Joe: How to play mini-tennis is important.
A lot of tennis players, when they come on a tennis court, they open their can of balls, they run to the baseline, and they start belting the ball back and forth from the baseline. Not a good idea. A good recipe for injury. Okay?
So mini-tennis is when both players are standing just a step past the service line, facing each other on either side of the court, and they hit the ball very softly to each other. Why do you want to do that? First of all, it's a good way to warm up. It's a good way to warm up your wrists and your calves, because you're bouncing a little bit. But you're just trying to stroke the ball. You're not trying to win the warm up. Okay? You're trying to get your body, and your partner's body, your opponent's body, warmed up.
It's also a good way to feel the ball. Feel the ball on your racket. And it's also a good way to keep your eyes on the ball. Start to focus on that ball. Rather than taking big hard swings, and hurting yourself, this is a good way to start out. Most of the pros that I know start out warming up with mini-tennis. You'll be surprised. Try it. It's going to be hard at first, but if you master that, you're going to have a good method to warm up.
Kirk: Also, with mini-tennis I try to tell people, "Look, the ball's coming at you slowly." You have time to move to the ball, get in good position. Don't get sloppy and just take a lunge for the ball. It's not a fast ball. Quick little steps. Put yourself in good position. Get used to having a soft hand on the racket, so when you go back to the baseline, you can keep those hands soft and still hit powerful but effortless swings.
Don't think of the hand as a source of your power in tennis. The hand merely holds the racket. It doesn't squeeze the racket. Most people we ask how much the racket weighs ,they say, "Oh, about five pounds." It's 11 ounces, but if I squeeze long enough it feels like five pounds.
So mini-tennis helps you come out of the gate. Playing soft, soft hands. Move your feet, and warm your muscles up without pulling a muscle the first ball you hit in the baseline.
Joe: And all the students that I first teach mini-tennis to, they have a hard time doing what we've just described. So you've got to go out and try to master mini-tennis, and it'll help master tennis.