Shot Anticipation/Preparation

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by BudFox, Oct 4, 2012.

  1. BudFox

    BudFox New User

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    Newer player trying to climb the ladder.

    I've found that I can easily handle the slower pace of 3.0's and some 3.5's, but when I am matched up against a harder hitter I get tossed. My thought is I need to adjust my timing to the higher speed. I have a long swing motion, but am used to the ball taking longer to arrive and my timing is off resulting in an abbreviated swing motion (I can imagine this is ugly to watch - and I know for a fact the ball is ugly to watch). I'm inclined to believe it's a problem with my anticipation and preparation. Has anyone else experienced this? And if so, what were the keys to overcoming it?

    Also, any tips for training? Ball machine? Is the wall effective for something like this? I ask because if the responses are going to be "work at it" I'd rather have a method of working at it that doesn't involve me getting stomped for a few months straight. Not that I have a huge problem with losing, but I am trying to put in the extra work outside of matches.

    Any responses/suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thanks.
     
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  2. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    If you are playing matches where players can hit balls with way more pace than you can, at similar consistancy, then you are playing people who are better than you. Therefore you don't need a "reason" to explain your loss.

    As far as what to do about it as you improve, you have two choices: either you can handle their pace better or you have to hit the sort of shot where they can't generate as much pace with the same consistancy. You know your game best so whichever you think suits you better is likely to be the right answer.
     
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  3. samarai

    samarai Rookie

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    Imporvements

    Hes just a better player. No matter how good we think we are there's always someone better. How to improve depends on your abilities. If you cant add pace and spin and cant improve much athletically then do what most older players do ( drop shot, lob, slice you to submission).
     
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  4. BudFox

    BudFox New User

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    I appreciate the responses.

    I'd like to refine my plea. I was not attempting to rationalize my losses or make excuses. I accept the players I'm losing to are better than I am - I promise my ego is not THAT inflated. My intention was to identify the weakness(es) in my game and see if anyone had tips for how to improve in any of these areas.

    LuckyR mentioned handling the pace better as an option. What I am looking for specifically is advice on HOW to do this.
     
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  5. Alchemy-Z

    Alchemy-Z Hall of Fame

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    Practice with someone who can hit with pace/ball machine if you have too.

    Work on timing and contact point first and good form...worry about location of shot after that,

    don't be scared to crush the ball in practice you will be surprised how much control you can gain with a faster head speed+spin....where swinging just a little slower and flat would blast the ball to the fence.
     
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  6. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    You are experiencing the wide eyed, deer in headlights experience ALL of us feel when we are outmatched by a stronger player.
    EVERY player goes thru this.
    The only cure is to play stronger hitters and better players, and pretty soon, you will adjust.
    Watch vids of Federer just hitting with a top 10 men's pro. He don't move his feet, he's casual about prep, he swings slow and easy, and he's on time everytime.
    You only get quicker by playing hard hitters.
     
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  7. ATP100

    ATP100 Professional

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    When you finish your stroke, are you moving or are you standing there,
    most rec players just stand there longer than they think, this makes you late
    for your next shot.
     
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  8. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    Great post!
    The other guys must have just read it too quick, as you stated it well.
    It's tough to answer without coaching.
    Ball machine set pretty face can help greatly and can be tough due to no wind
    up cues like with an opponent or coach. That challenge is good for your
    situation though.
    I also think working on a more compact swing can help.
    Seems the main issue is timing and stalking with 2 hands on the racket can
    help with this. The 2 hand prep to take back gets the shoulders turned early and
    the off hand can even help to start the look more compact.
    See what you think.
    As a coach I would slowly raise the pace and work with you to adjust your
    efforts.
     
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  9. Cheetah

    Cheetah Hall of Fame

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    I'd bet that poor footwork is also a contributing factor here.
     
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  10. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    My bet is that poor footwork is a side effect of the real problem.
    Seems his footwork is fine for slower balls, but since his timing is not up to the
    task, there will be lots of side effects. Just a different perspective. We can't
    know much without a vid, can we:)
     
    #10
  11. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Well, that is a multifaceted issue. From simple to complex: first, even within the match itself, you are going to become accustomed to the faster pace as you hit every shot, it will increase what your muscle memory "feels" is the average pace of a shot, which is what drives your stroke prep speed.

    Second, since you know about it ahead of time, you could practice faster pace, if you knew you were going to play someone who hits hard. It can be as simple as standing 2 long paces closer to the net than you normally do to rally. Of course you could also practice with better competition.

    Over time, even if you have Modern strokes, you should develop a slice to deal with situations with less prep time. That will also help your returns and approaches, BTW.

    In addition, also over time, your eye/brain combo will start to "predict" where shots are going before they are struck, so you can start your stroke earlier, therefore blunting the effect of more pace.
     
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  12. Cheetah

    Cheetah Hall of Fame

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    True. A video would help identity the issues.

    We already know he has poor footwork because he's a 3.0 or 3.5 and that means he's most likely late to get in position, probably off balance, maybe some lunging here or there, inconsistent prep, no time for a good knee bend or loading, not enough weight transfer and the rest of the vicious cycle.
     
    #12
  13. bhupaes

    bhupaes Professional

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    Yep, this is the problem I have! I survey my handiwork sometimes for a moment too long, and get jammed on the next shot... :(
     
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  14. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    After watching Federer warming up with any top level pro, it's obvious the shoulder turn and prep is the most important thing.
    Footwork be darned, if we can shoulder turn and prep like Federer WARMING UP, we'd be 2 full levels better right off the bat.
    You hit off your turret, the shoulders, trunk, and arms.
    You get there with your legs and feet, and add a little more to the shot.
     
