The “Rules” of Warmup


We go through the ritual every time we play tennis… the warmup.  And while there are some official rules governing this five/ten-minute timeframe, most of the “rules” we follow are unwritten.  Here are some to consider …

  • Small Ball – Many players like to start in the near court with their opponent up close to tap the ball back and forth.  What happens if you don’t want to do that?

  • Drilling the net man – When it is your turn at the net, it is time to warmup YOUR volleys … not the baseliners hard ground strokes.  I think the baseliner should feed you shots you can easily volley; not try to take your head off with their hardest groundstrokes.

  • Giving good overheads – Similarly, when you are taking overheads, it is the baseliners responsibility to give you good feeds.  This is done best when they hit the ball out of their hand and NOT when they try to return your practice overhead.

  • Returning practice serves – Most players believe it is bad form to return practice serves; but I think you should have the opportunity to warmup that critical shot, your return of serve.  When we play the Friendship Cup vs. the Canadians, they always return practice serves.

  • Hiding your game – Do you know players who only give you very soft shots during the warmup; but then drill the ball during the match?  Or, who hit only forehands during the warmup; but really prefer their backhands?  OK by me.

P.S. Did you know that for a doubles match, you CAN choose to warmup vs. your own partner and NOT vs. the opponents?

What are your additional rules of warmup?

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9 thoughts on “The “Rules” of Warmup

  1. Even though you can choose to warm up with your partner we just don’t see that
    happening. I believe it is because the other team would be offended and its not worth
    that risk. When taking serves I don’t believe the receiver should return the ball. We are taking serves not returns and there is not enough time during warm ups to do both.

    Phil, thanks for your input. george

  2. Here is my approach to the warm-up. Everything needs to be done in the Pre-warmup. I will stretch and do light band and dynamic muscle activation. I will also work out any trigger points. When I get to the court the warm serves only two purposes. It’s a courtesy to help my opponent warmup and it’s time for me to examine their game.

    I will hit some balls to their forehand going through the three panels. (High, Medium, Low) balls to see what they can do with them. Then, I move to the backhand and do the same. I ask for a few lobs to see which side they lob best from, carefully hitting medium overheads to both sides. I watch them at the net with their volleys and overheads making notes. When it’s time to serve I watch the type of spin carefully to get a feel of how to best hit returns.

    If you can get through the warmup without missing a single ball you send a loud and clear message before you start.

    Since I know that we can not control how others are going to warmup I simply don’t depend upon this. I could just walk out and begin play if they like or go through the formalities.

    If being concerned about the warmup is in your head when you are starting the match then you are beginning the match with a less than optimized mindset. Hope this helps some of you.

    Coach Fred, bodyhelix.com

    Fred, great point … the pros do their warmup OFF the court and come out ready to play. thanks, george

  3. The match starts with the warm-up…
    Having said that – the warm-up is an opportunity to ‘test’ your opponent by observing how they deal with all types of shots given to them. However, tennis is a gentleman’s sport and in the interests of fairness, it is important to give your opponent the opportunity to play all types of shots.
    I have had experiences where a player has not done this… on one occasion, before a singles match, a player would not give me a backhand to hit. Every time I manoeuvred for him to hit me a backhand, he deliberately put the ball into the net. By the rules, I could have asked for my own hitting partner – but I didn’t want to start the match with an argument!
    On another occasion in doubles, our opponents wanted to start at the net hitting volleys to us in the back court which upset our rhythm from the off.
    I have sometimes had players who wanted to change ends so they could practice serves at each end (this isn’t allowed in the rules).
    Some people will try anything to get into your head!

    Allan, great examples! thanks, george

  4. The more I encounter it, the more I become convinced hitting “short court” is a complete waste of time in warming up for a match. None of the ritual in any way mimics what goes on in real play, either singles or doubles. Further, the ball does not travel far enough across the net to force anyone to really move their feet so it does not even have an aerobic benefit. The ball is generally not hit fast enough or with enough spin to aid an experienced player’s hand to eye coordination. Therefore, I honestly don’t see any benefit to the exercise. It seems to be just an excuse to hit what amount to bad drop shots while standing close to the net…. Fine for beginners or not so good players, I suppose, but of no useful value for anybody above about a 3.0 rating I believe.

    Does anyone else feel the same as I do? If so, what do you do when an opponent insists on wasting precious warm up time hitting useless short court when the warm up that you REALLY want is the traditional stand on the baseline and hit real shots approach?

    I used to be more polite about this and go along with an opponent’s desire for short court if they were insistent, provided that it did not go on for too long — no more than 2 or 3 minutes is about the maximum that I can tolerate. But lately I have just been getting crotchety about it to the point that I refuse to do it. Maybe that is rude, I don’t know, but why should I waste my own warm up time appeasing an opponent in a useless ritual like this?

    Am I being ridiculous about this, or do others feel the same?

    Marty, funny … i feel EXACTLY the same way and am now trying to avoid short court warmup. thanks, george

  5. All good comments. My short court is about beginning to watch ball coming off the opponents and my racquet . A few hits.

    Howie, yes, that is the alleged purpose … hand/eye awakenings. thanks, george

  6. I use short court to start as a preference to warm up my balky wrist – if my first shot is off a hard baseline drive, there is often a warning pain that lingers through out the match. Also, accentuating the footwork with plenty of time to do it, making sure the contact point is out in front, watching the contact with the ball rather than where I want the ball to go, exhaling (quietly, screamers are lazy and inconsiderate, all the benefits of a strong exhalation at contact can be gained without noise). These basic fundamentals are easier to focus on when you have the short ball time and pace.
    I usually do not ask to do short ball in the 5-10 minute warm up before a “real” match but do it in my prematch warm up. I find short ball useful and accept that others do not – how does the song go “different strokes for different folks”?

    Winder, doing short ball on a wall before a match works too. thanks, george

  7. I think Fred Robinson’s summary in his 2nd paragraph is the best I’ve seen regarding an on-court assessment of an opponent’s preferences and strength/weaknesses. George – I also like your terminology of “hand/eye awakenings” that can be helpful for a short 2-3 minute interval but not a good use of time for a warmup limited to ~ 10 minutes or less. I think that PRACTICING RETURN OF SERVICE is a very important piece, often not done because it is “outside the norm”. I’ll generally try it at least 2 or 3 times and regard it as ridiculous to worry about offending someone who isn’t used to it. If they “don’t get it”, maybe it will become a ‘teachable moment’.

    Dag, i usually finish my serve practice before my opponent and will then return a couple of his. thanks, george

  8. Short court or “mini-tennis” can have value….if done correctly. Unfortunately, it rarely is. Most players, particularly at the recreational level, use their short court time to socialize. If done with focus and purpose, it can be a nice way to get the feet moving, warm up the body and begin to get a “feel” for the ball. It can also be a fabulous training exercise. Two players playing mini-tennis sets is a great way to work on your touch as well as get a super workout.

    Greg, yes, if done correctly! thnks, george

  9. Two thoughts re the above thoughtful comments:

    1.) Fred’s super helpful advice just goes to show why is he a LOT better than me!!!!

    2.) I DO like a short court warm up, for the same reason that Howie stated….hand/eye focus!

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