I am still amazed at the number of
players, particularly club players, who do not use the split step, either in the
in the right way, or
at the correct time, or in many cases not at all.
At least if a player is naturally
athletic, they do some form of step automatically, however, if the split-step
(or as I call it – the
split-spring), is done correctly, the tennis of the individual should improve significantly.
I cannot over emphasise the importance of
the split-spring especially as your level of tennis improves; particularly in
there should be at least three players on the court executing this step simultaneously; either to get into a position to strike the
ball; or to improve their court position.
I refer to this as a split-spring, as it
better describes what is necessary in order to move in the most fluent and
A player needs to do a very light split-step and immediately be in a position to spring quickly in any direction.
There are various split-spring steps and
I will gradually cover each one; however, the object behind this article is to
training drills so that these become an automatic reaction of the player.
Should you wish to check the relevance of using a split-spring, try the following out on the court, with a friend.
1/. You will run towards the net,
deliberetly not doing a split-spring, your partner will hit the ball to either
side of you keeping the
ball bouncing to your side and about 4 feet away from you; you will find that you cannot get to the ball.
2/. Do the same exercise of running
towards the net, but as your partner goes to hit the ball, do a split-spring and
you will get to the
ball quite easily.
There is obviously a split-spring done whilst on the move and also a split-spring from a stationary position, such as the return of serve.
Looking at the split-spring from a
stationary position for the first step, there are two movements,
i.e. doing the split-spring and taking
the first step – these are intrinsically linked and are in effect one movement.
It has been pointed out, that if a player
is standing still – even in the ready position, with their heels on the ground,
it is similar to
having your total body weight pressing down on the head, and this has to be overcome to commence any movement. The first
obvious point is to be on the toes in an athletic position at all times (although trying to get this over to many club players is not
easy). What I teach all my players to do – when waiting for the serve, is to take one step forward as the ball is thrown up, followed
immediately by the split-spring and they are then in a position and ready to move quickly to the ball. It is a good idea initially to
put one lay down spot int front of their dominant foot and then another two spots in front of these; this will get them moving
This is of enormous importance and the
key to doing this effectively is to be landing when your opponent makes contact
ball. The best time to start the split-spring is when your opponent starts their forward swing.
The first drill is to train the explosive
first step, speed and co-ordination needed when running to a wide ball. The use
steps around the ball is also emphasised.
This drill is done at the
baseline. Place two cones – one each side of the centre mark,
each cone should be approximately 3 feet
from the centre mark (that is 3 lengths of a normal foot) Stand in the middle of the two cone behind the baseline – move in a figure
of eight around the cones (see diagram) keeping as close to the cones as possible without hitting them. With the first big step
ensure this is a drive step and do this each time the direction is changed.
The drill should be done for 30 second
repetitions and as many figure of eights should be done in that time. Repeat for
having a rest for one minute between each. The player should aim to gradually increase the number of figures of eight within the
30 seconds. The ultimate aim being 12.