How to practice tennis alone?

Tennis is a game that’s typically played with a minimum of two players (or four if you like playing doubles).

However, a partner is not always available. You might not find a suitable partner to play with, he might bail on you at the last minute, or simply the weather decides not to cooperate with your tennis ambitions.

So, how can you practice tennis alone?

Luckily, there are many ways you can improve your tennis game when you have no partner to play with.

Some require having a court to play with, while others do not. Some of them you can even do in the comfort of your own home!

Let’s dive in on some of the best ways to play tennis alone. Feel free to jump to any part of this article using the links below.

Content

Hitting against a wall

tennis wall

Hitting against the wall is one of the best ways of playing tennis alone.

If you started playing tennis young, as I did, chances are you spent a lot of your childhood playing against a wall. While my dad used to play with his friends, he used to take me to another court to hit the wall – I spent countless hours doing it, and I feel it took my game up a notch regarding the consistency of the balls hit.

A playing session against the wall is, usually, more intense than playing with another human – the wall never misses, and you are constantly moving, giving this training drill a level of intensity that is unparalleled.

It is completely up to you what level of intensity you want your training session to have – if you hit the balls harder, they will come faster at you. If you force yourself to return the balls using only one type of shot (let’s say, only backhands or forehands), the intensity of the footwork needed to return the ball will be higher than just returning the ball any way you can.

The areas of your tennis game that you can improve while playing alone against a wall go as far as your imagination. Here are some of the areas that you can typically improve using this training mechanism:

  • Consistency – given that the wall never misses a ball, you must be on your toes to consistently deliver a solid performance. As you’ll certainly hit some balls better than others, you will be forced to hit some balls in a bad position, that you will, over time, improve in. This will give you a level of consistency that you just don’t get with another training mechanism.
  • Footwork – Hitting a wall means you must constantly adapt your position to hit the balls properly. Efficient footwork is one of the areas in which beginner to intermediate players most struggle– since hitting a wall makes you extremely aware of your body position, this is one of the areas that you’ll improve the most.
  • Practicing specific shots – let’s say you are having problems with your backhands. Nothing better than forcing yourself to hit 500 backhands in a row to really get a grip on it, right? And you can use it to train any type of shot: volleys, groundstrokes, chip shots, overhead shots, touch play, serves… you name it!

 

The only disadvantage of playing against a wall is that it will only deliver flat shots. But hey, you’re playing against a wall, what would you expect?

Most walls in tennis courts will have a line drawn where the net should be. If they don’t, or if you are using a wall that’s not on a tennis court (a gym, your own house, or even on the street), draw one using chalk or some tape.

You can even use the tape to highlight certain areas of the wall and try to hit it consistently!

Training with a tennis ball machine

Wilson Portable Tennis Ball Machine

If you plan to play tennis alone a lot of times, a tennis ball machine is a great investment.

While there are many different types of tennis ball machines, all of them work in the same way: they will feed you balls to the other side of the court.

The functionalities of a tennis ball machine will be greater the more you are willing to pay, generally speaking.

Ranging from different types and ranges of spin, speed positioning, height, horizontal oscillation, pre-set drills, and even the ability to configure your drills on more advanced models, a good tennis ball machine will almost feel like you’re playing against an opponent.

While they are not cheap (a good tennis ball machine represents an investment above 1000 dollars), they are definitely something to consider if you practice tennis alone often.

We recommend you check the results our test on the best tennis ball machines in the market, that comes along with a buying guide.

Practice your serves

tennis serve

One of the most complex and important parts of the tennis game is the serve. And is the one most beginner players struggle with the most.

A great way to practice tennis alone is to go to a court and just serve hundreds and hundreds of times.

The consistency of practice gives you the confidence to serve well and the correct body position and rotation to hitting the target 9 times out of 10.

A drill we recommend for players to improve their serve is to set targets on the floor. This way, you will get used to aiming the ball for wherever you want it, rather than just hitting the square.

Another excellent drill, for amateurs and professionals alike, is to train your second serves. It is relatively easy to have the confidence to put a great serve when you know that, if you miss, you get a second chance. But when you know that you’ll lose a point, set, or match if you miss the shot, your mental strength really comes into play.

By practicing second serves on your own without the pressure of having to win the point, you’ll effectively get used to delivering second serves that are hard for the other player to respond, and that go inside the square almost 100% of the time.

Work on your stroke mechanisms

While it is way more enjoyable to play with a real ball and partner, you can, and should, focus on getting your stroke mechanisms right.

We see a lot of players missing easy shots just because they don’t adjust their body position correctly – early preparation of the shots, shoulder rotation, the contact point between the ball and the racket…

There are 3 main ways you can improve your stroke mechanisms using shadow strokes:

  • Having a professional tennis trainer showing the correct positions and practicing them over and over.
  • Record yourself when playing and try to adjust your playing position from the errors you spot yourself doing. The number of mistakes you spot when you record yourself playing is amazing. If you don’t record yourself yet, we recommend that you start doing it as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.
  • Watching some youtube videos from reputable sources. After all, all the knowledge in the world is in the palms of our hands, right?

Practice your footwork

tennis footwork

We all know that positioning your body correctly is the essence of consistently hitting balls the right way.

A big part of that positioning is moving your feet fast and correctly.

We recommend you train to move your feet so your muscle memory can keep up and, gradually, it will come instinctively when playing with an opponent.

Again, try searching on youtube for some tennis footwork drills. By consistently applying them, you’ll improve in many areas of your tennis, just by getting your foot positioning right.

While tennis shoes are not a must to practice your footwork, a good pair of shoes will help tremendously regarding adherence to the court and general comfort when playing, both of which will help you in your footwork game.

Feel free to check our article on the best tennis shoes to help you choose which ones fit better your physical characteristics and gameplay.

Serves ball toss practice

tennis serve ball toss

An area that is often not trained enough is the serve ball toss.

There is a sweet point, regarding height and front/back balance, that will deliver the best and most effortless serve.

We see many players tossing the ball poorly and having to adjust their hitting point, resulting in serves that go into the net, outside of the serving square, or just not with the speed or effect that we want to apply.

By training on how to always throw the ball the same way and height, you’ll see that your serves will be more consistent and powerful.

You can train this aspect literally anywhere: all you need is a tennis ball and your own body.

Fitness Training

Tennis is one of the most physically demanding sports.

Given the constant changes of pace, rotation of legs, and speed that the balls are hit nowadays, is a must to be in excellent physical form if you mean to compete.

Especially given the pace which tennis is played nowadays, being fit is a must.

A great way to improve your game alone is to hit the gym and do some muscular training, so you can last longer and be faster when playing with an opponent.

Applying some cardio to your fitness training is also very important, so you’ll be fitter than your opponent when the match reaches that difficult third set.

To Wrap Up

If you don’t have a partner to play and have to practice tennis alone, there are many ways you can improve your game. Here are some beginner tennis drills to consider.

Our favorites are hitting against a wall for its consistency and variety of drills you can do with one and using a tennis ball machine. If you have the capital to invest in the last one and plan to play tennis alone often, it is absolutely something to consider.