I see lots of players of all ages struggling with a very important concept: proximity to the ball on contact. Other things look good such as their swing and their footwork, but they are not maximizing their results because they are not clear on where they should be standing and where the ball should be in relation to them when they hit it. I think part of the reason, especially in young players, is that so many of them start off by being asked to stand on a spot while balls are fed to them. They are not sure how to translate their newly found hitting skills to hitting while on the move. Or indeed, why they should have to move to hit the ball! So I have taken a common children's game and adapted it to my need for a Proximity Drill.
There's a simple warm-up on some of the tennis sites called Mirror, Mirror. It is played lots of places other than the tennis court but works well there, also. In Mirror, Mirror, two players face each other about 3 feet apart. One player mirrors everything the other does - arm/hand/foot movements, facial expressions, etc. - maintaining the 3 foot distance between them all the while.
|Forehand example. Player on right|
represents The Ball.
Safety tip: the player with the racquet never swings or attempts to hit the player acting as The Ball.
As The Ball moves, the player with the racquet must constantly adjust his/her position to keep The Ball out in front of them at the optimum point of contact. Both players move with small - but quick! - adjusting steps. Player with racquet must be facing net, keeping The Ball between themselves and the net, at all times. After a few minutes of this, have players switch roles.