How to (Actually) Practice and Play Tennis Without a Court!

Huntstock.com / Shutterstock

Whether you are looking to start playing tennis for the first time, or you’re just trying to hit some extra balls, being able to practice tennis without a court is a great option to have. However, the main issue that most of us have when trying to practice without a court at home is that we don’t have enough space to hit the ball and to swing the racquet around.

Most tennis players have hit against the wall at some point in their life. It’s considered the best tennis partner; it never misses and always hits the ball back. That’s why I think is very helpful for players to have the options to hit against the wall at a walking distance from the comfort of their bed. 

How to practice and play tennis without a court:

First, you’ll have to use the appropriate equipment. Instead of using regular balls, you’ll have to use foam balls; and rather than using a full-size tennis racquet, you should hit with a smaller size racquet. After that, you’ll need to find a location; any place at home with a wall (or garage door) that has enough space around to move and hit the foam ball. 

Once you have the appropriate balls, racquet size, and location, you can start practicing tennis as if you were hitting against a tennis wall at your local club.

Below, I’ll share with you specific ideas on what do you need and how can you practice tennis against the wall on the comfort of your home. The space available will determine the kind of balls you can hit with, the appropriate tennis racquet size to use, as well as, the drills you can work on. You may have many options or limited options; however, if you have enough space, I’m confident that you can practice tennis in a productive and fun way.

We’ll be discussing:

  1. Location and space 
  2. Types of balls
  3. Racquet size 
  4. “Net” and targets 
  5. How to practice?
  6. How to get started, if you’re a beginner?

Keep reading to learn more about how can you play tennis by yourself at home!

1. Location and Space

Before we talk about the type of ball and racquet size you should use, we need to determine how much space you have available at home. You’ll have to find a place, next to a wall, with enough space to hit the ball back and forth.

Area or space needed

Since you’ll be swinging the racquet and moving around, you’ll need a space next to a wall of about 13 feet long from the wall and 10 feet wide from side to side. If you have more space, that it’s even better; however, it can also be less than that. If you’re very limited on space, you can still practice hitting against the wall but in a softer manner.

Determine the location

Now, that you know how much space is needed to hit with foam balls, you’ll have to find an appropriate area at home where there is a wall with enough space around.  

As an alternative to a wall, you can use your garage door, window, or even door. As long as there is enough space around it, it should be fine. Since you’ll be hitting with a foam ball, is not a problem hitting against a window. 

Who is Danny / Shutterstock

2. Types of balls 

Although I expect that most of us will use foam balls to practice against the wall (given the space constraints of using other balls), I have estimated how much space do you need to use each type of ball.

The types of balls to use depending on the space you have

The main differences between these six types of balls are how fast they travel and how high they bounce. Foams balls are the slowest with the lowest bounce and are followed by red balls, orange balls, green balls, and regular balls (in that specific order). Regular balls move the fastest and have the highest bounce of all. 

Below is a list of each type of ball according to the space available. For most of us, we’ll fall into the category of foam balls.

  • Zsig Foam balls
    • Suggested area: 
      • 13 feet long from the wall
      • 10 feet wide from side to side
  • Qst 36 foam balls and Red balls 
    • Suggested area: 
      • 18 feet long from the wall
      • 15 feet wide from side to side
  • Orange balls
    • Suggested area: 
      • 30 feet long from the wall
      • 20 feet wide from side to side
  • Green balls and regular balls
    • Suggested area: 
      • 40 feet long from the wall
      • 20 feet wide from side to side

As you can see, the ball that you should use is going to depend on how much space you have. If you have a free room with half the size of a tennis court, you can use either regular balls or green balls.

Foam balls

These kinds of balls are usually used for little children of ages between 4-7. Since they are made of foam material, they don’t bounce too fast, too far or too high. Their slow bounce allows kids to hit the ball on time, compared to a regular ball; which will be almost impossible for most kids of that age to use in a rally. 

Using this tennis ball will allow us to hit the ball against the wall in a limited space. You’ll even be able to do full ground strokes, whether it’s forehand or backhand, and have the ball bounce back close enough to continue with the rally.

