service return: where do you focus your eyes?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Buddy, Nov 11, 2012.

  1. Buddy

    Buddy New User

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    I saw an old thread on this but would appreciate new views. I've struggled with watching the server's ball toss up into the air which isn't working for me. I too often fail to see the ball bounce on my side of the court -- any tips would be appreciated on this aspect as well. Some have said to watch the server's chest which partially works for me. Most recently, I've tried to focus on the ball as it crosses over the net -- focus is how many feet above the net. This is a significant improvement for me, but my return of serve is still terrible. I have no problem "seeing" and judging the ball on normal baseline shots, just the serve and return of serve. So where do you focus your eyes on the service return?
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
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  2. xFullCourtTenniSx

    xFullCourtTenniSx Hall of Fame

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    Always ball toss or chest (because that usually can give you a hint to the spin or placement).

    If you wait until the ball crosses the net, you'll get aced or miss the ball unless you're dealing with slow serves.
     
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  3. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    some people change their toss, i´ve even seen people change their stance, others stay sideways on slices and kicks. had a doubles opponent recently who changed his position when serving wide or down the middle
    had an opponent once who would always stare at me for an extra second, before hitting flat firsts:)
    for me it´s like this. i feel that even very good players sometimes lack the ability or the understanding how to read or evaluate their opponent.

    to give you a direct answer to your direct question:) i don´t focus my eyes as much as i watch the player as a whole
     
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  4. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    It is ok to notice the toss and its location but you should probably not dwell on it too much. If I recall correctly, gaze control studies show that elite players focus primarily on the upward swing (path) of the server's racquet. It was found that eyes of lesser skilled players tended to dart around much more than elite players. Elite players kept their eyes quieter -- they did not necessarily follow the toss up and own as one might expect. Less is more. Try focusing on the upward swing more and see if that doesn't help.
     
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  5. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    ^^^I remember a similar study, I vaguely remember that the outcome was that elite level players focused on the servers hitting shoulder as opposed to following the ball, where (as you say) the rec players eyes dart around all over the place following the ball, hands, racquets, torso etc.

    Cheers
     
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  6. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I would have said upper torso, right near the shoulder of the server. Use your peripheral vision on the ball, your eyes are sighted as it's coming in, and little movement is needed to notice where the ball bounces.
    The LEAST eye or head movement, the better.
     
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  7. watungga

    watungga Semi-Pro

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    Thank heavens for having this issue posted here.

    I was struggling where to look before. If I looked at the tossed ball, I imagined the ball heading straight to me. Like it will not bounce at all. I know, its a bad habit. I may have a fear or something.

    Now, I trained my eyes to really focus on the ball and assuming that will go to the net. That's it. I have a home-in focus that way.
     
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  8. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    I think that you may be correct about the hitting shoulder. I'll have to see if I can dig up the study or my post from several years back on this.
     
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  9. Rozroz

    Rozroz Legend

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    ooppppssssss
     
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  10. Xonemains

    Xonemains Semi-Pro

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    It does not matter where you look before the ball toss, I receive 160-190km serves all the time. If you are focusing too hard before the toss, you're probably already loss focus when the ball arrives.

    The eye and brain knows what's coming and where. You just have to let them work faster by doing the below.

    1. Stay fully relaxed and watch the opponent's body language, you will pick up what he will do after 1 set. (Advanced players always do this)

    2. Stay very relaxed until he strikes the ball, then you give it all the focus and concentration on the ball only, your eyes will be on the ball only!!!!! your body will move naturally on its own to meet the ball.

    3. Lastly, this is absolutely crucial!!! And very very simple. Stay very low and lower your centre of gravity, your eyes will be underneath the ball when the opponent tosses the ball. Your brain process things a lot quicker if the ball is above your line of sight, things like , ball speed, direction and spin. I'm not going to explain the physics of it.


    Tennis is easy if you let it be, it's just more physical nowadays:)
     
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  11. Buddy

    Buddy New User

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    Some good advice which I'll try next time I'm out. I also think some of my problem is overly concerning myself with the net player in dubs. 4.0 USTA, men's doubles. I haven't played singles in quite awhile, but I definitely have more difficulty with service returns in doubles. Any thoughts.
     
