The Split Step

If you are as much a fan as I – then we are both so looking forward to the upcoming 2009 Australian Open. Will Nadal extend his dominance over the men’s field? Can Djokovic defend last year’s title? And what of Roger Federer – does he still have more in the tank? In the last few months he has accumulated more and more losses, but the record of 14 Grand Slam titles is so tantalizingly close. And in the women’s game, it feels to be a wide open draw – with Ivanovich, Jankovic, Safina and the Williams equally in the hunt.

But, imagine for a moment the classic tennis commercial where the spectators move their heads from left to right, following the ball from one end of the court to the other. Interestingly the same thing occurs when we watch a match on television, that is our eyes follow the ball.

In this way we enjoy the match, watch the incredible movement and shot making, but entirely lose track of if not the awareness of the split step – the all important readiness that occurs each and every time the opponent hits the ball.

So try the following the next time you view a match (either live or on television). Watch one player the entire point, if not the entire game. Do not follow the ball, but listen closely to the hit on the opposite side of the net.

Then observe when where and how the player you are watching splits. Does the split occur before during or after the opponents hit? Does the hit occur always on the center of the baseline? If not where does it occur? Are there times when a player runs through their split, and if so what has occurred to enable them to do that?


  • Bill Lombardo

    Reply Reply December 14, 2011

    This was a good video. I know the non dominant arm must be part of your hitting motion; its just that its not a habit. I need to remember to use the left arm. Its just like watching the ball. Why do I and so many others take their eye off the ball and look at where they are hitting. I believe its takes practice and concentration.

    Thank you for your help.

  • Alejandro Manzanares

    Reply Reply March 26, 2011

    I believe the Split Step is under considered or not considered enough for most of the tennis coaches around the game of tennis. It allows you to not only to be more alert on the ball but it also gives you for example that extra inch a player usualy needs to get to a difficult distanced ball, it also gets you into rhythm if you have lost it on the run, it helps you react at the net when a ball is hit hard at you, it helps you coordinate your initial movements. Coaches don´t work on it as much as they should in its importance of using it at all times. I believe a player should use it at least twice in every shot: as the oponent player hits or is about to hit the ball and once you have finished hiting the ball to start moving for the next ball to come. Thank you for all the nice comments to help tennis players improve their way of playing it.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply March 26, 2011

      Alejandro – thanks for the note, you might check out my product “The Secrets of World Class Footwork” which includes a lot of what you describe, but also quick starting moves, balance, emphasizing the back leg on preparation and more

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