    #14
  15. moopie

    moopie Rookie

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    learn to split step

    Assuming that split stepping is not part of your game yet, since you say you're a newer player. Practice split stepping until it becomes second nature and you don't need to think about it.

    Split stepping is not only beneficial for balls hit far away from you, as many might think. Watch pros rally lightly while the balls are hit right to each other, and they're still split stepping. It's crucial for the timing of your strokes.
     
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  16. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    very good basic point.
     
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  17. Bergboy123

    Bergboy123 Semi-Pro

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    Dude that's what I'm experiencing right now. I got involved with the tennis guys here at college and there are plenty of solid 5.0 guys that I get to play with every night now. I've never played against such consistent spin, control, and mostly pace before. I love it, but gosh it's hard to adjust to.

    I agree with the other posters, splitsteps, preparation, and lots of shoulder turn are key.

    But mostly it's just practice and getting used to the next level.

    Good luck!
     
    #17
  18. Hi I'm Ray

    Hi I'm Ray Hall of Fame

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    Rallying with these kinds of players will give you the best practice IMO. If that's not available to you regularly then practicing with a ball machine set to a fast setting will definitely provide a lot of good practice. However, be aware that ball machines that do not have a topspin feature will need to be set at a low trajectory at the fastest settings to keep the ball in, this combined with the lack of topspin will lead to a very low flat ball that travels and bounces very differently from the usual fast/heavy topspin shots of real players. Its still good practice for handling fast shots, but you will likely have some timing/adjusting issues when going from the machine to real players. If you can, set the machine to so that it doesn't just fire to one spot.
     
    #18
  19. KenC

    KenC Professional

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    All your limitations and defects get magnified when playing against intermediate level players. That's why having a good hitting coach is essential to help iron out those defects and limitations as you progress.
     
    #19
  20. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

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    You can do well in low pace play with sloppy footwork and sloppy strokes because the margin of error is higher and you have plenty of time. You can therefore be sloppy mentally too.

    Fast paced play starts with mental focus which drives intelligent footwork and controls clean strokes.

    To develop that mental focus you need to see more fast balls which means you need to play up more than down or at your own level. As you see more fast balls you build an internal reference and can focus better. Your brain sees things more clearly even at a fast pace and you can then react in a controlled manner. You can also anticipate better with a larger internal reference.

    In fact recent brain research supports this idea of internal reference development whether tennis, baseball, or even chess. You need to see lots of examples of something to build that internal reference.

    None of this matters unless unless you DO focus and focus intensely. In really low paced noob play you often have enough time to flick an errant ball out of the way while hitting! In fast paced play it's the opposite: you need to be 100% focused on the ball snd thinking fast. Your internal reference DB needs to guide every step and stroke BEFORE they take place. The only way to develop that ability is to hit with higher level players.

    I know this because I'm a fellow 3.0/low 3.5 and play with lower level players (my wife and kids), peers, and higher level players at our club.

    When I go from hitting with the wife and kids to higher level players the transition is jarring due to my inexperience. This week I went from helping my wife warm up for practice on Tuesday night to hitting against two of my team's best players on Thursday night. At first on Thursday night I was a mess. It took me a good 20 minutes to get my focus and timing back to hit well.

    Better players don't need to make that transition...they already have. We lower level live in a weird border region of mostly low to medium paced play with flashes of hard hitting which throws us off, especially if we don't focus and play up as much as we can.
     
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  21. BudFox

    BudFox New User

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    All,

    Thanks for all the discussion. I couldn't have even hoped for this kind of response.

    I was able to get out and hit with a few different people last night. Probably all a lower level than I should be shooting for, but I still tried to pay extra mind to footwork and getting shoulders turned earlier - it does make an immense difference. I don't feel so rushed when it comes time to swing. Hadn't seen the split step point by the time I went out, but I'll be sure to work on that piece as well. The shoulder turn seems like it's a matter of repetition and becoming accustomed to making it happen sooner.Footwork on the other hand is a different beast. It will definitely will take some time as it feels awkward so I'll have to figure something out that's more natural.

    A few people had mentioned video and coincidentally I'm doing some work with a coach tonight who said we may do some filming at the end. I'll see if I can get my hands on it to post.

    Again, thank you much for the suggestions.
     
    #21
  22. Tcbtennis

    Tcbtennis Professional

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    Lots of good advice given so far. I would like to add something. Less experienced players tend to move at the speed of the ball. Hence slow balls mean slower footwork, slow shoulder turn (probably when the ball bounces in front of you), slow racquet take back. When you face harder hitters and the ball in right up on you more quickly than you are used to you, you end up getting jammed with a late contact point (especially since you have long backswing).

    You need to prepare for the upcoming shot the moment you know that the upcoming ball is a forehand or backhand. You must split step when your opponent is about to hit his/her shot. By the time you recover from the split step you know which side the ball is coming. You must turn your shoulders then. By the time the ball is above the net, your shoulders should be turned. You will be amazed by how much more time you will feel that you have to set up to hit the ball with early preparation.

    Watch Serena Williams. She has such early racquet prep. She is waiting for the ball like she has all the time in the world.
     
    #22

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