Federer watches the ball at contact point, while Djokovic does not, is it important?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by millenium, Jul 22, 2009.

  1. millenium

    millenium New User

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    #1
  2. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Roger doesn't really "watch the ball" at the contact point. Instead, he keeps his eyes at the contact point. This is an important distinction since the human eye is incapable of tracking a ball all the way into the contact point. Our smooth pursuit tracking system actually loses sight of the ball several feet before it reaches us. For a (baseball) batter facing a 90+ MPH pitch, the ball becomes "invisible" about 15 feet (4.5 meters) before it reaches home plate.

    At best, with his eyes trained on the contact zone, Roger may pick up a yellow blur. In looking at high-speed (slow motion) video of Roger "watching the ball", I've noticed that his eyes actually get to the contact point slightly before the ball does. Therefore he is not really "watching the ball" at that time, he is "watching the contact zone".

    The most important thing, for both Federer and for Djokovic, is not where exactly they are looking but the fact that they are not moving their head & eyes (much, if at all) just before contact, at contact, and just after contact. Take a look at Andre Agassi. His head & eyes stop moving a little before the ball reaches him. His eyes are probably looking several feet (or a couple of meters) in front of the contact zone. However, just like Federer & Nadal, he keeps his head still for a while.

    .
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2009
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  3. jevonclyde

    jevonclyde Rookie

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    ^^^^ Totally agree.
     
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  4. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Djokovic actually moves his head a bit more than I expected. His head seems to rotate with his body. Whereas Federer, Nadal, Agassi and others turn their body without turning their heads during the forward swing. Regardless of where your eyes stop, it is best to keep your head as still as possible.

    My preference it to lock my eyes on the contact point like Rafa and Roger do (rather than stopping my eyes further forward like Andre does).
     
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  5. Majik

    Majik Rookie

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    What they are doing is paying attention to what they are doing, not the actual ball or racket position. At these speeds about all you can see is the trajectory of the racket. That might be at least a little information about how much topspin you're putting on various height balls. But as you look at the contact point what you're really noticing is your form of motion during the stroke. You're paying more attention to yourself than other things that could distract you, like your opponent.
     
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  6. wihamilton

    wihamilton Hall of Fame

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    Very nice explanation.
     
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  7. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    I thought so too.
    Seemed better worded than what I've seen on this in the past, even from the same poster.
    Maybe I'm just understanding it better now, haha.
     
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  8. Jay_The_Nomad

    Jay_The_Nomad Professional

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    just like golf. they tell you to keep your head still. and focus on the tee off spot.

    If you look up, your swing will be affected.
     
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  9. yellowoctopus

    yellowoctopus Professional

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    I find that this works even better for volleys. My coach said something that just clicked with me this past weekend during our volley drill: 'pick a spot where you want to place the ball and then look at where you will contact the ball [on your volley]'. To me, it was a breakthrough.
     
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  10. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    Federer: 15 slams
    Djokovic: 1 slam

    You be the judge. :)
     
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  11. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    Shows that if you keep your eyes on the ball, like Federer, then you can become #1 in the world. But if you don't watch the ball, then you'll be stuck at only #3 in the world, like Djokovic. :)
     
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  12. Netspirit

    Netspirit Hall of Fame

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  13. Netspirit

    Netspirit Hall of Fame

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    And it's not clear if he was trained to do that, of if it's just natural. He was already doing it when he was 3 years old:

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Majik

    Majik Rookie

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  15. wihamilton

    wihamilton Hall of Fame

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    Haha ya SA = wordsmith.
     
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  16. wihamilton

    wihamilton Hall of Fame

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    I hadn't seen that picture before -- very interesting. Nice post Netspirit thx.
     
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  17. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    OK, Roger was adorable as a kid, I'll give him that.
     
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  18. gocard

    gocard Semi-Pro

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    what great footwork! I couldn't help but notice how far up the handle he was gripping the racquet. Roger was a cute kid :) I bet his twin daughters will be just as cute.
     
