce landing inside the court boundaries).  This drill is particularly effective in developing “soft” hands and hitting composure.
  3. Bounce-Hit. To develop better sequencing in relation to the bounce, recite out loud or to yourself “bounce” when the ball strikes the court and “hit” when you make contact with the ball.
  4. Play offense-defense. Establish a groundstroke rally where your role is to take pace off the ball and defend in response to a sustained offensive attack by your hitting partner.  Periodically reverse roles (take turns either attacking or defending).  To make things more manageable, designate a specific hitting lane or target area for each shot.
  5. Count. Count out loud or to yourself the number of balls you hit back in play in each rally exchange.
  6. Hit x number of shots in succession to start each point. Maintain a five (or x number) cooperative rally prior to the start of each point or groundstroke point sequence.
  7. Raise the height of the net. Use two extender poles or PVC piping and a rope to raise the height of the net.  Maintain a rally hitting over the rope raised net to promote higher net clearance and margin of error.
  8. Establish a cross-court requirement. Establish a goal of hitting every ball cross-court.  As an alternative, focus on hitting every ball over the low part of the net (directly over the center strap).  For both situations, you can establish specific down-the-line/cross court patterns with your hitting partner or designate your hitting partner to hit freely and randomly down-the-line or crosscourt to any part of the court.
  9. Hit from inside the baseline. To develop quicker hands and improve your ability to take balls on the rise and respond to a more up-tempo rhythm, establish a requirement (in a baseline, groundstroke rally) where you and your hitting partner must stand and maintain a position on the court just inside the baseline (i.e. do not step back past the baseline).
  10. Play no winner points. Play points where a longer rally is encouraged and both players are not allowed to hit winners.

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