When watching a pro match you tend to focus on the ball, start focusing on the players feet and you see tennis in a whole new light.
First, we need to understand what a split step is and why all players should be doing it.
A split step is simply a little jump or hop, landing on the ball of your foot so you can pivot and push off. The split is timed so you land a fraction of a second after your opponent makes contact with the ball.
Federer does the split every single time and it's effortless, and it allows him to react quickly!
Whether it be a groundstroke, volley or to return a serve, players split to ready themselves for the incoming ball. One of the biggest mistakes I see, is splitting after you know where the ball is going and by that time its too late!
In lessons, I always like to compare the split to sprinters at the start gun. Imagine that a sprinter is not in their starting block, but rather just stood up with straight legs - seems strange and would be slow, right? That's what you're doing by not splitting in tennis.
Now let's assume that the sprinter is in the blocks, they're set up for success.
They need to be balanced so they can push off the ground correctly.
Have 'soft' knees so they are explosive.
Go too early - it's wasted energy.
Go too late - they are losing precious time.
Now let's relate all that information back to tennis. If you split just before the player makes contact and land on the balls of your feet then you are balanced, this means you can quickly push off the ground to react and be as best prepared for your next shot.
Contact me here if you wish to book in a tennis lesson, or if your'e in the Brighton & Hove area, then find come me at St Ann's so I can show you a well executed split step!
Tom Honeywood, Tennis Coach