Practice 1

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Practice 1 - The practice knock-up

The simplest practice with a partner is to extend your knock-up. You don’t have to have complicated instructions, just the agreement with your partner that you are going to have a ‘good,’ ‘long’ or ‘10 minute’ (for example) knock-up.

Much of the accuracy and consistency of your shots comes from having a good set up position and time on the ball. Move your feet (get in the best position, i.e. the best distance and best balance) and prepare for your shot early.

Try to eliminate casual and improvised shots. There are a whole range of shots you can practise but the basic ones are: the straight drive, the crosscourt drive and the volley.

Practice your technique (set-up) and set target areas. If your crosscourts are not giving your partner any trouble at all, you may not have the right target area. (Your partner is of course in a knock-up position rather than a T-ready position and you will have to take this into account.)

1. Straight drives: On a full length drive see if you can get the ball to rebound off the back and cling to the side. On a dying length drive aim to bounce the ball into the side behind the service box. (Before returning it you may sometimes let the ball bounce twice.)

2. Crosscourts: Try to give your partner a problem with your crosscourts – that is, whether to volley or leave it, whether to take it before the back or after. Ideally your target will be to hit the side wall, floor and back with the ball dribbling off the back and thereby forcing a boast. You can even play a little game seeing if you can force a weak ball out of your opponent.

3. Volleys: When volleying straight off a crosscourt be careful not to hit in front of the imaginary right angle your racket makes with the side wall or you will bring the ball out from the side wall. You really want to fade your shots into the side.

When crosscourting, volley wide to pass your partner but not so wide that the ball will bounce back into play.

There are a whole range of skills you can develop in your knock-up – like studying your opponent and practising reading shots – but we will come to these. For now practise your best set-up and work on your targets. You are practising your shots not hitting the ball back to your opponent. Use repetition, get one thing working at a time. Perhaps hit one or two shots to yourself and cross. And remember: don’t hog the ball!


1. Full length dive played to rebound and cling;
2. Crosscourt targeted to beat a partner’s volley attempt and hit the side, floor and rebound off the back;
3. straight drive for dying length;
4. straight volley, hit behind the right angle, and faded into the side.

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