2-on-1 Drills

If you are looking for a way to both get a great workout and improve your tennis skills, having a practice session that uses 2-on-1 Drills will do the trick.

Basic Principles

Tennis lore has it that legendary Australian coach Harry Hopman was the one who first used 2-on-1 Drills to hone the skills of the likes of Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle, John Newcombe and others.

A variety of different drills can focus on your groundstrokes, volleys, overheads, and fitness.  Of the three players on the court, the man alone is always the one being ‘worked’ and the other two players hold all the balls and are the feeders.  And then you rotate and change roles.

Some of the Drills

Here are just some of the basic drill structures; and, after a normal warmup, the player alone goes for four or five minutes (or until tired).

1) One man baseline, two at the net: In this setup, the net players (who have all the practice balls) feed the balls to the open court – but within a distance that the baseliner can track them down. The baseline player tries to get to all and hit passing shots.  The pace of feeding should be fast enough to keep the baseliner on the move for their 4-5 minutes.

2) One man at the net, two at the baseline: After rotating all players through the first structure, the players essentially reverse positions and the two Baseliners feed a steady stream of balls at the net man to volley or hit overheads.

3) Overheads:  In this structure, the baseline feeders again have all the balls and feed overheads to the player at the net.  A variation on this is where they feed the net player alternating volleys and overheads.  This one is guaranteed to get the heart pumping!

4) Serve, Return, and Volley: Here, you play cross-court (ghost) doubles, where two players take turns serving to the man alone; and you play out each point, with the server coming to the net after their serve.  You can keep individual score and play King of the Returning Hill … where the first server to win three points takes over the returning function.

5) Reflex Volleys: This is a great way to end the practice session, with all three players at the net (standing on the service line).  The idea is the not baby the volley, but hit driving shots (but within the reach of the opposing player).

Have YOU ever tried 2-on-1 Drills?  What variation on the theme do you have?

Heart Update

Thanks to those who shared names of their “favorite cardiologists.”  I now have an appointment to see Dr. Julian Javier (son of) on March 1st to be my follow-up cardiologist for the rest of my life.

My rehab is going slowly, with small successes to note each day. I know, I know, “one day at a time.”

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9 thoughts on “2-on-1 Drills

  1. Excellent reminder of a terrific way to train. Thanks for always thinking of cool topics! Glad you are keeping positive and improving. As they say, recovery is a marathon not a sprint!

    Laury, thanks for both! (i feel like i am at mile 5) george

  2. Yes – I really like 2 on 1 drills. The single guy gets a great workout and gets to really work on hitting passing shots or shots that will at least result in a forced error. The doubles guys have to hit EVERY ball back but juuust within reach, which in itself is not always easy to do.


  3. George, you remind me of the time that I saw an exhibition on a Westchester, NY grass court between Hopman’s boys….in this case Laver, Emerson and two others whom I can’t remember.
    Emerson played badly….lazy and just not into it….Hopman was furious and told them quietly not to leave the court after the match was over. I heard him say that so I decided to stick around. He put Emerson at the net and had Laver and a third guy (Newcombe, Rosewall, Stolle??) pelt balls at Emerson, both volleys and groundstrokes. I would say that one out of every 5 balls hit Emerson, who winced sharply when he was hit. After about twenty minutes, Emerson was exhausted, and Hopman called an end to it…..lesson learned.

    John, great story! thanks. george

  4. 4) Serve, Return, and Volley – my group here in Virginia Beach plays a version of this where the two servers are each playing an independent game against the returner. If the returner wins one of the games, he gets a game with the goal being the first to win a set, six games. If the server wins a game, he switches with the returner but does not get a game, only the opportunity to win one returning. This format not only gives excellent doubles practice when only 3 players, but it protects the best player from the normal doubles routine of having most of the shots being hit to his partner. My partner in a recent doubles practice match said during the match “I am only hitting 1 out of every 5 shots”; hard to guess who the better player was!

    Winder, we typically score just the opposite… individual games where only the server can win points. As long as the returner can hold them off, he can continue to return. thanks, george

  5. I hosted a player from Portugal for a tournament in Ojai, Ca. He and his doubles partner from Russia, won the doubles trophy. He qualified for the US Open, He lost in 3d round qualifying. Roger Federer then approached him and asked him if he would join him on 3 on 1 drill team for the entire week. He did so and emailed me daily. Said the drill went for 2 hours every day, that it was always 3 on 1, and that all 3 guys were exhausted at the end of every workout and that Roger would just stay on the court and practice serves. Gary Pederson

    Gary WOW. thanks, george

  6. Great, great drills for sure. We do use them and I find they do help with the mind and reactions when playing.

  7. A favorite two-on-one volley drill I enjoy is where on player starts behind the service line,
    because that’s where you usually make your first volley after the serve. The other two players are both on the opposite baseline hitting balls to you. Volley alternating to each player while they vary which side-forehand or
    backhand-they hit to. That way you’re hitting volleys both crosscourt and down the line.
    After 3-5 minutes, move up to the normal volleying position, almost halfway from the service line to the net. After another 3-5 minutes, bring the other two players up to the net and practice rapid-fire volleying the same way. Then rotate so another player is he volleyer. The goal, as you volley, is to focus on moving forward keeping your feet moving. Get down to low balls, keeping your eyes as close to the level of the ball as possible. If you get high balls when you’re close to the net, try to angle them for winners and move up on floaters. Mobility is key at the net, so move forward on the volley, stay focused on your target areas and improvement in accuracy will follow.

    glenn, I agree that one of the most important and least practiced shots is the service line volley! What i do when am the man alone hitting volleys in the drills is to continually back up to the service tee, take the volley, move forward, move forward. then rinse and repeat. thanks, george

  8. Two on one drills are staples! One that I like is a server with their partner at the net. Serve to the receiver who hits a return at the net player or a lob. You can also practice poaching off this set up. The receiver would hit a crosscourt return and net player crosses on a poach.

    Chuck, yup… have done that one with you and good for practicing poaching. thanks, george

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