Slow and lazy footwork will not allow you
to defend your court well, and can be the result of poor defense.
If you cannot move to the ball you cannot be a good defensive
player, plain and simple. Luckily you do not have to be fast
to be effective. Proper footwork can keep you in the game
and always a step ahead.
One of the more important aspects of footwork
is to never be on your heels. You always need to be on your
toes and be ready to return any shot. The second before your
opponent strikes the ball you need to "split step". The split
step is the first reaction to every shot your opponent hits.
The split step is a maneuver performed when you jump up an
inch or two onto your toes, as your opponent is about to hit
his/her shot. Your feet should be shoulder width apart, and
your knees should be slightly bent when you land. This body
position keeps you off of your heels and allows you to be
ready to move quickly to any spot on the court. The split
step should be used when you are returning serves, ground
strokes, volleys, overheads and when you are approaching the
net for a volley. Getting in the habit of the split step will
always help you to start moving towards the ball quicker each
and every time.
Another very important aspect of footwork
is to always be moving back to the center of the baseline
or net after you hit each shot. You need to avoid hitting
the ball and just standing there admiring your shot. Once
you hit the ball you must move back to the center and prepare
for the next shot. This will keep you on your toes and keep
you moving. If you are on the offensive end of the point you
may wish to position yourself differently than the center
of the court depending on your situation. However, good defense
requires you to get back to the middle to defend. The one
thing you want to avoid is to try to start to move back to
the center of the court before you hit the ball. Some players
will start to lean back towards the middle of the court before
they hit their shot. When you commit to going back to the
center of the court too soon you become off balance and your
weight will not be moving into your shot and your shot will
not be as effective.
Avoid committing to one side of the court
or the other too early when your opponent is setting up for
an attacking shot. If your opponent is setting up for an offensive
shot, do not run to one side of the court too soon before
your opponent hits the ball. If you move too early and you
open up the court before your opponent hits the ball you allow
your opponent to see the open court and easily put the ball
away for a winner.
There is a balance that must be struck for
when to move. You have 2 options, before your opponent hits
the ball or after they hit the ball. Generally if you are
not a sitting duck, it is OK to wait until they hit the ball
to start to move in one direction or another. However, there
are times when you are on 100% defense, like overheads, or
a ball you might of hit short and it sits up high for your
opponent. In these types of situations your opponent is in
a great position. You will not have time to move far once
they hit the ball. In these circumstances you are forced to
move to one side or the other in a guessing attempt. Generally
it is best to move just before your opponent hits the ball.
It is always better to guess and move to one side or the other
rather than to just stand there and watch the ball go by.
Not only does this give you a chance of guessing right and
getting to the ball, this also lets your opponent know that
you will not give up, which puts extra pressure on them to
hit better shots with the knowledge that you are trying to
anticipate their shots.
Putting yourself in the right court position
for defense can also help. Players like Nadal and Clijsters
will take 1 or two steps backwards when they see they are
going to be on the defensive end of a point. This gives them
more time to get to the ball. If your opponent is going to
hit an overhead you will want to back up as far as you can
to give yourself enough time to get to the ball and hope the
ball comes back down to a height you can hit it.
Good footwork is important for good defense.
Keeping your feet moving not only allows you to get to more
balls, but it will keep the pressure on your opponent. Remember,
you do not have to be extremely quick to be extremely effective,
just have good footwork!
Good Luck on the