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Playing Tennis Without a Court

Finding an open tennis court isn't always easy. Most of us have run into situations where we showed up to play, then found no court available. Here are a few off-court tennis games and drills you can use to make the best of such situations.

String Catch: Learning to catch a ball on your strings is lots of fun and also useful in that it develops a good feel for softening the racquet-ball impact as one would do for a drop shot or drop volley. Start around 10 feet from your partner.

  1. Hit the ball gently toward your partner's forehand side, around waist-high.
  2. He tries to catch the ball on his strings, preferably without any detectable bounce.
  3. He gives you a similar feed.
  4. Once you get good from 10 feet, try 15, then 20, and so on.
  5. Backhand catches are much harder for most. Give them a try.

Volley-Volley: This familiar on-court drill can be done on any surface, including grass. Here's a progression of variations that will make it more interesting. For each of these, start around 20 feet away from your partner and try for 12 consecutive hits.
  1. First, try for 12 consecutive volleys of any kind.
  2. Next goal: all-forehand volleys.
  3. Now try all backhand.
  4. Next is crisscross, where you hit to your partner's forehand, she hits to your backhand, you hit to her backhand, then she hits to your forehand.
  5. Last, try the advancing volley, where you take a small step closer with each hit. Remember to take it easy on the power when you get close.

Bungee Tennis: This ball on a rubber band, tied to a heavy anchor, goes by many names. You can find one for $10-15 at most pro shops. It's like a portable backboard that you can use on any paved surface. You can even play a competitive one-on-one game:
  1. Divide the court into a left and right half, using the anchor as the divider.
  2. To prevent hitting one another, each player's shots must land on the other's half.
  3. All shots will bounce once at the rubber band's full extension, then the next bounce must be at least as far back as the block.
  4. Use traditional tennis or table tennis scoring.

Tennis Golf: This game may have limited usefulness, but it makes up for it in pure fun. Each player needs her own distinguishable ball.
  1. Just as in regular golf, the goal is to reach a destination in as few shots as possible.
  2. Set pars to make the game competitive. Where an advanced adult might have a par of three, a young child might have a par of seven. If the adult takes three shots and the child six, the child is ahead by one.
  3. Each player hits toward the first target, say a telephone pole.
  4. Wherever the ball ends up, the player may take one step, then hit again.
  5. Count how many shots it takes to reach the target.
  6. Proceed to the next target.
  7. One of the most fun parts of the game is getting to hit the ball as far as you can (which is never particularly helpful in regular tennis).
  8. Avoid targets near thick bushes, traffic, water, and other ball-eaters.
Do you have any off-court games or drills to suggest? Join our forum discussion.

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