Improve your tennis game with advice from these pros

March 22, 2021

Lori Riffice

March is Women's History Month, and three of the most experienced women who teach tennis on courts around the country are checking in to tell you how to improve your own games. 


Jenny Taylor, Lori Riffice and Marianne Werdel have decades of tennis experience between them as players and teaching professionals, and these decorated women have plenty of tips to help you perform your best when you step on court. 


With many players currently returning to tennis for the first time after a long hiatus brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Riffice, a national coach for USTA Player Development, says it's important to start slow at first if you're plotting a comeback.


"Limit play to 15-30 minutes for the first couple of times. This is pretty important to allow your arm to get used to the additional strain on it," she says. 


"Then, look to increase your time on court as much as your body allows, keeping in mind that runners increase their distance 10 percent per week."


Taylor adds that you don't have to go far to get back into the game. 

"Look in your local area for tennis classes," says Taylor, the associate head professional at the USTA National Campus in Orlando. 


"This will give you a chance to meet new people to play."


For forehands, backhands and serves, these pros say that small adjustments make a big difference. 


"On serve, the easiest trick to have a good toss is to line up your left arm with the net post," says Werdel, a former touring pro who peaked at a career-high WTA ranking of world No. 21 in 1995. 


"When you toss the ball up, slide your hand straight up the net post. A good toss is the base for a good serve."


 For the groundies, the mantras are simple: "Feet, feet, feet. If you don’t get there, you can’t make it," Werdel adds. 


"Also remember, 'Under it, and over it' - if you miss the ball in the net, you didn’t get under it. If you miss the ball long, you didn’t come over it."

But physical improvements are not the only area to consider.

Jenny Taylor
Marianne Werdel

All three pros agree that the mental is just as important as the physical, and that one can even influence the other.


"Think about the things you can control," says Riffice, who played Division I tennis at UC Santa Barbara and has been USPTA-certified for 35 years. 


"For instance, you can control moving you feet, or for trying to hit big targets, but not really control how their opponent is going to play. You can also try to control if your thoughts are positive or negative. Sometimes, we focus on the things we are not doing well instead of the things we are getting better at."


"The more you play and enjoy it, the more confidence you will have," adds Werdel. 


"You have to earn confidence. It isn’t something someone can do for you. It comes from practice. Set goals. Play with a purpose."


Ultimately, though, they say it's also important to remember an age-old mantra: progress, not perfection.


"It's okay to make mistakes," says Taylor. "That is how you get better. You can learn from those situations. Don't be afraid to do that."

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