Is there etiquette in free hitting?

MoxMonkey

Rookie
I often hit around in the morning with other guys from the club. I tend to try to give people a good ball to hit, if they come to the net I hit in there vicinity to have a play on it, good practice. I don't try to hit winners much, and definitely not off the feed. Usually it's 2 players on each side, sometimes singles, sometimes 2v1

It's irritating when people don't reciprocate. When they lob or hit drop shots back on a clean ball hit to them, not something they had to go get.

I feel if you get a good ball, you should give one back, especially early in a rally. Don't hit some cheap drop shot on the third or fourth ball on purpose. Don't lob someone immediately everytime they come to the net, especially if they clearly hit a ball right to you for you to put a stroke on. Your not 'winning' anything by ruining a rally.

Does this resonate with anyone? I havent hit around with enough people or played long enough to know if this is normal. Thanks.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Yes, etiquette demands that, with "free" hitting, a gratuity should still be left. It does not need to be 15% or 18% (since the result would still be 0)
 

golden chicken

Hall of Fame
Everybody has a different personality. Everyone is working on something. The personalities and goals of the specific people you are hitting with may be (are likely to be) different than yours. Perhaps it would be a good idea to talk directly with them about their goals and things they are working on and your goals and what you are working on. When everyone is on the same page, you may find your hitting sessions are more productive and enjoyable for all involved.

My wife is my regular hitting partner. She's only interested in rallying with me and has only been hitting with me for like 4 years. I've been playing tennis off and on for over 25 years now. Sometimes she hits a ball that I just have to crush for a winner, or at least attempt to. She used to get annoyed because she wanted me to continue the rally, which I understand. I explained to her that there is a difference between nicely rallying with someone and playing competitively to win and that I don't want to lose the instinct to attack when the right ball presents itself. So...for us to both be happy, I rally nicely with her about 99% of the time, and she lets me hit a couple of winners. I just have to be selective about when to hit them.
 
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RyanRF

Professional
Yes and no. If your idea of 'Free hitting' doesn't line up with your partner, then you probably should find a different partner.

My general 'rules':
  1. the basic goal is to sustain the rally while hitting a quality ball
  2. try to feed the ball in a way that helps with #1
  3. slices are fine, as long as they are hit deep enough that the rally can be continued
  4. attempting to attack and 'win the point' is acceptable after one player accidentally hits it short
  5. drop shots, moonballs, net rushing, YOLO forehands, etc. are generally not desired unless there is some agreement
  6. when you miss or shank a ball, a brief 'sorry' helps to keep people from getting frustrated
 

Yamin

Professional
Curious to see what people say... I personally am not really looking for a controlled rally as I get very bored. I'm looking to improve and keep things fun.

If it's a new partner or someone above my level I generally like to do what they like, or help them with whatever they're working on.

If it's someone I've played with more than once it usually starts as a rally and we ramp up from there into winners etc. Nothing off limits. I haven't really had many partners though and all have been younger.
 
Yes and no. If your idea of 'Free hitting' doesn't line up with your partner, then you probably should find a different partner.

My general 'rules':
  1. the basic goal is to sustain the rally while hitting a quality ball
  2. try to feed the ball in a way that helps with #1
  3. slices are fine, as long as they are hit deep enough that the rally can be continued
  4. attempting to attack and 'win the point' is acceptable after one player accidentally hits it short
  5. drop shots, moonballs, net rushing, YOLO forehands, etc. are generally not desired unless there is some agreement
  6. when you miss or shank a ball, a brief 'sorry' helps to keep people from getting frustrated
These are more or less the rules I follow, except that for some exchanges where intensity approaches match intensity, it's ok to finish the point with a winner.

