In the UK, most people now learn how to play on hard courts, instead of the more traditional grass or exotic clay. However, as much as you think you’ve got the unforgiving surface mastered, there are always ways you can improve your hard court game.
We’ve put together a five-point list of tips and tricks to help you gain the upper hand over your opponent and minimise the risk of injury.
1. Get the right kit
Although hard courts provide more grip than grass or clay, there are other drawbacks. As people who regularly jog on concrete or tarmac will know, the hard surface “judders” your leg joints, particularly the knees and feet. As a result, it’s important that you wear shoes made from a tough material with cushioned soles. They will absorb some of the shock that would otherwise travel up your leg muscles and will last longer than standard shoes. A good example is the Asics Gel-Resolution 6.
Moreover, be aware that balls will wear and age very quickly on hard courts. It is, therefore, sensible to purchase better quality, slightly more expensive professional balls because they will last a lot longer. Our recommendation is the Wilson US Open ball, which, as the name suggests, is used at the hard court tournament.
2. Play aggressively
Hard court favours the brave, with the sheer speed of the surface making fiercely struck shots very effective. To put pressure on your opponent, approach the net frequently and look to end the rally as quickly as possible. Another key tip is to flatten your forehand by aiming for the top of the net, instead of adding spin: this means the ball bounces a lot lower, making it more difficult to return.
3. Ace your serve
Considering that ending the point quickly is paramount to playing on hard courts, you should look to finish a rally before it’s even started – with an ace. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but it’s worth investing the time and effort on tailoring your serve for the surface. The three most important elements for your first serve are precision, power and flatness. You should, on the other hand, add more topspin (kick) to your second serve as the ball will bounce at shoulder, or even head, height.
4. Run around the backhand
You of will see professionals running around the backhand to attack with a forehand on hard courts, which goes against a lot of our training. However, this is because a) the ball sits up and b) there is more time to manoeuvre. You should also give this a try if there’s an opportunity to kill the point, but be sparing and make sure it doesn’t drag you out of position.
5. Avoid loose drop shots
You should hit drop shots infrequently when playing on a hard court as the surface causes the ball to bounce kindly for your opponent. If you can’t help yourself, make sure that the ball is well and truly out of reach, with your opponent on the baseline or even further back.