When I started learning how to play tennis, there were only one or two neighborhood kids my age that had an interest in the game. Finding someone to hit with wasn’t easy.

Then, I found a perfect hitting partner: the wall of a warehouse across the street from our home perfectly suited for hitting tennis balls.

I soon discovered that this quote by Mitch Helberg couldn’t be more true: “The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I’ll never be as good as a wall.”

If you have a wall or backboard available, here are some suggestions to make the best use of your new “hitting partner.” You’ll be surprised how quickly your game will improve (along with a lesson or clinic now and then) no matter what your level of play.

  • Hit at a target: Take some 2-inch blue painter’s tape (low stick) and make a 3-foot by 3-foot square about 1 foot above the center of the net line. Strive to hit into the square to improve focus, accuracy, and consistency.
  • Let the ball bounce twice before you hit it: This allows more realistic timing and reaction to get your feet moving and body in position (as if the ball is being returned from the other end of the court). Make sure to move to the ball like you do when playing on the tennis court.
  • Have a practice goal: For example, hit all forehands for 5 minutes, then backhands for 5 minutes. Hit five forehands in a row, in the target. Increase the number by five, as you get better. Do the same with your backhand. There are hundreds of practice drill variations to keep things interesting.

These suggestions will help you develop more consistent and accurate strokes while improving your focus, concentration and footwork.

Just think, you can achieve all this thanks to the wall, a perfect hitting partner that’s always available when you are, never gets tired, always gets the ball back, and never judges.

By including the practice wall in your tennis you might become the “backboard” who scores more points because you got one more ball over the net.

And isn’t that what we strive to do anyway?

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. lwmarino@hotmail.com