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Coaches Corner - tip of the month



Watching the Ball!Let’s get it straight right off: there’s watching the ball, and there’s watching the ball!

Q. Can you hit a tennis ball without actually watching it? A. Of course you can, players do it all the time. Truth be told, it can be done with one of those old 68” head wooden rackets that you still see at yard sales.

But you wouldn’t be striking it cleanly in the sweet spot with a well-timed stroke. It wouldn’t feel right, and it wouldn’t sound right. It might even still remain in the court, but your possibilities for consistent replication of your better stuff would be bleak. And so would your chance to get to the next level.

So, of course you have to track the ball both incoming and outgoing, keep your head relatively still to accomplish that, and visualize all of your shots to dramatically reduce the urge to “look-up” – typically at the court and/or the opponent - to see where your shot is going. With visualization you already know where it’s going!

That stated, here’s an all-encompassing, drop-hit drill that you can practice individually, particularly with the forehand from the baseline. First and foremost, always have the racket fully prepared before dropping the ball! Naturally, you’re going to strike it at the optimal post bounce moment, as you perceive it, with a still head. As your eyes (first) and head (second) come out of the shot to reconnect with the ball,  be absolutely aware of where it reappears to you as a whole object – the human eye is extremely limited and is not capable of watching the ball leave the hitting zone.

It’s all about the ball and only the ball.

The reconnection results will vary depending upon how much pace you’ve put on your shot, but it will probably take place in either close proximity to the net on your side, or, with big pace, over the net and even a bit beyond into the other side. Nonetheless, you’ll now be on your way to ending, once and for all, that epidemic club player habit of looking up at the court and the opposing players, triggering a disconnect with the ball. The head moves, the body follows, and the stroking path becomes altered at the crucial moment.

Not only will you have a perception of much more time between shots, but you’ll react to the incoming direction of the opponent’s shot far sooner and less stressfully – physically and emotionally - than previously.

This is the first step in actually being able to “read” where the opposition’s shots are going. Do the pros – who make it look so effortless - look surprised or hurried in running down 90 mph ground strokes? Seldom. Anticipation becomes the product of keen ball tracking.

So now you know why they make it look so “easy.” Of course, if you once wielded one of those wooden sticks, that’s also factoring in those fully functioning fast twitch, young wheels with plenty of tread still on them.

Questions and comments are welcome at anytime for all tips present and past via email.

This Tip of the Month is copyright© by Jak Beardsworth Tennis. All rights reserved. Copies may be made only with the permission of and by Jak Beardsworth. Contact him here.

Tips Archive

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