The key to being good is practice, practice, and more practice. If you hit enough balls then you eventually come to a point where executing a shot becomes automatic. While the number of balls you hit is important, so is the way you practice. There are several theories on practicing to play at the top of your game. It is important to pick the theory and practice pattern that works best for you so you will stick with it.
The typical U.S. tennis player takes lessons and clinics and expects to be at his or her best. The rule of thumb is for every hour of private lessons you take you should spend an hour practicing what you learned. This not only helps you hone your game but also teaches you the art of self help.
It is important that you also spend a considerable amount of your practice time playing points. Don’t forget to spend time on strokes that give you a lot of trouble. After spending an hour each week practicing you will notice how much better you have become.
A typical singles practice schedule
Warm up with mini tennis and then back up to the baseline as you start warming up down the middle at a nice even pace. The goal here is to achieve rhythm (synching your legs to your swing) and good timing. Remember that when you are practicing you are working with the person across the net. Once you feel sufficiently warmed up start drilling, start hitting cross courts and then down the line. Take turns moving up to the net to work on your net games. Make sure you hit overheads as well. Then move back to the baseline to hit a few serves. Start with soft second serves then practice your various spin serves before hitting a few first serves. It is important to practice serving from both sides of the court. If your partner is serving from the other side work on your return game. Once you have gone through this routine play out a few games. If you have enough time, play out a set and then, regardless of the out come, finish off the session by playing a 12 point tie breaker.
A typical doubles practice schedule
Warm up with mini tennis and then back up to the baseline as you start warming up down the line at a nice even pace. Switch to hitting cross courts from the baseline. One team should then come to the net and hit volleys down the line for a few minutes. Switch to cross court volleys for a few minutes before trading places with the other team. Now all four players should go to the net. Play out one ball with an emphasis on hitting every ball out of the air while working on your reflex volleys. Move back to the baseline to practice your serves and returns. Play out some cross court points. Don’t forget to switch sides and play out points on the other half of the court. Also take a few minutes to serve and play out points down the line. It is important that you serve and volley a few points during your cross court drilling even if you are a baseliner in doubles. You can end your practice session by playing out a few games. If you are a regular partnership make sure you play from your weaker side for at least one or two games when practicing.
You can also have a doubles practice session with just your partner if you are unable to find another pair to practice with. You can do all of the above drills with the exception of playing out a few games. If you would like to play a game then try playing half court cross court only.