My Best Workout!

Rod Laver (Ken Munson photo)

If you want a great tennis workout + an excellent way to improve all of your strokes, try doing “Two-on-one drills.”  But to get the most benefit, you have to do them right.

Aussie Origins

The concept was created by legendary Australian tennis coach, Harry Hopman; and I have been using it for years to get a great practice session and workout.  The basic concept: rotating through a series of drills, the players who are on the “two side” are the cooperative practice partners, who are working for the benefit of “the one.”

According to Rod Laver, interviewed on, (LINK) “As any schoolchild can tell you, the secret to success is practice. But as a tennis champion can explain, it’s not just any kind of practice that produces results. The work you do in preparation for your matches has to be focused and intense, simulating the most challenging aspects of match play. Harry Hopman, the famous Australian coach, whipped a long line of players into shape—including me, Frank Sedgman, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle, John Newcombe, and Tony Roche—with a grueling regimen that prepared us for the rigors of top-flight tennis.”

The Drills

After a good warmup session, according to Rocket Rod, you rotate around these drills…

  1. Two at the net, one at the baseline

This version is intended to give the player at the baseline a real test, but the net players should move him around, not put the ball away. (For example, if the person at the baseline is pulled wide, the net man shouldn’t hit the ball into the opposite corner.) Not only does this allow the person at the baseline to get a good workout and hit lots of balls from challenging positions, it’s also good for the net players because they can practice placing their volleys.

But if the baseline player can put the ball away, he should do so. This is the time to work on passing shots, topspin lobs, and knocking off short balls. The baseline player should be careful not to get sloppy and hit shots that would go out if there weren’t two players fielding them at net. Otherwise, his hard work will be for nothing. Do one round, with each player spending five minutes at the baseline.

  1. One at the net, two at the baseline

Hitting at the net against two players at the baseline is a wonderful way to shape all parts of your frontcourt game. The net man’s goal is to practice placing the ball. Start out with the two at the baseline hitting ground strokes to the net guy, then have them begin to throw in lobs.

They don’t have to be winning lobs; just be sure that you give the net man a chance to take some of them in the air. After hitting a smash, the net person has to get back up to the net in time for the next ball before it bounces. That way, as soon as you hit the overhead you learn to get right back into volleying position. In turn, the baseline players should try to hit the ball at the net man’s feet. Do one round, with each player spending five minutes at the net.

  1. All three at the net

This is like a volley duel; it should be rapid fire. Start by getting a rhythm, then pretty much hit the ball as hard as you can without sacrificing control. If you’re the single person at the net, move the ball around. Hit one or two shots to the same person and then hit to the other to get a feel for placing the ball in all directions from different angles.

Similarly, the two players should give the one a mix of forehand and backhand volleys. This variation of the two on-one drill helps you learn to keep your racquet out in front of you when you’re volleying. Do one round, with each player spending five minutes as the single player.

  1. Serve and Volley (George’s addition)

Two Players are at the baseline and take turns serving one point at a time to the one player, who is returning.  The format is “cross-court doubles,” where all balls are played cross-court and the server rushes the net to practice volleys.  Play is continuous, as soon as one server finishes the point, the other is at the service line.

Some basic guidelines:

  • You should play with at least a dozen or more practice balls; so that you are not spending time picking up balls.
  • The “two” players should start with all the balls and feed to the “one”
  • And the “two” should have a ball in hand; so that play is continuous
  • Be the “one” as long as you can, without dominating too much time

Anybody else do these drills and have suggestions/additions?

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at

My Book: if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page to go to, look at the list of places under “My Book” on the bar above, or ask me what clubs are carrying it!

3 thoughts on “My Best Workout!

  1. Excellent post, George. I remember Rocket, Emmo and Newk talking about these drills but frankly I never recorded the details. But now you have!! 🙂

    Marty, it was part of their great conditioning program! George

  2. Well done George.

    I agree with Laver that these drills require ‘cooperation’ from specific players. Some personalities don’t get it and it can destroy these 2 on 1 drills.

    The Aussies have (had?) such a great team mindset where cooperating was never an issue. It really showed up with how well they played doubles … “play for your partner”.

    Brent, sounds like have also (like me) played with guys who “just don’t get it” and hit winners when they should be feeding. thanks, george

  3. Brett’s comment reminds me of the annoying opponents we have all had in matches who don’t get the point of the warm up. Instead of trying to groove one’s strokes, and courteously help one’s opponent do the same, there is the occasional lout who just tries to hit winners or who sends you unhittable junk balls during warm up. I have been known to point out to such opponents that the match begins when the match begins, and no one gets a prize for winning the warm up. Strangely, it is almost always the weaker players who do this. Like the pros, the accomplished veteran and other better players almost universally “get it.”

    Marty, i have played with those same guys! george

Comments are closed.