A student called me, who’s fourth couldn’t make it, desperate to find a player to fill in. My response was that 3 people could be even better than 4, if you pay attention to tennis tradition.
Here are 3 drills for 3 people. They actually provide more focused practice than 4 people on the court!
3 player drills are a tradition that comes from the international competition of David Cup and Federation Cup in which one country plays against another. The captain of BOTH the Russian Davis Cup & Federation Cup Teams (a VERY rare responsibility), Shamil Tarpishchev, would approve these drills for all men and women as he has won 3 Fed Cup and 2 Davis Cup championships for Russia in the last 8 years. With that credential, he is one of the best (though unrecognized) coaches in tennis history.
In my view, if you have limited time, it is more important to complete a rotation using the Ad court before using the Deuce court. My students are more comfortable directing their shots to where a game is usually won/lost than other players.
1) “2 Against 1 Practice Drill”– Two players drop/hit a feed from the net to a single player in the receivers position on the baseline in the AD court. Net players must volley into the half court WITH the alley.
The single player must hit from one net player to the other. 10 minutes for each formation, then rotate. Then rotate. 30 minutes
Then put the receiver in the Deuce side for 10 minutes. Then rotate. Then rotate.
Keep a “bucket” of balls at the center strap of the net.
2) “Half Court Singles Competition”–divide the tennis court lengthwise down the middle (imaginary line extends the center line to the center mark on the baseline) and compete with a ball being served to either the ad side only (with the alley) during each point.
Servers are a team (one player remains the server) and play one point at a time against the receiver until either team reaches 10, by a margin of 2. Then rotate. Servers start each point by serving to the Ad side first, then players rotate, then players rotate. 30 minutes
After that cycle, servers start each point by serving to the Deuce side. Then rotate. Then rotate. Keep the bucket at the back fence behind servers.
3) “Bailin Canadian Doubles Competition”–a two player team plays regular doubles but must hit all their shots into the half doubles court (see #2) Ad side, until either side gets 10 points. Then rotate. Then rotate. 30 minutes
Then the doubles team plays to the Deuce side. Then rotate. Then rotate. Keep the bucket at the back fence behind servers. 30 minutes
These are all great for singles and doubles skills. They are part of the lost traditions of great coaches. The best coaching skills, player improvements, and most audience excitement, come from team competition.
Go watch a University match or a Davis/Fed Cup match as soon as possible!