This Really Works-Keeping Eye on Ball

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by kenshireen, Nov 21, 2009.

  1. kenshireen

    kenshireen Professional

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    I have played for 40 years and having watched Federer slo-motion videos saw that he kept his head down on the ball as close as humanly possible until it struck his racket.

    Most of us have a tendency to follow the ball but not TRY to watch it hit the racquet head.
    We tend to look up at where the ball is going as we strike it..

    What I am going to say is very subtle and difficult to do because of the inclination to see where the ball is going after you strike it. But I have been doing the following lately and it has significantly increased my consistency.

    I follow the ball as it strikes the opponents racket and as it is crossing the net and coming to either my BH or FH I take a snapshot of the court and decide where I am going to attempt to hit the ball (i.e. DTH, CC, Drop, etc.) Now here is the most important and difficult part (only difficult due to habit). I watch the ball hit my racket head and only after I strike it do I look up.. I agree that there is only a millisecond difference between this technique and the other way where you strike and look up almost simultaneously.

    But for me I find that I hit the ball much more consistently and have fewer frame shots.
    It also stops me from lifting up my shoulder when striking the ball which tends to keep the ball from flying deep.

    Now, I am a 3.5 player so take that into consideration..

    Ken
     
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  2. crash1929

    crash1929 Hall of Fame

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    yeah this is a key concept. feels good right?!
     
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  3. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    Hmm.... this is some new technique? What will they come up with next... getting hard to keep up with this new age tennis stuff.

    ;)
     
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  4. chess9

    chess9 Hall of Fame

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    This is always a good reminder. It's very easy to get lazy about hitting the ball. In warm ups, I'll frequently just be loosening my arm up and NOT tightening up my eyeballs as well. :) Loose eyes, loose shots.

    Thanks, Ken.

    -Robert
     
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  5. kenshireen

    kenshireen Professional

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    Think about how many times you have struck the ball and saw the other side of the court simultaneously... This is very common.. Almost as if you have one eye on the ball and one eye on the court. Now if you can strike the ball by keeping "both" eyes on the ball you will not be seeing anything at all on the other side of the net.. That is the litmus test to determine that you are really "watching" the ball all the way.

    I have taught this to others and it does make their ball striking more consistent.

    Now you might ask.. what happens in doubles when you take the snapshot and then focus on the ball only...and somebody decides to poach...do you have enough time to alter your originally designed shot....and the answer is usually yes.... because your snapshot is taken an instant before you strike the ball.

    How many times have you heard someone say... I took my eyes off the ball and was looking at you move...etc.

    This tehcnique, thought simplistic, and not new age, will improve the average club player if he sticks to it...

    Ken
     
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  6. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    I think he was being facetious about the new age thing. There have been several threads on this and most likely you will be hearing from SA shortly about the science of seeing the ball as it approaches you.

    However, none of this should take away from the grand experience you have now had of doing this and understanding the importance 1st hand, regardless of the science behind it. You will also have some interesting additions with this new understanding as you work with it.
    Congrats on this breakthru!
     
    #6
  7. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

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    Incompetent coaches have always told their pupils to watch the ball. Only the very best could teach their pupils _how_ to watch the ball. It can only be done by keeping the head still while tracking the ball with the eyes only -- most coaches don't bother to tell you that. Also, most people point their face towards the oncoming ball, so to track it as it hits the racket you have to have your eyes turned in their eye sockets as far as they'll go. What Federer seems to do is to point his face more to the side and start watching the incoming ball with his eyes turned as far as possible to the _other_ side, so that as the ball hits his racket his eyes are pointed pretty straight ahead.

    That makes it easier to see the ball as it hits the racket, but it's hard to make yourself turn your face away from the ball as it's crossing the net.
     
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  8. kenshireen

    kenshireen Professional

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    Frank,
    Can you clarify what you mean when you say his eyes are pointed straight ahead.
    You do mena they are pointed directed at the racket head.. correct?

    I agree that keeping the head still is critical.. Have you ever noticed that when he lift your head up it tends to pull your arm/shoulder up with it... This again is subtle but have somebody video tape you and in slo-mo see what happens when you turn your head from the side to straightforward... (This is a 90 degree turn in effect)
     
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  9. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Track the ball until your head NEEDS to move, then hold the head still.
    You don't need to watch the ball INTO your racket. You only need to track it down to between 3-6' from your strikepoint.
    Never ever look up before contact. You KNOW where the ball is going because YOU hit it ... :shock::shock:
     
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  10. Fedace

    Fedace Banned

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    Slow mo videos show that it is impossible to actually see the ball strike your racket strings... it happens too fast..
     
