Basic Tactical Tennis Drills
Improving Accuracy And Decision Making Skills


The following tactical tennis drills are best practiced with beginners and intermediate players who already have solid ball control and need to work on directions, better ball control with spin and decision making skills.

Basic tennis tactics focus on moving the opponent, and in order to do that the players must be accurate with their shots and know which options are possible (to which directions they can play the ball).

Here's how you can progress from simple drills to more complex ones that will help players improve their consistency with groundstrokes played in different directions and, at the same time, teach them how to make tactical decisions that they will face in competitive situations.

1. The Long Crosscourt

The long cross court drill
Both players rally long crosscourt

Both players rally from the deuce side and try to keep the ball over the service line (deep). Rally for three to five minutes, then change to the advantage side, which is the backhand side for right-handers.

2. The Long-short Crosscourt

The long cross court drill
Orange player plays the ball deep, white player plays the ball short crosscourt

Players again rally crosscourt (starting on deuce side), where player A (orange) plays the ball deep and player B (white) plays the ball short crosscourt, so that the ball lands near the outside corner of the service box.

Rally for three minutes and change tasks and then also change sides, rallying from the advantage side for a total of four times three minutes.

3. The Alternating Long-short Crosscourt

The long cross court drill
Orange player plays the ball deep, white player alternates between playing long and short crosscourt

Players rally crosscourt, where player A (orange) plays the ball deep and player B (white) alternates between playing the ball deep and playing the ball short. Players should rally for three minutes and change tasks. Make sure to change sides as well.

The optional, and more advanced, version of this drill is to let player B make the choice about when to go short or long depending on the ball received. If the ball from player A is very deep, then player B should play it shorter.(Player B should attempt a short crosscourt.)

4. The Long-short Crosscourt With a Down the Line

The long cross court drill
Orange player plays the ball deep, white player plays long cross court, short crosscourt and then down the line

The first version of this drill is a closed drill, which means that the players stick to the pattern. Player A (orange) plays the ball deep crosscourt three times in a row (and starts the rally). Player B (white) plays first long crosscourt, then short crosscourt, and then down the line.

For less skilled players, player A does not need to run for the ball, but can just let it go so that player B can focus on seeing where the ball landed and can make adjustments for the next rally.

For more advanced players, player A can move to the other side and play the ball crosscourt to the other side where both players repeat the same pattern on the backhand side (for right-handers). The goal for more skilled players is to keep the rally going while sticking to this pattern of play. Change tasks and sides so that both players practice all situations.

5. Semi-open Situation

In the semi-open situation, allow player A (white) to play only long crosscourt on every ball that player B (orange) plays. Player B on the other hand chooses by himself whether he'll play long crosscourt, short crosscourt, or down the line.

This is where learning to play tennis begins.


Player B must experiment with different decisions and see whether he is successful in the long term or not. Inexperienced players, for example, don't know yet that playing down the line when they are far behind the baseline is not a smart decision. Therefore, coaches MUST allow them to play that shot to EXPERIENCE what happens and learn by themselves.

Player B must now focus on memorizing which patterns work and which patterns do not, so that the decisions later will become more automatic.

The semi-open rules of this drill allow player B to know where player A will always play, so that the player B can move slightly early without spending that much mental energy and concentration on reading and reacting to player A's shots, but can focus on choosing which direction he'll play (long crosscourt, short crosscourt, or down the line).

6. Open Situation Training

In the open situation, both players can play any shot at any time. Perhaps the only limitation that players can have is that they don't play drop shots, come to the net, or play any other special shots so that they can focus on learning which decisions from the baseline- long crosscourt, short crosscourt, or down the line-work best.

There's one more target to add, and you can decide based on your own judgment when you want to add it; that is a target in the middle, deep over the service line.

The long cross court drill
The white player has 5 targets to choose from for each of his shots. Tactical training enables the player to learn which shot is best used in each specific situation.

Playing in the middle can be very effective when attempting to neutralize the opponent from a defensive position, since the shot played in the middle doesn't open up angles from which the opponent can attack.

At the end, you can place four main targets (cones, or tapes) and one additional target on the court (see picture above) and have the player DECIDE with every shot which target he will aim for. When the player knows which target he is aiming for, his accuracy improves a lot and he keeps his focus throughout the rally.

Players should avoid hitting the ball over the net without an intention and should always look to either go offense (by moving the opponent) or to neutralize the opponent. To neutralize means that the player attempts to prevent attacks by playing deep, usually crosscourt or down the middle.

There are other ways of neutralizing, like playing high loopy shots of low slices but this can be the next step in progression in these tactical tennis drills.

On every ball that comes over the net, the player needs to first decide whether he/she can attack or whether he/she needs to neutralize. After this main decision, the player then needs to decide the direction and type of shot to use.

This progression of drills here will guide him/her to a quick understanding of the possible tactics and at the same time improve their accuracy and control of the shots. Through time and repetition, players will learn what works best.





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