The ready position is the foundation for almost all of your footwork when you are playing tennis. How you move around the tennis court in one way or another relates back to the ready position. More generally, the ready position is an athletic position that allows you to move quickly around the tennis court in any direction.
Let’s look at the mechanics of the ready position. You want your feet about shoulder width apart, or a little bit wider. Your knees should be slightly bent and your weight should be on the balls of your feet, not the heels. Your upper body should be relaxed, with your arms and the tennis racket out in front of your body. Angle the head of your racket up a little bit. It’s also important that your upper body should not be hunched over, bending forward. Your back should be straight so that with your legs bent it is almost like you are sitting in a chair. Your eyes should be on your opponent and especially the tennis ball, not looking down at the tennis court.
Practically speaking, when you are in the ready position you want to be about a foot shorter than your normal height, which is a good athletic height. This will center your weight down and allow you to move explosively in any direction around the tennis court. It’s worth noting that this stance is very similar to athletic stances in many other sports. In particular, it is a lot like a defensive stance in basketball.
This picture is a great shot of Tommy Haas in his ready position. Let’s start by looking at his feet first. You can see that he has his weight equally distributed on both feet, and the weight is on the balls of his feet, so his heels are up a little bit off the court. His knees have a good bend to them.
If we look at his upper body, his arms are out in front of his body, and the tennis racket is pointed up. You can also see here that his non-hitting hand is resting on the throat of the racket. You see this hand position a lot with players who use a one-handed backhand. Players with a two-hander may want to keep both hands on the handle instead.
If you look at the entirety of his body position, you can see that the ready position here is going to allow him to move in any direction as fast as possible. He could just as easily hit either a forehand, a backhand, move up or move back from this position.