Stop wasting precious warm-up time! Get match ready in 10 minutes

Would you like your warm-up time to pay off in a match?  If so, it won’t happen by accident.  You need to plan for it.  Success is a result of purposeful planning – not happenstance!

The typical tennis warm-up – the obligatory 10 minutes spent with an opponent right before the match or the few minutes league players take to hit balls before playing sets–is generally a big waste of time.

A proper on-court warm-up should warm up all the “systems” needed for the real game and make a much smoother transition to much more demanding situations that happen in a match.  From the first shot of a match, you have to be ready to react quickly.  Yet most recreational players walk onto the court, hit a few mindless balls and then start playing.

Introducing the 10’s Warm Up!

Warm up at Speed 1 on a 3-point scale.  Too often players start at speed 3 — what we like to call “whack-a-mole” speed.  With speed 1, the idea is to slow your strokes down and make them complete. Hit all the way through the ball without killing it.  

Make warm-up intentional rather than brain dead.   Prepare early for each ball, watch it bounce and stick your finish each time.  Be present for every shot and make every stroke count. It’s not about winning the warm-up, it’s about preparing the strokes you want to use in a match.

The 10’s warm-up is designed to get all of your strokes ready for match play in 10-minutes or less.  Your goal for each rally sequence below is to hit 10 balls in a row with your partner before moving on to the next step.  If you miss before 10-in-a-row, start over.

Here’s the 10’s progression:

  1. Both up.  Rally short court with your partner using only the service boxes.  At Cal, we called this “Dink Um.” Stand behind the service line and play the ball off the bounce.  Ideally, you are slicing in this rally. After successfully hitting 10-in-row (5 each), keep the ball going while you both move back toward the baseline.
  2. Both back.  Now your goal is to rally 10 balls in a row from the baseline, at speed 1.
  3. 1 Up, 1 Back.  Next, you and your partner take turns at the net warming up your volleys.  Again you are going for 10 balls in a row. After a successful groundstroke-volley rally, now for a 10 lob-overhead sequence.  The goal is 10 lob-overheads in a row yet just know this may take some time so don’t worry if it’s not in a row, just go for a total of 10 successful lobs and overheads.  
  4. Serves and returns.  Finally, both your and your partner are back on the service line going for 10 successful serves-return combinations.  If time allows, serve and return from each side of the court.

The 10’s warm-up should be done in 10 minutes or less.  Remember, this is just 5 shots per person, per sequence.  If you’re having trouble getting 10-in-a-row, you are most likely hitting too hard!

NOTE: Don’t rely on your opponents to warm you up. Either warm up with a teammate before the match or warm up with your own teammate instead of your opponent.

Check out this video.  Coach Toon captured doubles legends Martina Navratilova, Renae Stubbs and Lindsey Davenport warming up for their exhibition match at the Australian Open.  

See the 10’s warm up in action: