Saturday, September 28, 2013


You have heard of the split step before, but what is it, really? In tennis, it is a short little hop, a bunny hop, if you will, that lasts for only a second, and prepares you for an incoming shot.  Sounds easy, right?

The split step is probably one of the most misunderstood tools in the game of tennis.  Watch the pros. Especially Li Na.  So much of tennis success is footwork.  

Li Na shows us that to get her focus accurate, and for perfect precision in hitting the ball early precisely to her target, she splits as her opponent is hitting the ball, then hits her return in kind.  Sometimes she will split her feet wide apart, hence the "split," and then push off to get to a ball. Other times the split is subtle, watch for it, it is still there if ever so slightly. That is it!  That is what it takes, but HOW doe she do it?  

Take a look at this Youtube, and analyze closely, especially the second and third sets.

Li Na is in  the  blue on the right, from a match against Ana Ivanovic in Toronto 2013. At the start of the video her back is to us, and you can observe directly her timing, her focus, her footwork. This focus and determination is what wins points, games and matches.  Li Na won Toronto at 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5).  

Ana fought well, she had a nice split step too, but not enough to keep her balance for the duration of a three set match, albeit one that goes to a tiebreaker.I think Li Na was behind a lot because early on, her split step timing was off.  Li Na chose to stay in the match, working on her timing, her shot production, and even down 1-4 in the third set, she held on, believed in her shots, her timing improved, and she took the set and match. 

Moral of the story~ no need to choke, just focus on your best shots, hang in there!

Take a good look at Li Na. She must have very strong ankles! One exercise that I do is while doing any mundane chore, is to stand on my toes, and even do slight knee bends. Do this while doing the dishes,  any housework in general, blowdrying your hair, while waiting in line somewhere, even at your desk (writing a blog, perhaps?).  Strong ankles will help immensely in guarding your footwork. 

Click the image below to get the itinerary of a full day's workout, Training Day Starring Li Na~

by Brook Larmer, The New York Times

Working out is key, there are no easy short cuts.  I was reading in the May/June 2013 issue of Tennis Magazine a feature Chrissie's View from Chris Evert, who mentioned that Martina Navratilova became strong on court through her mental resolve to be the fittest woman on the tennis circuit of her time. 

To be the fittest (or the fairest of them all), I truly think mastering the split step will get you there.  Because, along with the split step, I have learned that controlled breathing goes right along with this mastery.  Try to coordinate the breathing, the ball tracking, the split step, the push off from the legs to get to the ball, and you have a lot going on!!

Nota bene~ So much in tennis is about timing, and the split step is your ultimate weapon in gaining time for yourself and robbing time from your opponent. This robbing of time will upset the balance of your opponent and force errors on their part.  Try it and see.

So, right now, get on the balls of your feet, right now, and hop!  Do it again!!  Hop this time with your feet split apart, that is all that the 'split' in the split step means, and now hop again!!!  In fact, I am going out for a run, easy and best way to burn calories, stay on the balls of the feet and imagine split stepping in a match, plus enjoy some sunshine and get some natural Vitamin D besides.

Get hopping!

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