Pro Tips to Improve Your Tennis Split Step

January 7, 2022

Guest Post by CA Tennis Coach Lyndall Jordan

As a tennis coach, I notice that players often spend a lot of time working on their strokes, but very little time on their split step or their footwork patterns. Focusing on your split step can be a game changer for your performance, so let’s dive into the details. 

What is the split step?

The split step is the hop that a player makes before they move to the ball that they are receiving from the opponent. It offers a couple of key benefits:

  • Allows players to be more quick and efficient in moving to any given shot that they receive
  • Allows for early preparation in executing a shot upon receiving the ball

A good split step is executed in a timely manner prior to receiving the ball — just before the opponent makes contact with the ball. Too-late timing is the one of the biggest errors I see when it comes to execution. The goal is to elevate yourself slightly off the ground and land right when the ball makes contact with the opponent’s racquet. 

The hop prior to the split step begins with being in a neutral position (wide platform base), followed by landing on both feet with the knees bent and the weight on the balls of the feet (not your heels). From this position, you are able to easily push off quickly to either side of your body in anticipation of the ball.


Three types of split steps

There are three types of split steps. The most common way is to push off one foot and land on both legs, which is a very rhythmic and repetitive movement. 

Another split step method is called the reverse split step, and it’s used when moving away from the net in an extremely defensive situation. 

The third split step is the half split step, otherwise known as the half split step. This is when you anticipate the direction that the ball is being sent to you. With this type of split step, you land on one foot and push off onto the other foot. You push off the opposite foot from where the ball is being received so that the opposite foot can drive the leg closest to the ball, to the ball.


Improve your split step with CA

Good footwork begins with a well-executed split step, even though it’s often overlooked. Focusing on your split step will improve your performance on the court because you will be better prepared for any ball that your opponent might be sending to you. 

There’s plenty of helpful drills you can use to practice. Here’s one of my favorites that you can try at home:

  • Stand on a small step, with your feet shoulder distance apart.
  • Jump off the step and land on the balls of both feet (not the heels).
  • Repeat! The elevation of the step helps with the idea of feeling the weight in your toes and heels slightly off the ground.

Once you feel comfortable with that movement, you can move on to practicing on the land, without a step. Remember to make it an explosive movement.

CA has 37 available courts across five tennis clubs, open to members and non-members. We also offer programs and classes for tennis players of all ages and experience levels, including adult beginners. We’d love to see you on the court!

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