Understanding Tennis movement – A Needs Analysis

If you want to move efficiently and quickly around the tennis court you must be smart with how you train. Understanding the movement demands of the game will allow you to spend more time on the things that will have the biggest impact on your tennis. 

4 phases of movement

Phase 1 – Split step, first step and acceleration. 

Phase 2 – Move to the ball (run, lateral shuffle, back-pedal or by using a cross over step)

Phase 3 – Hit your shot (think about loading and exploding / rotating, your stance and your weight transfer forwards)

Phase 4 – Recover (cross over step, lateral shuffle, running or back-pedalling).

On average there are 4 directional changes per point (up to 15 on a long point).

This tells us that the ability to change direction at speed (agility) is extremely important and is a key area to focus on.

The average rally lasts 7-10 seconds, followed by a 20 second recovery. Actual playing time is 20-30% of the total match time.

If the average rally length is 7-10 seconds, and the rest time is 20 seconds we should be matching this work to rest ratio when thinking about energy system development. Working intensely for 10 seconds with a 20 second rest is going to be more effective than going for long slow runs. Remember if you train slow, you will be slow. 

80% of all shots are played within 2.5 meters and less than 5% are played requiring more than 4.5 meters between shots.

This simply tells us we must be fast over a short distance. If you want to move efficiently and quickly on a tennis court your first step and acceleration must be exceptional. 

More than 70% of all tennis movement is lateral, less than 20% of movement is forwards and less than 8% of movement is backwards.

If 70% of tennis movement is lateral (side to side) then 70% of your movement training must be lateral. Is most of your training linear or lateral?

The two typical recovery movements in tennis are the lateral crossover step and the lateral shuffle.

If a crossover step and lateral shuffle are the most used methods of recovery, how often do you practice them? A lateral shuffle might seem like a very basic movement but the more you practice it the more efficient you will become at this movement pattern. Other options to recover include running and back-pedalling. 


1) Konig, D., Huonker, M., Schmid, A., Halle, M., Berg, A. & Keul, J. (2000) Cardiovascular, Metabolic, and Hormonal Parameters in Professional Tennis Players.  Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33, 4. p. 654-658.

2) Kovacs, M, S. (2009) Movement for Tennis: The Importance of Lateral Training. Strength and Conditioning Journal.,31, 4. p. 77-85.

I hope this post was of value to you. I’d love to hear your thoughts, please do send me a message on Instagram (simonjamescoaching). 

Thank you for reading.

Simon James

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