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  19. ztennis002

    ztennis002 New User

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    I think this is very interesting I never realised how long federer kept his eyes on the ball. My swing style is more like the djoker
     
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  20. EtePras

    EtePras Banned

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    This is one of the worst posts I've ever seen. 3 year old Federer watches the ball on contact, and how many slams did he have at that age?
     
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  21. Mansewerz

    Mansewerz Legend

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    By keeping your head still, you're not jerking your head which jerks you're hitting arm which causes a shank/mishit.
     
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  22. ryangoring

    ryangoring Professional

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    For me, I look at contact point. It just seems so natural to do so.
    Think about it, when you are making out, you want to see what is going on, don't you!?! Making sure you "right on!"
    Lol!
    But yeah, for sure when you do this, you don't miss hit and you get to hit that "sweet spot" alllll dayyy longggg.

    In Tennis Life magazine they had pics or FedEX AND Soderling hitting forehands, and you saw FedEX eyes were on the contact point, but Soderling was already looking into the otherside of the court at contact point.
     
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  23. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    How does this in any way counter what I said? Did I say that any average joe who stares at a contact point will be a pro tennis player?
     
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  24. federer_15

    federer_15 Rookie

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    Very interesting post....
     
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  25. dr325i

    dr325i Legend

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    WHat you said is indeed...not wise...
    Maybe 6 years of age difference, rare talent, etc. have more to do with it than staring at the ball.
    BTW, Venus does the same as Fed, Serena does not -- who has more slams?
     
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  26. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    I dont think Andre "stops" his eyes as if on purpose. The eyes can not move quick enough to stay with the ball when it gets within about four to five feet of the player before it blurs and the peripheral vision takes over. It just happens because of how our eyes work.

    However, I liked your first post. When I worked with Vic Braden, he researched this and indicated that humans become legally blind and are unable to track the ball as it comes in close as it turns into a blur. :)
     
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  27. canadave

    canadave Professional

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    You know, I saw the same slomo video of Federer, so I tried this 'watch the contact point even during the follow-through" technique, to see if it would help my game.

    For me, I found that it messed up my stroke--I was never able to comfortably hit while keeping my head still and looking at the contact point during follow-through. Not only that, but I formed a theory about why it might not be best for me anyway:

    I watch the ball onto my racquet and then tend to shift my eyes to my target area as I swing through. I think that by doing this, I'm able to make subtle adjustments during the miniscule amount of time the ball is on the racquet face. I feel that I'm able to "calculate" (more probably "sense") the trajectory of the ball as I'm hitting it, and make tiny adjustments based on how well that calculation matches up with the target point I'm looking at. All this would be impossible if I kept my eyes on where I'd initially hit the ball. When I tried it, I felt I was almost hitting blind; I felt like I was hitting the ball in the general direction of where I wanted it to go, but had no real control over whether it got there in good shape or not.

    Perhaps with more practice I might get the hang of it. And clearly it seems to work for Mr. Federer ;)
     
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  28. Majik

    Majik Rookie

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    The ball stays on the racket bed for about 4 to 6 milliseconds, that's 4 to 6 one-thousandths of a second. There is absolutely no possible way you're going to make any kind of adjustments in that amount of time.

    If you're going for a kill shot, then you need to attack the ball with a vengence. And so you need to focus like a laser on the attack point. You may not be able to see it clearly, but you can certainly get a better sense of timing.
     
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  29. canadave

    canadave Professional

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    I stand corrected :) Maybe it's as Yogi Berra once said: the game is 90% mental, and the other half is physical?
     
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  30. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    I've read accounts of what Andre Agassi himself says about this. It sounds as if he fixates on the ball's known last position, its position before it "goes invisible". If I recall correctly, for him it makes the ball appear larger because he keeps that image in his mind as he keeps his head/eyes still during his forward swing. His fixation is definitely different from that of Federer & Nadal.

