Tennis movement is highly situation specific and is performed in a reactive environment. This irregularity of movement requires both general movement training, but more importantly tennis-specific movement training. The need to continually respond to situations requires a fine understanding of the athlete’s game style, strategy, movement strengths and weakness. Movement for tennis is both simple and complex.
In competitive tennis, the average point length is less than 10 seconds with the recovery between points usually between 20-25 seconds. Tennis players make an average of four directional changes per point, but any given point can range from a single movement to more than 20 directional changes during a long rally. Also, it is important to remember that most movements occur in seven yards or less. Most tennis players can cover 2-3 feet more moving to the forehand side compared to the backhand side. Understanding some of these basics are very important for the coach, but just as beneficial for the individual player at any level of the game.
The majority of tennis movements are in a lateral direction. In a study of professional players’ movement, it was found that more than 70% of movements were side-to-side with less than 20% of movements in forward linear direction and less than 8% of movements in a backward linear direction (Weber et al, 2007). This is an important statistic, because the development of lateral acceleration and deceleration in the distances described above are the major determining factors in great tennis movement. It is known that linear acceleration, linear maximum velocity and agility are all separate and distinct biomotor skills that need to be trained separately, as training one biomotor skill will not directly impact the improvement of the other. Therefore, preferred training recommendations for tennis should be to focus to focus training time between 60-80% on lateral and multi-direction movements, 10-30% on linear movements.
Weber, K., S. Pieper, et al. (2007). "Characteristics and significance of running speed at the Australian Open 2006 for training and injury prevention." Medicine and Science in Tennis 12(1): 14-17.