The split is a simple movement that quickens your first steps to the ball. It can also help to get you away from balls that are struck close to you. In my opinion it’s absolutely vital if you’re going to move effectively on a tennis court.
If you’ve never accessed coaching online or in person there’s a chance you won’t have heard of the split or split-step so that’s a good reason for not doing it. What’s everyone else’s excuse?
Seriously, I see very few players at recreational level split and it’s a pity because it would have hugely positive effect on your movement. Here’s what you need to do:
Just before your opponent hits the ball, jump into the air and land roughly 2 x shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and put your weight on the balls of your feet.
As your opponent strikes the ball, you’ll be at approximately your highest point off the ground, landing after they make contact so you can then determine which direction the ball is travelling.
You can now push out of your split knowing whether to move forwards/backward or right/left. If you start your split on your opponent’s contact or later, your feet will be hitting the ground well after their contact which will lead to you coming out of the split too late to get to the ball in time.
I know that players are reluctant to split for a variety of reasons. Some feel self conscious and think that it’s just something that pros do. Others tell me it feels awkward and slows them down. Well, it might take a little bit of time to get used to but it will be definitely worth it and after a while you’ll be splitting without knowing.
Whatever your misgivings, I wholeheartedly recommend that you start to incorporate it into your game. The truth is the split will definitely help you get into position faster and it’s one of the few things that you have complete control of so the sooner you start doing it, the better.