Using Small Ball Warmup

With Timm Rinehart
With Timm Rinehart
Most players still hit warmups for a match starting at the baseline with ground strokes; but there is a growing movement to start with both players at the net hitting “small ball.”

Hand-Eye Warmup

According to, if you warm up properly on mini court, you’ll warm up all the “systems” needed for the real game and you’ll make a much smoother transition from not so demanding situations before you stepped on the court to much more demanding situations that happen in the real game of tennis.

A good warm up lowers the chances of hurting yourself, enables you to immediately start hitting the ball well from the baseline and therefore increases your satisfaction and enjoyment of the game and allows you to get a quick head start in a match because your opponent most likely did not warm up well.

I still mostly use the traditional baseline warmup; but I can see the logic of small ball and will try it.

What do you use and why?

Today’s Doubles Semi’s

My excellent fill-in partner for the week, Timm Rinehart and I played our doubles semi-final match this afternoon (after he won his singles semi’s vs. John Lundquist).

Our opponents were the solid team of Pat Siracusa (who Chuck and I played against in December at Longboat Key… and we survived in a Match Tiebreaker) and Will Roeper of Belleair, Florida. As it turned out, Pat and I were about even in tennis ability; but Timm was stronger than Will.

After a couple of breaks and break-backs, we were serving at 3-2 in the first set … and then mostly took control of the match, winning 9 of the next 12 games for a solid 6-3, 6-2 victory.


Timm plays his singles finals vs. Tom LaPenna at 11 am; and then we team up at 2 p.m. for the doubles finals vs. another solid team of Richard Bruer and Bill Christensen, both from nearby Clearwater, Florida.

For all the other results and draws, click HERE

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11 thoughts on “Using Small Ball Warmup

  1. I always start small ball. We call it “mini”. My experience is that most of the teaching pros start the session this way.

    it just seems to tune up my “eye hand” get’s the muscles moving in a way that feels right on both sides. It seems easier once we both move to the base line.

    Jim, i the few times i have done it, seems to be accurate. thanks, george

  2. I think the best reason for a ‘short court’ warm up is to force players in to a slow ball warm up. I find too many players wanting to hit the ball as hard as they can during a warm up and not concentrating on controlling where the ball goes which is a necessity of a short court exchange. Winning the warm up means nothing.

    Walt, tks. george

  3. I’ve never had anyone try to hit hard in the beginning of the warm-up. Most stay behind the baseline and wait for the ball to get to them no matter how many bounces and get used to hitting the ball smoothly and deep. Wayne Bryan said his boys always started short court but said that when doing so, you should always hit chip shots like you’re volleying. He said it’s great for footwork and loosening up your body and arm. When I’m giving clinics, I always have the players hit on the bounce, short court, but stroke it like a volley.

  4. I use the small ball warm up often because the only way you can hit it is for the lower arm be totally relaxed and fluid. It sets up the situation in the mind also to experience more quietness, a prerequisite for fluidity. One can read the science behind this in my friend’s book, “The 7 Secrets of World Class Athletes” by Steve Yellin available on Amazon.

  5. Don’t like small ball at all.
    Same concept why professional boxers don’t shadow box with weights in their hands but amateurs do as they believe it will make their punches stronger. As it relates to body mechanics its a non- transferable skill.

    I do like the half court warm up but for a different reason. I was taught by Peter burwash that the half court warm up is to slow down and start your play by really looking/focusing at/on the ball. An eye exercise if you will…

    Just my 2 yen. I’m sure everyone’s mileage may vary 🙂

  6. Called “short court” by me. A trade off from my perspective. Any gains in maybe encouraging better foot movement and seeing the ball better are offset by losing the ability to observe the opponent’s preferences, skills and patterns during warm up from the baseline.

  7. My partner And I actually warm each other up during the ten minute warm up because it works a lot better. We started this when some of our opponents had warmed up previously and kept hitting balls out to keep us from warming up properly , to my knowledge it’s not against the rules to warm each other up and a great strategy.

    OhioJack, interesting idea! george

  8. Your readers have covered most of the pluses for warming up on the service line. Also notice how pitchers, quarterbacks, and other athletes warm-up. Its standard in most other sports. Notice how often we get to practice the half-volley and the touch shot–shots we rarely practice any other time. Finally, short court practice improves our skill at taking the ball early.

  9. Warm up – in some tournaments, the “5 minute warmup” precludes small ball to me but I will try to warm up before hand with small ball in two stages: 1) hitting on the bounce with top spin focusing on hitting in front and on the outside of the ball and keeping head, eyes on contact point in an exaggerated manner 2) changing to volleying before the bounce with flat, slice and same vision focus. Much better for me than starting out from baseline with less time to focus on fundamentals. Warms up my balky wrist and allows my slow feet to move as a reminder that footwork is everything, even to those of us that do not have much.

  10. Agree that five-minute warm-up for a match is a little late for mini tennis. But mini tennis is a great way to warm up your strokes and get your timing, provided that you actually swing at the ball in a similar manner to what you hit from the baseline, and not just slice or patty-cake the ball. People often standing right at the service line rather than 3 or 4 feet behind. Here’s a good post on about proper mini tennis:
    And one on essential

    Geoff, that is an excellent video to show how to do it! thanks, george

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