Here’s the thing – lots of club players think that practice is just to go out and play a game with a buddy. So, that’s what they do, play a normal game. Yet, if you were being coached, and there was an evil machine primed to mercilessly fire balls at you to work on a certain shot, you’d certainly recognize that as practice.
But why not combine the two extremes? If you have, say, a club tournament coming up in a few weeks, why not use your weekly, or however often, game with a friend in a way that makes it more useful? For example, you know that your serve is not the best part of your game; perhaps your pal is less confident with their backhand or forehand return.
Okay – here’s the drill. For an entire set, you’ll be the server – every game, every point. If you want to make it sharper, allow yourself only one serve and no faults. Across the net, your partner aims to return every shot with a backhand, or alternate with their forehand – and the rally only continues if the serve is good and the return is one or the other.
In this way, you both gain genuine practice time in the key areas where you most want to work. Of course, there are endless variations on the theme. If a set is too long, then perhaps you could each serve three or four games at a time – especially if you both want to practice serving and returning.
Accept that this idea will feel weird the first time you try it – and you might feel the competitive element has been diminished when it’s one of your favorite reasons for playing, particularly with, or against, long-time friends and opponents. Yet, in a way, all you have done is added another element of competition, because now you are trying to better yourself as well.
This idea probably won’t work for everyone, and this might be especially true when you only play for the genuine fun involved. But, if you are keen to be that little bit better, then it’s a drill worth trying. You might even task each other, from week to week, to come up with a different idea for each of your practice matches!
Photo: Johanna Konta by Carine06 licensed under Creative commons 5