Ever watch a tennis match on TV and wish you could hit like that? Then steal these pro secrets from Tracy Austin—yes, that Tracy Austin, the two-time U.S. Open champion and host of Tennis Channel Academy. Play at least once a week, more often if you want to get better faster.
Bonus: Spending extra time on the court swatting that little yellow ball will give you toned legs, sculpted arms, and a killer core, too.
Another insider secret: Running a couple of times a week will boost your stamina on the court and help supercharge your tennis game.
Even the best players get coached, so don’t swear off lessons as soon as you can volley and serve. An instructor can help nip bad form (like wrong grip) before it becomes ingrained, Austin says. Proper technique can help prevent common injuries, too—for example, making sure to swing from your shoulder instead of your forearm (or wrist) can help prevent tennis elbow. She can also give you strategy pointers. To find a certified pro, ask your local tennis club to recommend one or log on to usptafindapro.com.
Get strong triceps and legs to be able to propel up and out into the court, throw the ball, extend your arm, and wield the racket.
The trick: Add triceps extensions and squats to your usual routine. Also, make sure your racket is the correct size. When gripping the handle, your fingers should point out in front of you. There should be a finger’s width between your thumb and the fingers wrapping around the other side.
Another key: an accurate toss. If you’re right-handed, picture a clock above you and hit the ball at one o’clock (lefties aim for eleven). And to gain speed, keep your arm loose instead of tensing up.
"People think it’s about how hard you hit the ball," Austin says. "Really, it’s about getting more balls into play." So forget smashing the ball whenever you swing. To improve accuracy, spend time rallying with your friends or opposite a ball machine.
Your aim: to hit the ball so it crosses just a couple of feet over the net on the return.
No doubt, the more you play, the better you’ll get. Just be sure to play the most with that friend who is roughly at your level—you’ll go toe-to-toe with her, fighting for every point. But you’ll also benefit from regular games with someone who’s better than you, Austin says. "She will constantly target your weaknesses, forcing you to practice under pressure until you improve." You’ll be dealing with greater challenges—stronger serves and faster balls, Austin notes—which will make you a more amazing player.