Speed & Agility Training

A tennis player must be able to respond to different sorts of signals, move quickly, with constant changes in direction in order to become a successful athlete. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to combine speed and agility training.

Gael Monfils (FRA)

The combined approach to the development of speed and agility should provide players with the opportunity to take part in training situations, which are more fulfilling, more original and more fun. Furthermore, combined training will enhance tennis-specific movements, and therefore performance.

Although the speed and agility components of fitness are combined when training, it is still important to consider the individual components and the practical applications of both speed and agility for the sport of tennis.


Speed can be defined as “the ability to complete a movement within a short period of time”. Therefore, to improve speed, players must develop the ability to accelerate and slow down. To enhance these abilities, players and coaches must take three components into consideration:

-Reaction speed – the ability to respond quickly to different types of signals.

-Contraction speed of the muscles - the ability of the muscles to make explosive movements.

-Frequency of body movements - the ability to execute body movements correctly at different speeds.

In which situations does the player need these qualities to succeed?

-When a player tries to make quick first steps.

-When a player performs movement patterns and changes of direction at high speed.

-When a player decelerates over a few steps to set themselves optimally to make ball contact.

-When a player hits powerful shots on the serve and from the baseline


Agility is a quality that is often thought to be at a premium among “talented” players. The impression of ease with which they play is such that some observers think that they were “born with a racket in their hands”.

Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Agility can be defined as the ability to change the body's direction efficiently. This means being able to execute the movement smoothly with accuracy and relaxation, thus using minimal muscular energy.

To enhance these abilities, players and coaches must take the following components into consideration:

Movement coordination – provides for success in more complex situations.

Movement precision – the quality of execution.

Energy saving – the ability to execute a motor activity with maximal efficiency.

Reliability of motor execution – the ability to reproduce the performance with a high level of success.

In what situations do tennis players demonstrate agility?

-When playing the right shot with efficiency (i.e. high backhand volley played with a lot of ‘touch’, strokes executed with good ‘timing’).

-When adapting to specific game conditions (i.e. adjusting to a difficult shot with no apparent effort).


Combined Training Exercises

Exercise 1 : Ball Drops

- Purpose
To develop the reaction speed of the player, their starting ability and their agility

- Set-up
On the tennis court or on a playing area.
The coach/assistant stands in front of the player and drops a ball. 
The player has to catch it before the second bounce.

- Equipment
Tennis balls

- Interventions
On the attitude of the player in the ready position:

- Legs slightly bent, the player stands on the balls of the feet.
- The player should be ready to act and be focused on the ball.

At the start:

- Keep the trunk straight during the beginning of the action.
- Use the arms in the direction of the movement.

On the catching of the ball:

- Maintain dynamic balance.
- Increase the number of steps to slow down.

- Modify the Situation
To make it easier:

- Get closer to the player.
- Feed only one ball.
- Increase the height of the drops.

To make it more difficult:

- The coach/assistant should vary their positioning with reference to the player.
- Change the starting positions.
- Feed more than one ball.
- Drop two balls successively.

Exercise 2 : Fan DrillFigure 1. Fan Drill

- Purpose
 To develop the starting ability of the player and their ability to change directions.

To improve the action of the foot on the ground.

- Set Up
 On the tennis court.

Player starts behind a racket placed on the baseline ‘T’.

The player runs to ball 1, picks it up, runs back to the ‘T’ and places the ball on the racket.

The player then runs to ball, picks it up, and returns it to the racket (figure 1).

This process is repeated for balls 3, 4 & 5.

The drill is completed when all 5 balls are placed on the head of the racket.

- Equipment
5 tennis balls.

Tennis racket.

- Intervanetions
On the attitude of the player when running:

- Insist on a strong arm action and use the arms in the direction of the movement.

When picking up/putting down the ball:

- Increase the number of steps to slow down.
- Maintain dynamic balance.
- Optimise knee bend.
- Plant outside like for optimum stability and propulsion.
- Be aggressive to the ground for optimum propulsion.

- Modify the Situation
 Perforn the exercise on a clay court to integrate sliding to the drill.