Tennis is a challenging sport to master. The are a number of skills necessary to be a good tennis player, and one of the most important is footwork. Far too many players overlook the importance of footwork and instead focus on perfecting one or two shots. But the key to making your shots effective is getting yourself in a good position to hit them. The majority of a tennis game involves movement, and your practice should reflect this. Here are five ways that practicing footwork helps improve your tennis game:

1) It gives you more shot options

When you improve your footwork, you gain more flexibility of shot choice because you get into position earlier and with more accuracy. As a result, you can decide which stance to use when you play the shot, whether it’s open stance, closed stance, neutral, or any other stance. You can also choose where to play the shot and what stroke to use. Without mastering footwork, you will have fewer choices available to you and may execute whichever shot you choose poorly.

2) You have greater shot power

Improving your footwork skills allows your shots to have much greater power. This is because getting to the ball and getting set in a good position gives you the chance to hit the ball using as many body parts as you can. If you don’t have good footwork and therefore don’t get into position early, you’ll most likely hit the ball off-balance or you’ll just use your arm.

3) You can stay in points longer

Your agility, your balance and your coordination will all get better when you improve your footwork. These aspects are all critical to being a better tennis player. You will increase your ability to get to the balls, and this will lead your opponent to play more shots than they expected to. This gives your opponent more chances to miss and increases your chances of winning.

4) You’ll make fewer errors

One of the biggest benefits of improving your footwork is reduced error. It has been stated that as much as 70 percent of unforced errors occur because of poor footwork. Improving your footwork could reduce your errors by 7 out of 10.

5) Improved court speed and fitness

Your tennis speed and fitness go hand-in-hand with your footwork. When you improve your footwork, your speed and fitness will improve as well. Many times, a player who is considered technically advanced will lose to a player who has better court speed, movement and fitness. This is mainly because if you have these qualities, you can force your opponent to play more shots. Not only will your opponent be more likely to make errors short term, but your opponent will lose stamina over the course of the game, thus leading to even more potential for errors.

It is clear that if you want to be a skilled tennis player, you should take a solid portion of your practice time to leave your racket in your bag and focus on footwork. To improve your footwork, you need to stop running so much on the court. Only run when you are far from the ball and you cannot get to the ball quickly in any other way. Otherwise, use side shuffles and crossover steps for the majority of your movement on the court.

If you start slow with simple footwork exercises and then gradually increase the difficulty level and the speed of execution, you will reach success in no time. Once you’ve got your footwork down, you’ll be a much better tennis player than when you started.