Two Versions:

There are two types of tennis foam balls. One is the Zsig foam ball, and the other is the Qst 36 foam ball. Again, which one you should use, we’ll depend on the amount of space you have available.

If you are very limited on space, I’ll recommend using the Zsig foam ball. It’s much smaller, and it bounces less than a Qst 36 foam ball. It will allow you to control the ball in a short space. I’ve seen kids of around 5 years old played some fantastic points with these mini foam balls. Therefore, you should have no problem using this ball in a small space at home.

3. Racquet size

If you have a small space to practice, I’ll recommend that you use a smaller size racquet. There are two main reasons for this. First, with a smaller size racquet, you’ll be able to swing more freely on small spaces, giving that the racquet is not that big. The second reason is that with a smaller racquet you’ll generate less power when hitting the ball, which means the ball will not bounce or travel as much.

Although it’s not essential to use a smaller tennis racquet, I think that if you have very limited space, it will be a good idea to practice with a smaller racquet. So, how small should you go? Below, I’ve made a list of the recommended racquet size depending on the space available. 

Remember, you don’t need to follow it, this list is only to give you an idea of the proper racquet size to use. However, if you have a small space and you don’t feel like buying a small size racquet, it’s okay to use your regular racquet. 

Recommended racquet size for specific space available

  • Space available: 18’ long & 15’ wide or less
  • Space available: 19’ long & 15’ wide – 30’ long & 20’
  • Space available: 31’ long & 20’ wide or more

Also, I understand that you’ll prefer to use your regular racquet. However, remember, when practicing against the wall with a foam ball, we are mainly working on proper repetition to develop better muscle memory. So, whether you use a smaller or regular racquet size, won’t make a difference in the effectiveness of your training sessions.

4. “Net” and targets 

Kemal Mardin / Shutterstock

The height of the net

The height of a regular tennis court is 3 feet tall in the middle and 3’6” at both net posts. Therefore, you can make a vertical line on your wall that is 3 feet tall. Although you can practice with an imaginary line, I’ll suggest making a physical line. This will train your mind to get used to hitting over a proper height above the net.

What to use as the net?

To make the line of the net, on the wall, you can use any tape, chalk, or marker. I’ll suggest using a masking tape that is around 1.5” thick. If you leave it on for a while, this type of tape won’t do any damage to your wall.

When making the vertical line, make sure it’s straight. You can measure 3 feet on the left, right and middle sides of the wall, starting from the floor, and make a mark to use it as a reference when doing the line.

What to use for the targets?

Although hitting hard with heavy topspin is important to win points in tennis, placing and directing the ball on the court might be even more essential. For this reason, you should add targets to your wall when practicing. Besides that, having targets on your wall would help you to stay focus on the ball, and keep you motivated when things get too repetitive. 

How to do the targets?

The same tape you use to make the lines (net) on the wall, you can use it for your targets. You can make an “X” or a “square” on the wall as your targets. I’ll suggest adding 3 different targets, one in the middle and two on the sides. Another option is to only make one big target in the wall, for instance, a huge square.

5. How to practice?

Artur Didyk / Shutterstock

There are many ways you can practice by hitting against the wall; below I’ll share some basic ideas for each stroke.

Forehand and backhands

When practicing groundstrokes, start by hitting forehands first. Once you feel comfortable with forehands, go to backhands. Isolating each stroke is important. This will allow you to focus on the specifics of each shot. After being able to hit both strokes accurately, alternate both forehands and backhands during the same rally.  

Serves and overheads

To practice your serves is very straightforward; serve against the wall and repeat. If you’re practicing inside your house and the ceiling is not high enough to toss the ball, you can practice while sitting down or being on your knees.

For your overheads, if you are practicing outside, or your ceiling is high enough, you can practice by hitting against the ground first so that the ball hits the ground and then it hits the wall. (This drill is also helpful for your serves).

Check the video below to get a better idea on this drill.

Volleys

When practicing volleys, you can use any ball, from foam balls to regular balls. You can take a progressive approach, and start with foam balls, then go through red, orange, green and regular balls.  Make sure to stand around 3 feet away from the wall. Also, remember not to swing on your volleys; otherwise you’ll be hitting the ball late most of the time. 