I also apologize for all shots I didn't mean to hit, that usually keeps my partner from getting pissed off with a shot that was an unintended winner.
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
Depends. I expect while warming up everything is about rhythm. As things get going I will often say something like, anything short is a putaway or offensive ball. Or maybe ask if there is anything they want to work on or mix in. Just to have an idea of what to expect. Never really had a problem except a few guys who always try to win warm-up.
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
I often hit around in the morning with other guys from the club. I tend to try to give people a good ball to hit, if they come to the net I hit in there vicinity to have a play on it, good practice. I don't try to hit winners much, and definitely not off the feed. Usually it's 2 players on each side, sometimes singles, sometimes 2v1

It's irritating when people don't reciprocate. When they lob or hit drop shots back on a clean ball hit to them, not something they had to go get.

I feel if you get a good ball, you should give one back, especially early in a rally. Don't hit some cheap drop shot on the third or fourth ball on purpose. Don't lob someone immediately everytime they come to the net, especially if they clearly hit a ball right to you for you to put a stroke on. Your not 'winning' anything by ruining a rally.

Does this resonate with anyone? I havent hit around with enough people or played long enough to know if this is normal. Thanks.
It's not clear to me if you're talking about warming up before a set, or practicing. It's not much of a warm up if you spend most of the time picking up tennis balls instead of hitting.

Practice is different. You might want to do some drills, but then you'd need to discuss this and point out what you're trying to do. If you want to improve as a player working on hitting winners from the backcourt is probably a waste of time. Sure, you'll hit some, but your ratio of winners to losers will probably always be negative.

If you're a weekend warrior, you should first work on consistency. One you get better at that, work on being even more consistent. Finally, when you feel you've mastered consistency, THEN,...work on being even more consistent.
 

PKorda

Semi-Pro
When I'm free hitting I expect my partner to hit the ball back to me most of the time, otherwise it's just annoying. Now if he/she wants to go for a winner every once in a while that's fine but if it gets excessive I will say something.
 

jga111

Hall of Fame
1) Any ball short go for the winner or good approach shot (and practice your volleying)
2) Maintain relaxed rally and then play aggressive after X shots

1) happens a lot with weaker players but that’s fine. The onus is on them to hit deep if they don’t like it
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
1) Any ball short go for the winner or good approach shot (and practice your volleying)
2) Maintain relaxed rally and then play aggressive after X shots

1) happens a lot with weaker players but that’s fine. The onus is on them to hit deep if they don’t like it
I'm not sure that will bring much improvement. Weaker players make lots of errors even when just trying to keep the ball in play. And they make even more errors when trying to hit difficult shots. The trouble with being a beginner is you spend so much time fetching balls and not hitting them. You'd like to get in 100 shots per hour, not 20.
 

RyanRF

Professional
1) Any ball short go for the winner or good approach shot (and practice your volleying)
2) Maintain relaxed rally and then play aggressive after X shots

1) happens a lot with weaker players but that’s fine. The onus is on them to hit deep if they don’t like it
Against weaker players I don't bother practicing my offense because it's not really productive and will probably just frustrate them.

Instead I focus on precision, rhythm, and consistency. If I do my part right we can still have long rallies.
 

Fintft

Legend
I'm not sure that will bring much improvement. Weaker players make lots of errors even when just trying to keep the ball in play. And they make even more errors when trying to hit difficult shots. The trouble with being a beginner is you spend so much time fetching balls and not hitting them. You'd like to get in 100 shots per hour, not 20.
Using 8 balls helps :)
 

FIRETennis

Professional
How about partners who start the hitting at 110%? :-D
Isn't it common sense that you start the session at very slow 20-30% pace and then ramp up? Most pros do it that way...
 

Hit 'em clean

Semi-Pro
I always try to hit good balls and no winners. Occasionally if rally is going long or if they hit something that feels more like 'point play' than I might occasionally hit a winner. I also try to ease into the hitting session, but I certainly know guys that want to crank away from the first ball. I prefer taking it easy at first to get my feel and timing, etc. and then ramp it up. I think this is fairly intuitive or logical... but plenty of people just don't pay attention or don't know. At the very least I find that often the best thing to do is express at the very start of a drill or hitting session what you're looking to do or accomplish... and of course ask them the same. That way you both can work on what you want and have a clear understanding/agreement of what the goal is. If I do this I almost never have any issues as most people will cooperate and try to help you especially if they understand that you are reciprocating.
 
