As a child growing up on a farm in country Victoria there was limited people to practice with and I am pretty sure my parents got sick of me asking them to hit with me or feed me balls. Solution, “I will build a brick wall and leave me alone” my father said jokingly. The brick wall became my best friend as I always had somewhere to practice even if I did not have someone to play with.
There are plenty of example of players who spent hours using a hitting wall at their local club, in a park, or up against the garage wall at home. Here are a couple.
Maria Sharapova first started to play tennis, she practiced her tennis skills every day by hitting tennis balls against the side of the house. Two years later, at the age of six, famed tennis player and a tennis backboard graduate herself, Martina Navratilova saw Maria’s talent and suggested to Maria’s father that she start training at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. The rest is history…..
Victoria Azarenka’s journey might have had a different outcome if a tennis coach hadn’t passed by the young girl as she was hitting balls against a wall and invited her to join in his group lesson. That tennis coach sure has to be proud.
Story has it that John Isner honed his serve slamming balls against his garage door in Greensboro, N.C. Shew! We’d like to see that garage door…
Roger Federer is a huge backboard advocate and spent hours hitting against a tennis backboard. Last year, Roger stopped by the tennis club in Basel where he grew up and posted this photo on Facebook of the wall he hit against for hours and hours when he was young and just starting to play tennis.
Below is a recent picture of my brick wall that my father built into the side of our grass tennis court on our country farm outside Swan Hill. It is looking a little worse for wear these days (as is the tennis court behind), but I still have fond memories of all the time I spent there. My father had to put up a flood light as it got too dark in winter without day light savings.
So what can the wall teach you?
When practicing against the wall, the ball comes back to you sooner than it would against a human player on the other side of a net, and you have to maintain control continuously. It always sends the ball back to you, but always at an angle exactly opposite of the angle you hit the ball at. I have never seen anyone out rally the wall. Here are a few things to think of when hitting against a wall;
- Have a target (on the wall) – improve your control
- Pick a number of bounces, it doesn’t always have to be one
- Two bounces is a similar time to hitting with a person and improves your tracking skills andgives you a little more time to work on your technique
- One bounce gives you less time and improves you reaction time & speed of movement
- As the wall sends the ball back to you on the opposite angle, work on your end range shots and movement patterns side to side
- Control the speed of your shots
- Have a goal linked to movement, target hitting, repetition or even technique
- One of my favorites, go up close to the wall, hit the ball down into the ground, run back and practice your through the legs shots
There seems to be less and less hitting walls around tennis clubs these days, but if you do find one, its a great way to warm up, practice or just have fun.
Director Vida Tennis