Michael Emmett: “Short Court Tennis is a Waste of Time”

Can someone please remind me why tennis players worldwide are still engaging in the silly practice of short court for a warm-up? Warm-ups are meant to be quick, engaging and useful. After two minutes we should be sweating. The way most amateur members stand on the service line and bunt the ball back-and-forth is a colossal waste of time. The short court warm-up was designed for pros who are still striking the ball in a full athletic swing generating tons of spin, however, unlike most amateurs; they are maintaining the shape and speed on the ball while contacting it in the perfect strike zone. Short court is not for everyone.

Written by: Michael Emmett

__________

***Michael Emmett is the Director of Tennis Operations at all Mayfair clubs.  He is a certified Tennis Canada Coach 3 with a Journalism degree from the University of Texas. Michael spent several years working in sports television at TSN and Sportsnet.  Michael is a former National champion who finished his last year of junior tennis ranked #1 in Canada.  Michael has coached several National champions when he worked for the All-Canadian Academy at the National Tennis Centre at York University in the early 90s.  Michael spent 2 years traveling the world playing the ATP tour satellite circuit as a member of the Molson National Team in 1985 and ’86.***

__________

Can someone please remind me why tennis players worldwide are still engaging in the silly practice of short court for a warm-up? Warm-ups are meant to be quick, engaging and useful. After two minutes we should be sweating. The way most amateur members stand on the service line and bunt the ball back-and-forth is a colossal waste of time. The short court warm-up was designed for pros who are still striking the ball in a full athletic swing generating tons of spin, however, unlike most amateurs; they are maintaining the shape and speed on the ball while contacting it in the perfect strike zone. Short court is not for everyone.

If it was up to me I would ban ‘mini’ tennis forever for all club players. Most people in the tennis industry agree with me – it is extremely ineffective. As the Director of Tennis at the Mayfair clubs I see it constantly – and it rarely works. This is another example of how we are all just a bunch of sheep as we continue to do this fruitless exercise because we see other more experienced players execute it to perfection.

However, for most it’s pointless and completely unproductive. Whatever you are doing inside the service line can be accomplished from the baseline. If you are so inclined to stay close to the net for a warm-up then make it worthwhile and go volley-to-volley. In other words, get your eyes focused and your feet moving in a game of ‘reflex volleys’. This is a great way to get the motor running.

If you can’t keep the ball in the play for more than six hits (with the correct speed and spin) you should be backing up to give your partner/opponent more of an opportunity to bounce the ball in front of you. More time and more space is always the answer if you are struggling. Standing in no man’s land or about 2 meters inside the baseline is a suitable solution to this ever rising problem. Hitting the ball with topspin, controlling the depth, and landing it in the ideal spot for the person on the other side of the net is a difficult task to say the least. My guess is ten percent of the recreational members can do this properly (inside the service line) and gain the benefit it was intended for.

What I see are terrible habits that come from this drill. One of the biggest issues with club players is a lack of racquet speed. Standing inside the service line and guiding the ball back to your opponent exacerbates the problem. Swinging out or hitting with confidence on every ball is a major issue with most 4.5 and below amateurs – most don’t do it. Once the players move back they are not warmed up and they have just wasted ten minutes on a task that has netted no results. 60 minutes of court time is costly and wasting ten minutes can be extremely frustrating. Unless you are out there for a social session and gossiping with your fellow member, short court is not for you. Most members who start from the service line position are constantly talking and not focusing on the task at hand. And therefore, a coffee in the restaurant is probably a more realistic activity.

Short court tennis should mimic a ‘real’ stroke and if it does not then it’s a waste of time. It’s a smaller version of the long, arching, penetrating groundstroke. The difference is mini tennis shots travel about 40 feet while the normal baseline shots are in the 60-70 foot range. To dip the ball over the net with some spin and speed takes an enormous amount of skill. The hand action (brushing) needs to be spot on. And both players need to have equal dexterity to master this exercise. As I said earlier – this is only for the very advanced player. Two 5.0 tennis players can make it work but they must work collectively to extend the rally past ten shots.