My etiquette is: don't hit two offensive shots back-to-back.
The first offensive ball is ok, because it often earns a defensive reply. But it's not cool to hit a second offensive ball to the open court. I send the next ball back to his position to keep it in play.

Similarly, if it's me on defense, my etiquette is: I'll chase your first offensive ball to keep the rally going. But I will *not* scramble to recover and/or chase your second. I expect the next shot to come back to me. And if it doesn't, I make a show of not making an effort (so it doesn't *feel* like a winner), make a "why would you do this?" gesture, and take my time to collect it from the back fence.

This way both players get to practice the defense-neutral & neutral-offense transitions without disrupting the rhythm as often.
 

Fintft

Legend
How about partners who start the hitting at 110%? :-D
Isn't it common sense that you start the session at very slow 20-30% pace and then ramp up? Most pros do it that way...
I have a 26y old one that hits winners right off the feed, pounding my BH corner and missing a lot...
Can't nag him too much though :)
We work it out or do it his way.
 

Fintft

Legend
I certainly know guys that want to crank away from the first ball. I prefer taking it easy at first to get my feel and timing, etc. and then ramp it up. I think this is fairly intuitive or logical... but plenty of people just don't pay attention or don't know. At the very least I find that often the best thing to do is express at the very start of a drill or hitting session what you're looking to do or accomplish... and of course ask them the same. That way you both can work on what you want and have a clear understanding/agreement of what the goal is. If I do this I almost never have any issues as most people will cooperate and try to help you especially if they understand that you are reciprocating.
Sometimes (besides lettting him have his way), I suggest to my young partner, after the warm-up or towards the end of the session to "to crank away from the first ball."
 

Fintft

Legend
My etiquette is: don't hit two offensive shots back-to-back.
The first offensive ball is ok, because it often earns a defensive reply. But it's not cool to hit a second offensive ball to the open court. I send the next ball back to his position to keep it in play.

Similarly, if it's me on defense, my etiquette is: I'll chase your first offensive ball to keep the rally going. But I will *not* scramble to recover and/or chase your second. I expect the next shot to come back to me. And if it doesn't, I make a show of not making an effort (so it doesn't *feel* like a winner), make a "why would you do this?" gesture, and take my time to collect it from the back fence.

This way both players get to practice the defense-neutral & neutral-offense transitions without disrupting the rhythm as often.
Well, I listened to coach @Jake Speeed and try to send all the balls back to my partner, usually DTM. Since they usually have less control for me, that works and besides I get to practice my defence etc.

As for the latter, if I really get ticked, I go for winners myself (on the lines etc) and that reminds them :


“Don't do unto others what you don't want done unto you.”

― Confucius
 

Jake Speeed

Professional
Well, I listened to coach @Jake Speeed and try to send all the balls back to my partner, usually DTM. Since they usually have less control for me, that works and besides I get to practice my defence etc.

As for the latter, if I really get ticked, I go for winners myself (on the lines etc) and that reminds them :


“Don't do unto others what you don't want done unto you.”

― Confucius
A good practice technique, which most definitely increased "ball control," is the following.

The first player is allowed to hit the ball anywhere on the court. The second player must return the ball as close to the baseline "T" as possible, which is the middle of the court.

Obviously it would be pointless to slam the ball and hit winners. There's a time and place for slugging winners.

Also, hit no out balls, ever! As player ability increases, speed can increase along with a variety of spin and remember, deep shots are preferred.

The player managing the center of the court starts the rally.

No laziness, do the normal "split step" and use creative footwork.

JS
 

Hit 'em clean

Semi-Pro
Well, I listened to coach @Jake Speeed and try to send all the balls back to my partner, usually DTM. Since they usually have less control for me, that works and besides I get to practice my defence etc.

