For as long as I can remember, my friend's mum has been a tennis fan. Each year, as soon as Wimbledon published their schedule, she scanned the list to find out when her favourite players would take the court and let everyone know she will not be available while those matches are on.
Her player preferences have changed over the years; once, there were no males players on her list at all. That changed once Roger Federer started making waves but she really didn't include him in her pantheon of favs until he turned professional. As a junior player, she found him merely noteworthy.
I find it odd that, for all of her interest, she never played tennis herself. I never quite had the nerve to ask her why until a few weeks ago when, once again, she was avidly scanning the Wimbledon schedule.
"I didn't know how to go about it", she replied.
Granted, that was a different time; people today are free to pursue just about whatever activity they set their minds to. Still, it was rather shocking that she never got the chance to play the sport she so clearly loves.
So, in part as a tribute to my gracious friend who, after such a long association considers me another daughter, and in part, because there must be some who wonder how they too could get into tennis, Superprof shows you the steps to take.
Get a Taste of the Game
For some people, it's the dashing tennis whites and trim figures they cover that entices them to the sport. For others, it's the combination of strategy and action; from the get-go, tennis players are moving and calculating where they should land their next lob.
Whatever reason you have for thinking about taking up tennis, you should first give it a try.
Unlike sports such as weightlifting or rock climbing, tennis doesn't require a lot of equipment or special gear. A racket, a can of tennis balls and some decent shoes are about all you need to get started but you don't have to lay out any cash for even that little bit to find out if the game is really for you.
If you're a student and your school offers tennis lessons - or, even better, after-school tennis clinics, you can attend a few of them to see if this game is a good fit for you. Whether you're in or out of school, you might see if your local community centre has tennis rackets to lend.
You might want to bring your own tennis balls, just in case they don't have any to lend.
Get the feel of a racket in your hand. Try a few backhands and forehands as you bat the ball against a wall. See how often and how well you can catch it on its return.
If all of this feels good and right, if your heart sings with joy even as it furiously pounds, if you have that zingy, tingly feeling in your legs that shows they'll soon enjoy regular lunges, dashes and pivots...
If you find you've an irrepressible smile cresting, you've discovered some of the benefits of playing tennis. Feel free to embrace it; shop for equipment and buy those shoes because the game awaits!
Learn The Rules for Tennis
Virtually anyone can bat a ball against a wall; racquetball players do it all the time. Tennis players may practise their aim and swing by playing against a wall but, when it comes to playing tennis, you need an opponent on the other side of the net.
Like many sports, tennis has an etiquette to follow but you shouldn't worry about that straightaway; you can simply take your cue from other players. Everything, from the post-match handshake to not throwing rackets is pretty commonsense, anyway.
The rules you need to learn before stepping on a court address gameplay. What happens if the ball barely clears the net? Where are the out-of-bounds lines? Are there any rules about serving?
A few of the most important tennis rules you need to know before stepping onto the court include:
- when you serve, your feet must remain behind the base line. Indeed, you could be charged with a foot fault if even one toe is on the court as you serve
- if your serve isn't playable, you may serve a second time (but if that one misses too, you're subject to a double fault and you lose your serve)
- similarly, if your serve nicks the net and remains in the court playing area (service area), you may serve again but if it goes out of bounds, you lose the point and the serve.
- Upon a playable serve, players can volley the ball as long as they'd like but it doesn't increase anyone's score. Only failing to return the ball results in a point gain for the player who last hit it.
- the ball can hit any part of a line and still be counted as in; once it's over the line, it is considered out
- distracting opponents, touching the net or interfering with their play in any way can result in a point loss.
There are other, more specific rules. Some apply only to competition - players must keep at least one foot on the ground while serving is a relatively new one while others have permeated even the recreational levels of the sport.
The bottom line is, it's best to know at least the basic rules of tennis before engaging with other players.
What Is the Equipment for Tennis?
A bit ago, we mentioned that little is needed to play tennis: a racket, a ball and some decent shoes. You should also have a court to play on but, in a pinch, you could simply volley with another aspiring player to practise your swing and develop better hand-eye coordination.
Shoes are a key component of any tennis player's arsenal. As you will soon discover, your ankles, knees and spine will take the brunt of all the lunging, running and pivoting you'll do so it's best to have shoes that will give your joints and bones the support they need. Also, make sure that your shoes will grip the court properly; nothing's worse than overshooting your destination and missing the ball.
As for those snazzy tennis whites? You might wait a while to invest in them; they're not necessary to play well. However, if you feel they will boost your confidence, by all means, add them to your shopping list.
You should also consider a visor and, if you don't have them already, sunglasses. Keeping the sun out of your eyes is crucial to hitting every ball that comes your way. If you can't see it, you won't be able to hit it. One caveat, though: make sure your glasses fit snugly and, if possible, that they are shatter-resistant.
Of course, if you only plan on playing indoors, neither the visor nor the glasses are necessary.
The Best Tennis Rackets for Beginners
Your tennis racket is the most important piece of equipment for playing tennis. Indeed, you wouldn't be able to play at all if you didn't have one. After you take a trial run at the game and discovered you like it, you'll need to invest in a good racket.
One of the most important considerations is the racket's weight. Heavy rackets can give you a more powerful stroke but you would have to have the strength to wield it - both grip strength and in your shoulder, to swing it. Furthermore, you should have a decent technique before considering a heavy racket because not holding it right could lead to injury.
If you're more of a nimble player - you see yourself scooting all over the court and using backhands and forehands indiscriminately, perhaps a light racket would suit your playing style better. Usually, beginners start with a light racket and graduate to a heavy one as they become more used to playing.
The racket's length is important, too. Obviously, longer rackets will reach further and deliver more power but they are much harder to manoeuvre, particularly in close shots.
The optimal length for adolescents and adults is between 27 and 29 inches (~68.5cm to 74cm). The shorter racket would serve those players better; the only benefit they would get out of a longer racket is the extended reach and that won't compensate for the lack of control and the fatigue it may cause you.
Learn more about choosing the right racket and other aspects of tennis in our beginner's guide to playing tennis.
How Long do Tennis Lessons Last?
This rather undefined question has a simple answer: anywhere from 30 minutes to years. That's no joke; some tennis players take lessons even as advanced players. After all, everyone can benefit from a bit of coaching, even tennis pros.
As you are just starting out, your coach may settle on 30-minute lessons until you build up your strength and endurance. Those lessons will likely consist of how to hold the racket properly, how to position yourself and pivot as your swing. You may also confront a tennis machine set on slow so you can get used to balls flying at you. You may even hit a few!
Once you get tennis basics down - how to move, swing and hit a ball, your coach may pair you up with another player so you can experience what that feels like. By that time, your lessons will have stretched into an hour or even an hour and a half but they likely won't run any longer than that.
Your safety and health are your coach's primary concern, even ahead of helping you improve your game, so they won't let you exhaust yourself, even if you beg them to.
Should you prefer private tennis lessons, you may take them with a Superprof tennis coach. Your cost of tennis lessons could be much lower than if you took them elsewhere and, besides, where will you get the kind of personal attention that a Superprof tennis coach could provide?