The warm up before your match begins is a vital part of your game. If you have ever attended a professional match, or have a chance to watch the pros during the warm up on television, pay attention to the fact that they appear to be totally in control. But believe me, even the top players in the world have butterflies during this time.
Warming up is even harder for us league players. We don’t have the luxury of ball kids fetching for us and we usually only have three balls to play a match. Therefore, the majority of the warm up is spent picking up tennis balls.
It is good practice to warm up. Get together with your doubles partner and work on being able to rally at least 10 balls each, baseline to baseline without missing. Most players tend to warm up down the line with the player directly in front of them on the other side of the net then when the match begins, the majority of our ground strokes are hit cross court, so practice down the line and cross court.
Then the same thing, 10 balls each, volley to the baseline. Be able to hit at least three overheads back to the player at the baseline, then put the final one away!
It is also usually easier for most club level players to hand feed a lob, rather than trying to lob a ball hit by an overhead. Feed your opponents lobs, out of your hand, so you look like you are in total control of your shot. Also, be able to get at least five serves in a row in on the deuce and add court. Basically, don’t miss any shots during the warm up.
A problem I see on a regular basis is players, (our opponents), attempting to hit winners, during the warm up. Since your opponent is not hitting a consistent ball for you to warm up, it can be difficult for you to be consistent as you were in your practice warm up with your partner. And while there are no real written rules as to warming up, there is a common courtesy that should be followed, that we should be hitting balls that are not winners.
In doubles you need to portray yourself as a team and take charge of the situation right from the start. For your warm up routine I recommend you both stay at the baseline and hit ground strokes for a few minutes, even if your opponents try to warm up, one up and one back. If you need to go to the net to pick up a ball, go back to the baseline and continue hitting ground strokes along with you partner.
If you have practiced your warm ups as recommended, you should not encounter having to pick up balls on your side of the net, since your not missing!
After a few minutes, approach the net and hit some volleys. Remember, you have practiced volleying with your partner at the baseline, so this too should be error free! Your partner should follow suit and warm up volleys with you as a unit at the net.
Once again, if you must go back to the fence to pick up a ball, return to the net and continue to hit volleys. Here is where you can begin to take command of things. After several comfortable looking volleys, instruct your opponents to give you some lobs. After you and your partner confidently hit about half a dozen overheads, both of you return to the baseline and allow your opponents to come to net if they wish.
It is now time to tell your opponents, “let’s take some serves.” Also, don’t be afraid to take a few return of serves on your opponents warm up, there is nothing in the rules that says you can’t. After that, ask your opponents if they are ready to start play? Notice that by this point, you have control of the warm up and are already in command of things. You have not missed too many shots and your feeling pretty good after your warm up.
I also recommend during the warm up, pay attention to your opponents and see if you can spot a weakness in their game ... everybody has one! Is one of your opponents a lefty? It amazes me how many players come off the court and say, I did not realize she was a lefty until half way through the second set!
So warm up like a pro. You are a team on a mission to win, as soon as you walk on the court!
Wayne Clark is a tennis professional at the Marco Island Racquet Center. He is a certified United States Profession Tennis Association professional with more than 25 years of experience, teaching tennis in Texas and Florida.