As for the latter, if I really get ticked, I go for winners myself (on the lines etc) and that reminds them :


“Don't do unto others what you don't want done unto you.”

― Confucius
Yep, I'll do that sometimes as well. Let them know how it feels and they usually decide that the cooperative hitting is more fun and productive.
 

Fintft

Legend
A good practice technique, which most definitely increased "ball control," is the following.

The first player is allowed to hit the ball anywhere on the court. The second player must return the ball as close to the baseline "T" as possible, which is the middle of the court.

Obviously it would be pointless to slam the ball and hit winners. There's a time and place for slugging winners.

Also, hit no out balls, ever! As player ability increases, speed can increase along with a variety of spin and remember, deep shots are preferred.

The player managing the center of the court starts the rally.

No laziness, do the normal "split step" and use creative footwork.

JS
That's how my advanced partners used to practice with me: one being a club champion, but he moved out of town alas...The variation being that the weaker player (me) could try to hit winners and the advanced player would get a good workout, defending.

I asked him if he adjusted his power to hit with me and he said, not the power, but the placement :)
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
Well, I listened to coach @Jake Speeed and try to send all the balls back to my partner, usually DTM. Since they usually have less control for me, that works and besides I get to practice my defence etc.

As for the latter, if I really get ticked, I go for winners myself (on the lines etc) and that reminds them :


“Don't do unto others what you don't want done unto you.”

― Confucius
I thought the saying was "Do unto others before they do unto you."
 
Yes and no. If your idea of 'Free hitting' doesn't line up with your partner, then you probably should find a different partner.

My general 'rules':
  1. the basic goal is to sustain the rally while hitting a quality ball
  2. try to feed the ball in a way that helps with #1
  3. slices are fine, as long as they are hit deep enough that the rally can be continued
  4. attempting to attack and 'win the point' is acceptable after one player accidentally hits it short
  5. drop shots, moonballs, net rushing, YOLO forehands, etc. are generally not desired unless there is some agreement
  6. when you miss or shank a ball, a brief 'sorry' helps to keep people from getting frustrated
These are good general "rules" to start with.
Much depends on the ability level(s) of the 2 players.

2 beginning players are, likely, the worst combination and should just try to hit the ball back and forth-
possibly practice backhands/forehands, cross court and down the line until they begin to hone their
strokes and court movement.

A more acomplished player should think of the session as a "lesson", if hitting with a beginner and let the "opponent"
practice as many types of strokes/shots without overpowering him/her- meanwhile working on consistancy, placement, control.

2 Players of a higher level should agree to work on the full gamut of strokes and then do some drills
where they can play various combinations and points to test their skills
 

cortado

Professional
I would always be trying to keep the rally going as long as possible, and only go for a drop-shot once the rally has been going for an adequate length of time.
I don't actually mind people trying to drop-shot me though, as I like practicing recognising the signs that somebody is about to perform a drop-shot, and practising getting to it to get it back.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
It depends on what your [and your partner's] goals are. If you want maximum rhythm and ball-striking, it makes sense that you cut back on the winners. If you want match prep, it makes sense to intelligently go for winners. If you want to practice winners, hit winners!

The problem is that the two people don't have the same goals and so each gets mad at the other for not "playing right".
 

GuyClinch

Legend
You should cooperatively rally - it can be cross court and such - just rally balls though. For the people that feel bored - that's why they invented drills, tie breaks and actual tennis matches.

Most adults are pretty anxious to play sets and such. So can't say this is ever a huge problem. i try to do pretty standard warmup - mini tennis - free hitting - (should be pretty deep) cross court forehand - cross court backhands - volley practice, overheads and then serve and return. So not much time for free hitting.

If the guy starts hitting winners on you - insist on doing something different - even if it is ground stroke game or something..
 

nyta2

Professional
Yes and no. If your idea of 'Free hitting' doesn't line up with your partner, then you probably should find a different partner.

