Roger Federer is considered to be the best of all time and is also arguably the player with the most fluid and elegant style of play.
When he was asked to explain what contributed to his outstanding form in an interview, his reply, as arrogant as it may sound, was "The reason for my beautiful form is my beautiful footwork."
It totally makes sense and it is a very helpful advice for players at any level.
Proper footwork is essential to producing better quality strokes and is the key to timing and rhythm. Learning the correct way of movement to the ball can translate into becoming a faster and more efficient tennis player.
Recreational tennis players are not excluded. The earlier you learn the formula to better court coverage, the faster you'll be playing at a higher level.
The footwork on the court is made of two components, one is movement to the ball and the other is the recovery movement and they are quite different. The movement to the ball requires running steps while the footwork on the recovery is mainly shuffle steps, called side steps or sliding steps.
A large percentage of "weekend warriors" games are spent on baseline which requires lateral movement. To maximize speed and recovery time it is essential to know which foot should be used on the first stride toward the ball and which one on the way back to the center. The flawed technique of using a "crossover" first step on the run to the ball is sluggish and can also lead to miscalculating the number of needed steps.
Therefore, always apply "The Golden Rule" to your game - it is simple and easy to remember. Always take the first step with the foot closer to the ball. If you are moving to the right, the foot closer to the ball will be the right one. Vice versa when moving to the left. On the recovery side steps the first step is with the foot closer to the center mark.
Memorize this concept and find out how much faster you really are!