Now that your body is facing the net and you have completed your groundstroke, you need to recover back to the middle of the tennis court. There are several ways to recover, and the side shuffle is probably the simplest one. The side shuffle is a great recovery method because it allows you to get back to the center of the court, but it also allows you to change direction and move back out wide very quickly.
To side shuffle, step out with your outside foot, and then bring your inside foot in. Make sure that your feet never touch as you perform this step. At about 0:50 in the video above, I perform side shuffling up and down the baseline to demonstrate. I continuously step out with my outside foot, then bring my inside foot in.
It’s worth noting that the side shuffle is certainly not the fastest way to get back to the tee. The fastest way to cover that ground would normally be just to run back to the center of the tennis court. The problem with turning sideways and running back to the center of the court is that your opponent can easily see you doing this and simply hit the ball behind you. It is extremely difficult to switch directions while flat-out running, so we use the side shuffle in situations where we don’t have too far to recover and don’t want to be caught moving the wrong direction. Being able to change direction quickly is far more important than covering the most court area.
Finally, I want to note that you need to learn to work your split step into your side shuffle. In a lot of ways, the side shuffle is similar to a sideways-moving ready position. As you side shuffle, you want to stay light on your feet and then time it so that from your side shuffle, both of your feet come off the ground and you perform your split step at the moment your opponent makes contact with the ball. At about 2:35 in the video above, you can see how I combine my split step with my side shuffle recovery steps. It would be much more difficult to do this if I were running instead of side shuffling.