At the beginning of a New Year most of us sit back and think about New Year's resolutions that we can employ to improve something in our lives. This time around, I thought that it would be great if we could all work together on a 2017 tennis resolution. I have been thinking about what is a common error that I see players make on the court. While we all have different areas to improve on, I feel like we could all do a better job of watching our opponents and tracking (watching) the ball. Some of us get so caught up with our game that we forget to see what is happening on the other side of the net. By not paying attention to our opponents, we miss endless cues that would help us make better judgements on our side of the net.
Good examples to look for:
1) Is the opponent leaning forward or leaning back when hitting the ball? If they are leaning back, they are likely to lob. If they are stepping in, brace for a hard shot and make sure to split.
2) Does the point of contact look to be early or late? If the point of contact looks late... they are likely to hit down the line. If the point of contact looks early...they are likely to hit cross court.
3) Is the opponent on the run or standing still when making contact with the ball? If he/she is on the run, expect a weak reply and start to move forward.
Once we have made the assessment on the player making contact with the ball, it's time to track the ball. I mean...actually see it! Look for the Penn logo, or try to identify the seams of the ball as it approaches you. Don't be caught seeing the ball when it crosses the net, or worse yet when it's on top of you. At contact, can you try to see the ball make contact with the strings? All these cues will train your eyes to see the ball better.
If you are able to read the signals your opponent is sending you will be able to anticipate their shot. Ultimately, this will help you figure out the best position for you on the court. Anticipation in doubles is the first step to great court coverage...the key to any successful doubles partnership!
In 2017, let's all watch the ball!
A Personal Story
I have worn contact lenses for nearsightedness since I was 16. I am practically blind without them. (I can't read the Big E at the eye doctor) :-) While I was on tour, my vision was corrected to 20/10....maybe that is why I had such fast hands! Having perfect eyesight was imperative to seeing the ball early.
As I reached middle age, my ability to read started to wane and my ophthalmologist suggested that I try a regular contact lens in one eye and a reader on the other. He insisted that my eyes would adjust and, with one eye, I would see from a distance and with the other eye I would be able to read. Seemed like a great idea until I went out on the court for my next set of lessons and was unable to make contact with ball!! My peripheral vision was affected and my ability to track the ball was completely gone.
If you are not seeing the ball well, I encourage you to make an appointment with your eye doctor and check your eyesight!