The First Strokes to Learn in Teaching Yourself How to Play Tennis

Man Waiting To Serve On Tennis Court
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The best way to begin playing tennis is to get good instruction right from the start so that you never develop bad habits. The most effective instruction is a set of on-court lessons from a highly qualified pro, but that option isn't always available, and many players do very well learning from other sources like the step-by-step, photo-based lessons below. These lessons will convey the same core of information that you would learn in a live lesson, but unlike a live pro, your computer can't observe what you're doing and give you feedback.

Although your computer isn't smart enough to be a teaching pro, current technology can help you teach yourself. Amazingly, cameras that shoot decent video have gotten less expensive than one or two private tennis lessons. If you bring a video camera and a tripod or friend to film your strokes, you can watch yourself and carefully compare what you're doing to a photo-based lesson. You might also have a friend study the lesson and then critique your video. If you're going out to learn and practice with another beginner, you can take turns filming each other.

The first tennis stroke you should learn is the basic Eastern forehand. It's an easy, comfortable stroke, and once you know it, you can start rallying with another player.

It will take quite a skilled and cooperative rallying partner, though, to hit always to your forehand, so you'll soon want to learn a backhand. You can hit a backhand with one hand or two, and each has its advantages.

The two-handed backhand is easier to learn for most people, but some players find the one-handed backhand more comfortable and effective. Most players do best by learning the two-hander quickly, seeing how they like it for a while, and then trying the one-hander for comparison.

Basic volleys are simple strokes that you will probably be able to execute well on easy balls within a few minutes.

The basic forehand volley is the simplest, because you can start off using the same grip you use for your Eastern forehand groundstroke. The basic backhand volley is also easy, but you will have to get used to using one hand and a new grip if you've been hitting two-handed backhand groundstrokes. As soon as you get used to the most basic elements of volleying, you'll want to try a new grip, Continental, that works for both forehand and backhand volleys.

The next stroke to learn is the basic overhead. You won't hit overheads as often as the other basic strokes, but they're easy and fun to hit, and they'll help you learn the serve.

The basic serve is considerably more complicated than the other basic strokes, because it requires coordination and timing of more different elements, but serves are the easiest strokes to practice all by yourself, because you don't need anyone to hit you the ball. Just be careful not to ingrain any bad habits like meeting the ball low or omitting the elbow bend in your hitting arm. Video of yourself will be especially helpful on serves.

With basic forehands, backhands, volleys, overheads, and serves all functioning reasonably well, you'll be ready to start playing matches, and you'll want to know how to keep score.

The following articles will start you thinking tactically and strategically in matches, and most of their suggestions will be within reach of your stroking skills:

Welcome to tennis!