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  11. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Fed has some vids where it tracks right into impact.
    You CAN track into impact if you hit really in front of you, early and solid. You cannot track into impact on EVERY incoming shot, as some get behind you, some to the side, some you happen to be taking a hard step.
    3-6' without LIFTING your eyes is good enough.
     
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  12. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Fed does not actually track the ball all the way into impact. If you look more closely at the very high speed footage, you may notice that his eyes actually get to the impact/contact point slightly before the ball does.

    As Fedace indicates, our eyes are incapable of tracking the ball all the way into the strings. I've talked about the science of the way our eyes actually see and track moving objects numerous times before, so I'm not going to get into it here. Suffice it to say the the ball essentially becomes invisible (to the player attempting to hit the ball) about a meter or 2 before it gets to the impact point on most incoming balls. By keeping the head & eyes still, we can sometimes pick up a momentary yellow blur sometime after our eyes can no longer track it using the smooth pursuit system.

    Whether we see the blur or not, may or may not be important. The most important part of this process is to keep the head still and the eyes "quiet". I prefer to say that Federer fixates on the impact point rather than on the ball.

    Note also the the head & eyes should remain quiet for than just a millisecond after contact. That would be way too quick. It is more like hundreds of milliseconds. Consider that the the ball is on the strings for something like 4-5 milliseconds. This time duration represents a very small portion of the forward swing of the racquet. The head/eye should stay still longer than most people think. Note in the pix below that Federer still has his eyes fixated on the impact point well after contact -- his head does not move until he is nearly finished with the follow-thru.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    .
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2009
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  13. kenshireen

    kenshireen Professional

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    Exactly, you know where it is going before you hit it.. You must have the confidence in your strokes to know this. The only caveat is when playing doubles you might see a shot and then there is a last second poachfrom your opponent which may leave an alley open.. I think there is a chance you may miss this opportunity
     
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  14. kenshireen

    kenshireen Professional

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    I disagree... maybe at the pro level where they are hitting 100 fh..but you take a recreational, mid level player and you can see the ball strike the strings... I have done it myself on many occassions and I don't push the ball. I would like some of you guys to try this next time out and give me some feedback... I'm not referring to 4.5 and above but rather 3.0-4.0

    Ken
     
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  15. kenshireen

    kenshireen Professional

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    As Fedace indicates, our eyes are incapable of tracking the ball all the way into the strings. I've talked about the science of the way our eyes actually see and track moving objects numerous times before, so I'm not going to get into it here. Suffice it to say the the ball essentially becomes invisible (to the player attempting to hit the ball) about a meter or 2 before it gets to the impact point on most incoming balls. By keeping the head & eyes still, we can sometimes pick up a momentary yellow blur sometime after our eyes can no longer track it using the smooth pursuit system.

    I still do not agree that you cannot see the ball hit the strings. You see the ball coming towards you and then you make the turn to either FH or BH-and move the racket forward (in frontof your body) and keep your head on that ball until it hits the racket....I have done this many times. I don't see why it is occularly impossible to see the actual impact.

    Once again mid level players...tempo and racket head speed
     
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  16. teppeiahn1

    teppeiahn1 Rookie

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    not about watchign the ball hit the strings, its more about making sure your hitting out in front of you cleanly.
     
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  17. kenshireen

    kenshireen Professional

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    To hit cleanly you must keep your eyes and head on the ball.. Hitting out in front is more the biomechaincs of good footwork
     
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  18. Clintspin

    Clintspin Semi-Pro

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    What Federer does has nothing to do with watching the ball. It is about keeping your head still so that your shoulders and other body parts don't move. A golfer can clearly see the ball before he/she swings, the golf ball is not moving but that golfer must keep the head still to keep from pulling away from the ball and thus slicing or hooking.

    And yes it has been proved over and over that you can no more watch the tennis ball hit your stings than a baseball player can watch the ball hit the bat. I would go further and say trying to watch the ball hit the strings will mess your shot up.
     
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  19. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Even in the other way of doing it you should not look up. Regardless of which technique you use, keeping your head still at contact is important. Also, since the eyes are legally blind when the ball is about 4 - 5 feet from contact, it will look like the eyes are glazed and unable to track the ball any more. It will look like the eyes are looking away from contact when it is simply that the blur of the ball is what it sees.

    If you want to turn your head towards impact that is fine but you should keep your head still on both techniques.
     
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  20. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    To me it's very simple, you do watch the ball and keep the upperbody still as you hit. Those who say you do not see the ball, what about very slow ball, 10 mph or so? Your eyes suddenly turn blind? If you can see a 10mph ball clearly it stands to reason that you certainly can see 20 mph, but with less accuracy. And that's the thing, the higher pace the ball has, the less accuracy you can watch it as you hit. So, the bottomline is you just try and watch it your best, and try to have the best probability of hitting it accurately.
     
