In general, most people would agree that speed or distance over time is an important component to tennis court coverage. What many people do not agree on is whether or not an athlete can be trained to achieve great speed. It is definitely true that some athletes are naturally faster and stronger than others because of the length of their limbs, muscle attachments, and amount of white/fast-twitch muscle fiber they possess. I can testify to the fact that on many occasions I have both witnessed and strength coaches have told me about situations of untrained athletes being faster or stronger than trained athletes. While it is true that not all players have the genetic makeup to become Olympic caliber speedsters, with proper training all players can and will significantly improve their own speed and strength capabilities. Now, it is time to focus on the two most basic elements of tennis speed.
In this article, the two general components of speed (distance over time) that will be looked at are stride length and stride frequency. Stride length is the distance covered in one stride while running. In order to increase the length of a stride, maximum force during sprints must be increased. Stride length can be increased through resistance training such as weight training, sled or tire pulling, running uphill, running with weighted vests, plyometrics, elastic cord resisted runs, running with chutes, harness/cord resistance etc. Stride frequency is the number of steps taken over a specific distance or time. In order to improve stride frequency, sprint assisted training such as running downhill or cords that pull the athlete may be used.
When performing drills for stride length and stride frequency it is of utmost importance to make certain that proper running form is not sacrificed. During stride length training, stride frequency must be kept at normal levels and during stride frequency training; stride length must be kept at normal levels. Therefore, the fitness for tennis coach should make sure that the overspeed devices or resistances used are not too great or too heavy for the athlete.
Please note that for this article we have only placed our focus on getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. This absolute measure of tennis speed is only one basic element of getting to tennis balls faster. There are many aspects of court coverage that must be looked at when developing a fitness program for tennis. Along with raw speed, some tennis footwork court coverage necessities are reaction, agility, anaerobic conditioning, first step explosiveness, balance, and flexibility. All of those aforementioned tennis footwork elements should be focused upon and enhanced for a physical conditioning program for tennis program to be most effective.