My general 'rules':
  1. the basic goal is to sustain the rally while hitting a quality ball
  2. try to feed the ball in a way that helps with #1
  3. slices are fine, as long as they are hit deep enough that the rally can be continued
  4. attempting to attack and 'win the point' is acceptable after one player accidentally hits it short
  5. drop shots, moonballs, net rushing, YOLO forehands, etc. are generally not desired unless there is some agreement
  6. when you miss or shank a ball, a brief 'sorry' helps to keep people from getting frustrated
mostly the same except for #4...
i will usually just approach targeting near my partner so i can continue with a coop baseline/volley rally
that said, if you're good enough to consistently make me hit short, then you're probably better than me, and i'll do whatever you want as i'm probably just happy you're hitting with me.
 

nyta2

Professional
I often hit around in the morning with other guys from the club. I tend to try to give people a good ball to hit, if they come to the net I hit in there vicinity to have a play on it, good practice. I don't try to hit winners much, and definitely not off the feed. Usually it's 2 players on each side, sometimes singles, sometimes 2v1

It's irritating when people don't reciprocate. When they lob or hit drop shots back on a clean ball hit to them, not something they had to go get.

I feel if you get a good ball, you should give one back, especially early in a rally. Don't hit some cheap drop shot on the third or fourth ball on purpose. Don't lob someone immediately everytime they come to the net, especially if they clearly hit a ball right to you for you to put a stroke on. Your not 'winning' anything by ruining a rally.

Does this resonate with anyone? I havent hit around with enough people or played long enough to know if this is normal. Thanks.
typically happens with folks <4.0
by the time you get to 4.0+, most folks have learned that you get more out of practice the more balls you hit. once someone starts hitting winners out of boredom or whatever, it usually is just signal to transition to point play or a match, etc...
IMO the reason ~3.5's try to hit winners in a "coop" rally, is because their own shot tolerance is so low, they need to relieve the stress... usually by their 3rd ball
even when i was a newly minted 4.0, i remember hitting with a d1 player (at the time i didn't know what that meant), and i just couldn't believe he wasn't missing "my best shots"... so of course i had to start testing/hitting away from him (didn't help)... only years later did i realize that that was a tennis etiquette faux pas (but it had to be explained to me by someone much much better than me).

side note, same thing happens with sparring in martial arts. in bjj it's common for white belts to spaz and go "all out" even when they have no idea what they are doing.
 

zaph

Professional
I don't understand the I get bored and have to hit winners people here. Wow you can hit a winner off a rally ball I literally put on your racket? What does that prove exactly?

If you want to do drills, practice hitting winners, just ask. Frankly having someone nail winners into the corner or the back fence, gets very tiresome.
 

mcs1970

Hall of Fame
It depends upon what you want to do. With my regular partners we have a rule of 5 shots before we can start going for winners.

If we were told to be more conservative and keep it in play that is fine too.

Ultimately a quick conversation will take care of things than coming to these forums and posing these types of questions.
 

Jay_The_Nomad

Professional
Tennis hitting partners are interesting in that you have to adapt your session to the type of person you’re playing with. Unfortunately not all of us have access to quality hitting my partners so we make do.

If you find someone that you click with socially and in terms of what they offer you (ie good quality hitting session) treat them very very nicely.

Then there are those who are hit and miss. Usually I suggest playing a match in that case or making them play points.
 

Jake Speeed

Professional
Tennis hitting partners are interesting in that you have to adapt your session to the type of person you’re playing with. Unfortunately not all of us have access to quality hitting my partners so we make do.

If you find someone that you click with socially and in terms of what they offer you (ie good quality hitting session) treat them very very nicely.

Then there are those who are hit and miss. Usually I suggest playing a match in that case or making them play points.
One of the scientific aspects of tennis, possibly two actually:

1) The ability to git a ground stroke.
2) The ability to hit the same stroke repeatedly.

Ground strokes. You don't have tennis without them.

Hitting the same stroke as in, what the ball does. To do repeatedly time after time.

JS
 
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