    .
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2009
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  31. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Gawd, I've been trying but I just can't seem to get the ball to stay on my strings for a full 6 ms (4-5 ms is the best that I've been able to muster). :twisted:

    You are correct, you cannot make any significant adjustments in that 4-5 ms. Those adjustments are actually happening on the forward swing just prior to contact. But then we still see manifestations of those adjustments at contact and after contact = during the follow-thru. What we see during the follow-thru is a result of slight adjustments made just prior to contact.
     
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  32. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    So you must be right. The fact that Federer remains looking at the contact point longer than most pros means absolutely nothing. It is merely a coincidence. I have been proven wrong.
     
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  33. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    This pic is amazing! Look how much of that form has not changed since 3. Is this a real photo? Looks almost like someone took a modern photo, then morphed it into kid form (if that can be done).
    wow, the way the feet cross, the tilt of the head, the contact point.....
     
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  34. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, that is what I do. I simply focus and focus until I just cant see the ball and it blurs. At that moment tracking the ball is suspended and the rest happens in my minds eye as I keep my head still and hit the ball. As the ball moves away from my and back towards the opponent the ball comes into focus again and the whole things starts.

    Also, if my eyes could physically move with the ball into my strings and I could see it like I can when it is 10 - 15 feet away from me, I would do it. However, my eyeballs just can't whip back and forth like that when the ball gets in close, hits the strings, and then heads out to the other side of the court. Just way too fast.

    Like you said, whether you use Federer's technique or not, the main point is about keeping the head still as you swing through the ball.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2009
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  35. Netspirit

    Netspirit Hall of Fame

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    Yep, it is a real photo, taken from "The Roger Federer Story" by Rene Stauffer, courtesy of revolutionarytennis.com.

    What impresses me personally is not his famous stare but rather his overall posture. He's upright, not stretched, not leaning anywhere (just a bit backward to compensate for that wooden racket's weight). He remains fully balanced on his toes, which implies decent footwork before the stroke.
     
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  36. Topspin24

    Topspin24 Rookie

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    Or his daughters could end up looking like Mirka...
     
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  37. Virtua Tennis

    Virtua Tennis Semi-Pro

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    It's really two different styles fed is close stance with a semi western. Djok is open stance extreme western. People who hit with a closed stance tend to look through the contact point more
     
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  38. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ Not so sure about that. Fed normally uses a closed stance on his BH side. However, on his FH side he often uses semi-open and fully open stances as well as neutral stances & partially-closed stance. Rafa Nadal, who hits many of his FHs with open stances, fixates on the contact point much the way that Roger does. And he does this with a Western grip.
     
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  39. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Don't know what the stance would have to do with anything.
     
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  40. Lotto

    Lotto Professional

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    I find when I do watch it I can put so much more on the ball. I rarely do it because I actually have concentration issues. I have the attention span of I dont know what. I can only stay focused if I force myself...but when I do and really watch the ball and contact point I can put so much more work on the ball, way better control and everything.
     
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  41. 0.2RatedPlayer

    0.2RatedPlayer Rookie

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    In slow motion replays it looks like Roger is staring at the contact point for a long time but you have to remember that in in real-time, its pretty short. I see a lot of rec players and club players trying to imitate him but they end up over exaggerating it and it looks try-hard.
     
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  42. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ Perhaps. But is probably not a bad idea to exaggerate it a little to get the concept down. If you keep the head very still and the eyes fixated down on the contact point until your follow-thru is complete, it does seem like a relatively long time -- more time than most of us feel comfortable with at the beginning (when trying to learn the technique). If we do it to this extreme, we may very well not see the ball before it crosses the net, but we should see the ball in plenty of time to see it bounce.

    If the opponent is in the backcourt, it is not all that important to see the ball crossing the net. However if an opponent is playing the net, we might do well to lift the eyes just a little bit sooner in order to anticipate opponent's response.

    .
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
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