If you are going to use the mini tennis exercise and make it beneficial then you must focus on three things:

  1. Footwork: The point of short court is to warm up effectively and feel ready to play once the match begins. This should include a split step every time your partner hits the ball, taking little steps (to nowhere) between each shot, and setting yourself up for each groundstroke as you would on the baseline.
  2. Technique: This is extremely difficult for most recreational players. Simply put – you need to be using full groundstroke mechanics on both forehand and backhand while keeping the ball inside the service boxes. In some cases this is NOT realistic and that’s why I’m adamant that this skill is ONLY for the pros. They are the only ones who can control the speed and rhythm of their swing on a continual basis.
  3. Have a Goal: This is massive. Don’t just aimlessly hit the ball back and forth, have a goal that makes sense for you and your partner (unless it’s a match) and then focus on your own goals and forget about them.

In summary I would skip the short court exercise forever. It is too cumbersome for the ‘average’ player and produces limited results most of the time. Start in 3/4 quarter court and get the feet going right from the get-go and gradually get the spin and speed on the ball where you are feeling comfortable to move back to the baseline for a more standard warm-up. The objective is always to be ready to play once the first serve has been struck. Five minutes on a stationary bike or a quick three minute is jog is all you need to get the heart pumping and the joints limber. This habit will be much more contributive then anything you might do on the tennis court. Time is so valuable in the winter season in Toronto on the tennis courts; don’t waste a portion of your time doing a discipline that is counter-productive, futile and unnecessary.

Next Gen Tennis League promises exciting matches

The Next Gen Tennis League again saw some great tennis last weekend at The Credit Valley Tennis Club and Burlington Tennis Club. This promises that Saturday the 24th will feature some exciting matches and very competitive tennis. All three matches will be played on Saturday October 24th, with Team Byte Network Security facing Team Hydrogen at noon (Burlington Tennis Club).

ITF Men’s 85 World Team Championships Renamed the Lorne Main Cup

Toronto, October 13, 2020 – The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced on Tuesday that, as of 2021, the Men’s 85 World Team Championships will be renamed the Lorne Main Cup after the late Canadian. Lorne Main was selected for the honour following a unanimous vote by the ITF Seniors Committee, and approval from the ITF Board of Directors, after his name was put forward by Tennis Canada as part of the nomination process.
 

A New Reality By Nicolas Pereira

This past week in the World Team Tennis ‘Bubble” I have seen the efforts to keep everyone safe while carrying on a team competition with around 60/70 players and coaches onsite. Counting organizers, officials, media, and support personnel are around 150 people trying hard to make this happen. I am very impressed by how the strict protocol has been handled and how everyone is invested in making this event a success, but The Open is a completely different scale of details.

WEBINARS
VIDEOS
ARCHIVED NEWS
Yves Boulais: No Excuses… Get Working

Yves was proud to work with players including Greg Rudsedski, Patricia Hy, Oliver Marach, Eugenie Bouchard and Rebecca Marino, who achieved excellent results on the world stage. He was an Olympic Coach in Barcelona 1992 & Atlanta 1996, and Captain of the Canadian FedCup Team 1998 – 2000.

Update on UK Tennis Situation with Master Louis Cayer

I would like to share a mindset I instil in all the players I coach, one I believe has greatly influenced all of the player’s performances; “whatever happens, I can handle it.” This mindset is achieved through a systematic, tactical development process, so that whoever the opponent, whatever the surface, regardless of the environment, or scoring, the players can, and will rise to the challenge as it is presented.

Tennis Guru, Louis Borfiga Shares What Makes “A Good Coach?”

Many are asking this question, each with their own opinion, their own truth. In reality, it is difficult to answer with certainty, as the evaluation method can vary from one person to another. However, when you think about it, when you look at the references in the field of coaching in various sports, there are certain common and fundamental elements that I will describe to you here…