Coach Corner: Mini Tennis Will Improve Your Overall Game
I used to hit with a guy named Javier Kleber Espinoza who was friends and also a hitting partner with Gilad Bloom. Bloom was once a top rated junior and also a top 75 ATP pro who played all the majors. Bloom also played some USTA Eastern and national events.
About ten years ago, before he moved to Tampa, Espinoza told me that Bloom had a simple warm up for tournaments – he would play about five or ten minutes of mini tennis and jog around the courts. Then he was ready to go.
That’s the first time I had ever heard of the concept of “mini tennis.” We started to play it and I’ve been hooked ever since. In case you don’t know, mini tennis is played using the four service boxes. Playing mini tennis emphasizes quick movements, explosiveness, anticipation, touch, different spins, and controlling the ball, getting under and around the ball, bending low, small stepping to get into perfect position, and using clever angles to maneuver your opponents. At first Javier used to beat me because I didn’t know how, or feel comfortable yet, to control the ball from these different court positions so awkwardly close to the net.
But with more experience at mini tennis I eventually mastered it. Your window of court is much smaller than traditional full court tennis and you have to develop your hands and feel to master consistency. And of course your feet and anticipation must become much more alert and sharp. Once you can master mini tennis and feel comfortable controlling the ball and all your various shots, it becomes much easier when you go back to the baseline and play regular tennis. The court is so much bigger to hit into.
I credit mastering mini tennis with taking my game to the next level. At the time I started to play mini tennis I was ranked in the high 20s and 30’s in the Eastern 35s. A few years later I cracked the top 5 and 10 with wins over top 3 ranked players. I have won the majority of my 24 singles titles since mastering mini tennis.
I really believe mini tennis is one of the most important methods to boost your tennis game. Then, when you feel comfortable with the four box version of mini tennis, you can even narrow it down to playing in just one service box each, on each side of the net. Try it! You really need excellent ball control for this. And when you have an equal player on the other side of the net, the only way you can win points is to “trick” your opponent with tricky spins.
Mini tennis is a lot of fun – and also an excellent way to mix up your tennis workouts while improving your court sense and skills in a creative way.
(Note: Mark Malinowski is not an official tennis coach, he never had one lesson or professional instruction in his life, never touched a tennis racquet during high school or college but he can defeat USTA nationally ranked players. He has frequently defeated certified tennis instructors and has won 24 singles tournaments since 1997. His 15 years of tournament experience and unique concepts and drills have benefitted a few players – generous estimate – in NJ and FL.)