Check the following video for more ideas.

Challenging yourself by setting up goals 

It’s important that you challenge yourself so that you stay motivated. Try to set up goals for each practice session. For example, you can set up a goal of hitting 20 balls in a row against the wall for each shot, forehand, backhands, volleys; only counting when done correctly.

Another idea is to try hitting 60 balls in a row, and you’re only allowed to miss two times (which means that you have three lives). For instance, you can hit ten balls in a row and then miss (now you have two lives), then you begin again but start counting from 10. When you missed three times and didn’t get to 60, it’s game over! And you have to start again from zero.  

6. If you’re a beginner, how should you get started with tennis?

First time playing tennis

So, if you’re a tennis aficionado, but have never played tennis in your life. This is for sure a great way to start. Obviously, it doesn’t replace learning with a tennis coach; however, with all the free resource available, you should be able to get a head start by practicing at home on your own.

Focus on timing & simple technique 

Although the technique is crucial in tennis, I’ll suggest focusing first on timing the ball. What I mean is that you should be able to hit the ball back and forth with very basic swings, before you start focusing on the specific ways to hit each shot. By developing a proper timing of the ball and good eye-hand coordination, your learning journey will be more enjoyable.

I’ve seen beginner players with a great notion on how to hit with proper technique; however, when they start rallying, they have a hard time hitting the ball back. So, for now, keep the technique very basic, and focus on improving your timing of the ball while hitting back and forth against the wall. 

Start with groundstrokes

The essential strokes to engage in a rally, which is what tennis is about, are forehands and backhands. Even though, serves and volleys are also necessary, leave them for later. To start, focus on hitting groundstrokes and being able to hit the ball back and forth. Below, I’ll explain in simple steps how you can hit basic groundstrokes. *For lefties (__)

Forehands 

  1. Stand sideways facing east (west)
  2. With your right hand (left-hand) hold the grip of the racquet as if you were to shake hands with it. 
  3. Bring your racquet back and your nondominant hand in front.
  4. Swing forward and catch the racquet with the nondominant hand

Backhands

  1. Stand sideways facing west (east)
  2. With both hands hold the grip of the racquet. The right hand (left-hand) at the bottom and the left-hand (right-hand) at the top.
  3. With both hands, bring your racquet back.
  4. Swing forward and try to touch your back with the head of the racquet.

I understand that it can be hard to learn these strokes by reading about them, even if its basic stuff, so I’ve included a couple of videos that might give you a better idea on how to hit these strokes in a simple and easy way.

Use the eye coach or practice shadow swinging

If you’re having trouble hitting the ball when rallying, I recommend practicing shadow swinging to develop better muscle memory. If you’re a beginner, keep in mind that since is a new type of movement, it might take some time for your body to get used to it.

Also, if you’re really interested in learning tennis, you should try the Billie Jean King’s Eye coach, and practice your strokes with this tennis aid. This will speed up your learning process. If you’re thinking about getting the tennis Eye Coach, check the following article, it might be of your interest: How to Save Up to $80 on a Tennis Eye Coach!.

On a final note

Some of you might be a little skeptical on the usefulness of hitting a foam ball against the wall at home; it might sound like a useless way to practice. However, I genuinely believe it is a great alternative to practice tennis when playing on a court is not an option. I encourage you to give it at least a try, and I think you’ll see some benefits from it. Please share with us, on the comment section, your experiences or ideas on practicing your tennis game against a wall at home.

Related questions

What are the benefits of hitting against the tennis wall? 

  • Some of the benefits for your game when hitting against the wall are the following: better consistency and control, faster footwork, better tracking of the ball, more practice and stroke repetition, and improvement of your timing and spacing. 

What are the disadvantages of hitting against the tennis wall?

  • There are two main disadvantages of hitting against the wall, no depth control and the risks of reinforcing bad habits. When hitting against the wall is difficult for players, especially beginners, to tell if their ball would be in or out. Also, since players practice by themselves, there is a chance that they’ll reinforce a lousy technique.