Once you have completed your split step and first step movement, you now need to move out to the tennis ball. If the ball is far away from you, you simply need to start running to the ball (if the ball is hit basically right to you, then you are going to skip this step). What you need to do now that you are sideways is to make sure that you get to the ball as fast as possible. It seems simple, but many people don’t hustle fast enough and are late to the ball.
As you approach the area where you are going to make contact and you get yourself into either the open or neutral stance (on the backhand you can use a closed stance as well), you need to start taking faster, smaller adjusting steps to precisely position yourself on the tennis court. If the tennis ball is hit directly to you, you can go right from your first step movement into your adjusting steps. The video above shows me taking those small adjusting steps shadowing both an open stance and a neutral stance forehand.
These adjusting steps seem simple but they are critical to an effective forehand or backhand. If you don’t take small adjusting steps as you prepare to hit, you are going to make contact early, late, wide, or jammed. The key is that the adjusting steps will allow you to position yourself in the same way on every groundstroke and that will allow you to build consistency.
Again in the video above, at 1:30 I am receiving a tennis ball that is hit directly to me. I hit my split and first step and then immediately begin taking adjusting steps into a neutral stance. At 1:40, I get a ball that requires me to run out wide. When I get close to my contact point though, I take those adjusting steps and get set to hit an open stance forehand.