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  21. nabrug

    nabrug Rookie

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    Saccade/Eye-jump?
     
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  22. ShooterMcMarco

    ShooterMcMarco Hall of Fame

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    I'm the worst offender of snapping my head in the direction of the ball prior to making contact. Bad, very bad.
     
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  23. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Well, keep in mind that our brains, only see something like 20 -30 frames per second - kinda like a motion picture reel. Although we think we see a continuous picture, the fact is we don't. That's why is so important to watch the ball into the racquet, even on the serve - you need that "latest/last" frame to provide you brain with the most accurate information.
     
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  24. kenshireen

    kenshireen Professional

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    I'm going out to use my ball machine tomorrow and I will set it at non-oscillating, medium ball speed and medium control. The balls should more or less come to the same spot. I will report back if I was actually able to see the ball impact the string. I have 20/20 vision and also perfect near term vision.
     
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  25. ShooterMcMarco

    ShooterMcMarco Hall of Fame

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    The master in action:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnB3Jxy9Ecc
     
    #25
  26. jswinf

    jswinf Professional

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    I regurlaly "remember" to watch the ball as closely as possible and am surprised how much better/more consistent the results are, still after not too long it's faded from the top of the list. I bet lots of people have similar experiences.

    Attempting to watch the ball to contact, regardless of physiological limits on human ability to do that, will help your eye-hand coordination get the racket in the best place to impact the ball. Just like the importance of a follow-through, what the racket does after the ball leaves the strings obviously doesn't affect the shot, but if the stroke was correct a certain follow-through must result.

    I'm all for watching the ball (when I remember to.)
     
    #26
  27. spacediver

    spacediver Hall of Fame

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    It may be useful to conceptualize this issue in terms of feedforward and feedback.

    Feedforward can be thought of responses that are pre-programmed, while feedback can be thought of responses to real-time information.

    Due to our limitations in visually processing information and generating motor outputs, there will necessarily be a portion of our response that is feedforward.

    The key is to optimize the flow of visual information so that our brains have as much information as possible to reliably predict the course of events that we cannot see, and then to optimize our biomechanics such that the feedforward execution is as smooth as possible.

    Keeping the head still may facilitate this latter stage.
     
    #27
  28. crash1929

    crash1929 Hall of Fame

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    this is a basic idea yet i constantly have to remind myself to do it. and i'm 4.5. i never even heard of this concept until i started on this site a number of years ago. i notice feds baby pic hitting a fh and he is already keeping his head still and not moving it, even at like 3.

    i mostly pick my head up when i'm running and stretching out to hit a fh. i can't help looking up to see where the ball is going.

    i also pull my head down on my serve way too much.
     
    #28
  29. jmjmkim

    jmjmkim Semi-Pro

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    This applies to GOLF as well.
     
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  30. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Nope, not buying it. I don't believe that you are actually seeing what you think you are seeing. Your brain is undoubtedly filling in a lot more gaps than you realize.

    Let's look at the pro level first for the sake of comparison. A 130 mph serve will be traveling at about 60 mph by the time that it gets to the opposite baseline. The pros are probably hitting most groundstrokes for shots with an incoming speeds of 30-60 mph. A pro at the net could easily face incoming shots that are in excess of 75 mph. At these speeds, the ball essentially becomes "invisible" more than 4 meters before it reaches the volleyer. According to an expert on an episode of Sport Science, a baseball batter facing a 90 mph pitch is incapable of seeing/tracking the ball for the last 15 feet before it reaches the plate.

    I would estimate that 3.0/3.5 players are routinely facing balls that are in the range of 20-40 mph. Even very slow balls in the 15-25 mph range can exceed the eyes ability to see & track the ball once it gets within 2-3 feet. There may be a very low % of shots that are actually slow enough for our eyes to track clearly/cleanly (without saccadic jumps).

    It is not just the speed of the ball, but its proximity to the player that makes it impossible to track it. Our smooth pursuit system can successfully track balls that traverse our field of central (foveal) vision at speed less than 30 degrees/sec (3 degrees per 100 ms). According the the following source, the peak velocity for the smooth pursuit system is in the range of 20-50 degrees/sec.

