Tip of the Week Archive

Footwork plays a very important role in tennis at all levels of play. However the more advanced a player
becomes footwork becomes even more critical.
The split step is that moment in tennis when a player lands with both their feet parallel with the body. It happens
right after the opponent makes contact with the ball. The most aspect of the split step is the “hop�. The
hop or small jump happens as the opponent begins their swing. The player hops slightly off the ground so as
the landing is on the balls of the feet. This gets the heels off the ground because the initial step towards the ball
happens on the toes.
Most people think of the split step as something you should do when approaching the net to bring the feet into a
stance that makes movement easier. However if you watch professional tennis you will see most players take a
hop to a split step every time their opponent hits the ball. The most important split step happens on the service
return. Getting the feet ready to react to the fastest shot in tennis.
The hop/split step on the serve return becomes a necessity for almost all players. My preferred method of the
hop/split step is to place one foot in front of the other. As the opponent makes their ball toss, the player should
step forward and jump to landing on the toes with both feet parallel with the body. This forward motion will help
the returner move into the return as well as be prepared to move laterally.
During a rally, players will use the hop/split step on their opponents every hit to get their feet ready to move. It will
not be necessary to take a hop/step forward but it will be necessary to hop up and land on the toes. The hop or
jump in the air has the added benefit of having the legs ready to spring into action.
Try practicing your hop/split step before your partner contacts the ball every time. It becomes very intense and
physically tiring to do every time but the rewards are worth it.
Be sure to take your 25 seconds after every point to slow down and rest. You’ll only have to do the hop/split
step for 1 to 6 seconds until most points end. Then you will have 25 seconds before the next point must begin.
Work hard on your split steps during every point to create repetition and begin a beneficial habit.

Doug Hofer, USPTA      February 3, 2004
The hop split step landing on the balls of the feet, ready to move.