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  12. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Good points but I do not fully agree with #2. Prior to contact, elite serve returners fixate on the ball briefly prior to contact according to studies on this subject. Take a look at my post from 3 years back on this subject. It contains a link that is germane to this thread...

     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
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  13. Buddy

    Buddy New User

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    Great post SystemicAnomaly

    Thanks for the info but I wonder if the study of the Advanced vs Novice tennis coaches was to have them observe servers for the purpose of i) how best to return a serve or ii) how best to detect serve flaws. The reason is the following excerpt from the study: "The main areas of interest for both
    groups of coaches were similar in both situations, and there was not clear the effect of the dimensionality of the display on the visual behaviour of the coaches during the mistakes detection process." So I will still try to focus on the hitting shoulder.....
     
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  14. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    Interesting, not heard this theory before. Can you explain further? Spatial awareness of actions above the eye line is one of the last areas of proprioception to develop in juniors (usually around 8 or 9 years of age - which is why learning to serve is tougher than hitting a ground when you learn as a kid), but I've not heard that processing outside information is faster vhen the object is above the eyeline?

    cheers
     
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  15. NTRPolice

    NTRPolice Semi-Pro

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    I tend to watch the ball as it goes upwards. The next place I look is where I think the ball will bounce in the court. By looking there, you can get a peripheral of the incoming spin pre-bounce and serve direction, but more importantly, the action of the ball after it hits the court. This is especially important on the second serve since the ball moves a lot more and you will be forced to return a little "harder".

    On first serves I watch the impact to get the direction. After that, I look into the court where I think the ball will bounce in the court and then try to meet the ball with my racket. Against big servers, I dont get the luxury of watching the ball actually hit my racket, lol.
     
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  16. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Expertise differences in preparing to return a tennis serve

    The study above indicates that expert tennis players focused primarily on the shoulder/trunk area during the ritual phase of the serve. During the execution phase, expert players focused primarily on the racquet, while non-elite players tended to use more cues (their eyes darted around more, looking at the ball and different parts of the server).
     
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  17. BHiC

    BHiC Rookie

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    Yes, I agree with you. I remember I attended a seminar by someone who specialized in this, and studied where the eyes were focused during play. The pro players that she tracked watched the opponent's torso at the start of the serve, then moved their vision to the right arm (of a right handed player) during the toss, and finally followed the ball up to the server's contact point.
     
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  18. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ Did they follow the ball up to the contact or the racket? The latter makes more sense. Was that Joan Vickers who presented that seminar?
     
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  19. cork_screw

    cork_screw Hall of Fame

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    You need to focus your eyes on the first letter of the brand of ball you're using. So for instance, if you're using Penn 1. You need to focus your eyes on the "P" as it's coming to you. And wilson with "W" Just keep practicing that.
     
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  20. jwbarrientos

    jwbarrientos Hall of Fame

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    Grip at the begining, ball all the rest of the way.
     
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  21. Tennusdude

    Tennusdude Rookie

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    I pay attention the to direction that the racket is going when the opponent actually strikes the ball. I think that will put you directly on the path of the ball as it is coming. Did that make sense.
     
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  22. rk_sports

    rk_sports Hall of Fame

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    Is this where FDF can help?
     
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  23. frenzy

    frenzy New User

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    If I play mixed doubles, I usually look at the bottom of my partner.
     
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  24. jakeytennis

    jakeytennis Rookie

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    i think watching the ball toss is important.
    your eyes need to calculate the trajectory of the whole ball path in order for you to react correctly to a fast serve.
    i think not focusing on the toss makes it harder for your mind to calculate the trajectory of the first 5 feet of the balls path off the strings.

    i dont understand how watching the toss results in loss of focus on the ball path after contact, like xonemains says
     
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  25. corbind

    corbind Professional

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    Noooooow we understand why all those aces racked up...
     
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