Bells On Your Toes

I can spot an A level player in two strokes, and it doesn't matter which ones they are.  Because, in between those strokes, the A player is constantly moving her feet, and when her opponent strikes the ball, I'll see that A player bounce into a split step, landing on her toes.  She's ready.  She's agile.  She's moving even when she isn't running to hit the ball.  And that active footwork is what makes her proactive and aggressive.  She isn't a spectator, waiting to see what's going to happen. Her intensity and will are in her feet.

Take a look at a B or C player, and you'll see something different.  His heels are on the court when he's not running to hit the ball.  His ready position is stationary, knees slightly flexed, bent at the waist, butt out, not unlike a diver ready to plunge into a pool.  It's kind of like ready position, just not.  Because those static feet and that bent-over body is the posture of passivity.  An inexperienced and unsure player is  often as much a spectator as he is a participant in the point, waiting to see if his shot is in, hoping his opponent doesn't make a great reply.  The ball plays him; he doesn't play the ball.

Watch any good tennis player and, during the point, you'll never see her heels on the court--ever!  Put bells on your toes.  Try it for just one game.  Move!  Stutter-step while you're waiting for your opponent to hit, then bounce into a split-step just before he does.  After you sprint to your shot, slide-step back to center or sprint forward, and start your stutter-step again.  Your ready position should be on your toes, with your hands and racquet high, a balance point that makes you want to move forward and attack the ball.  It's work, but you'll be ten times the player.  As my coach told me, "Your heart is in your feet."

c Keith Shein