    Smooth pursuit eye movements


    For events that exceed the smooth pursuit system, the eyes/brain employ a movement know as a jump-ahead saccade. The eyes jump ahead in an effort to catch up or "lie in wait" for a moving object that it can no track with smooth pursuit movements. The saccadic system may be useful at peak velocities up 700-900 degrees/sec (70-90 degrees per 100 ms). We do not actually see the ball when the eyes are (saccadic) jumping. The brain will sometimes try to fill in the missing visual information. We can often pick a momentary blur of the ball near or at impact. Since the ball changes directing during impact, it does have a velocity of zero for an instant (something on the order of a millisecond). It is possible that one might pick up a very brief image of the ball at/near impact.
    .
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2009
    #30
  31. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Well, the ball is on the racquet for such a small fraction of time that its difficult/impossible to see it at impact. Vision is one thing, frames that you see is another --- you would have to see in the order of 150 - 200 frames per second to see this on a regular basic - I think thats far out of the possible/probable range.

    Should you watch the ball into the racquet - absolutely.
     
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  32. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    < This post intentionally left blank >




    .
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2009
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  33. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Yes, good post.
     
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  34. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    I have heard this several times but not seen the actual quote. One thing we as tennis players have over baseball players is that regardless of where the ball is going we have to hit it. We also have a much larger hitting surface to work with and getting hit is not much of a factor. I would think the baseball player has to make up his mind about swinging maybe when the ball is still fifteen feet away but that maybe he will get another frame or two as he's swinging.

    Not a baseball player but I find this interesting.
     
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  35. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    These are measures of static visual acuity. It says very little of our ability to perform smooth pursuit tracking or saccadic tracking of a dynamic (moving) object.

    (refer to post #30 above)
     
    #35
  36. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, the batter does need to make up his mind early if he decides to swing because it takes some time to move the bat into position to contact the ball. For a 90 mph pitch, the ball takes about 400 ms to reach the plate once if leaves the pitcher's hand. However, because of the time it takes to swing the bat, the batter probably has less much less than 200 ms to react. The best batters in bb probably have simple visual reaction times of 150 ms or better (compared to 200-250 ms for the general population).

    Baseball batter are taught to keep the head down/still and eyes on the expected impact point if they decide to swing at a pitch. (This is very much like the technique the Federer uses when hitting a tennis ball). Even tho' the bb batter has lost sight of the ball 15 feet before it has reached the plate, it is possible the saccadic system may pick up some additional visual info just prior to contact. (I can try to dig up a link for that Sport Science episode if you are interested).

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    #36
  37. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Batters and golfers have feet set every time, stance set before incoming ball even starts.
    Tennis players occasionally set their feet, make up some by jumping, but also hit lots of balls with the torso moving, the feet moving, or even turning during the shot, so harder to track the ball. Tennis balls can come high or slow, spun differently, arc differently, and in or out.
    But you TRY to track it all the way in. You don't at times, you do quite often. That's the best you can do.
     
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  38. Power Player

    Power Player G.O.A.T.

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    If I keep my head down and eyes on the ball, move my feet and hit out in front... good things happen the majority of the time.
     
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  39. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    Yep, and the scientific terms to describe what's happening haven't changed any of that yet.
     
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  40. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Well, I'd be interested if its fairly easy to locate. Not sure I'll be able to comprehend the whole thing but it certainly sounds interesting.
     
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  41. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Actually, it has. When the ball is in close proximity, it is not "eyes on the ball", it is "eyes on the contact point". This is an important difference in my mind. It is one of the basic tenets of the "Quiet Eye" technique (in the field of gaze control) developed by expert, Joan Vickers.

    In Federer's case. his gaze is fixed on the impact zone on the incoming ball as well as for the outgoing ball. (He appears to fix his gaze a bit longer on the contact zone when the ball is outgoing than he does when the ball is approaching the contact area).
     
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  42. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    #42
  43. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Actually, the Sport Science episode does not really get into all the dirty, nasty details. It should be fairly easy to comprehend. I provide the Sport Science link in the following posts:

    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=2409847

    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=3413660
    .
     
    #43
  44. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    I can't really agree, but that is fine. Many of us have been doing this for decades before hearing this explanation, by just using the eye on the ball coaching. It's great though if this description helps more people to learn to use this technique that comes natural to many athletes and maybe just about anybody. It is the normal way of seeing, first smooth tracking, then jumping ahead to a spot when the closure is too fast. It seems that some just choose a different spot to jump ahead to.

    Here is some discussion as it relates to Federer and it describes the method as I have used it-

    http://www.revolutionarytennis.com/federervisiontechnique.html#rebuttalvision

    quote-Federer doesn't look for the contact in front of the racket, he looks for it from the back of the racket as the photos indicate. The back of the racket lies between his eyes and ball contact, his visual focus for contact goes to the back the racket and not the front as everyone else does. Though at times the ball may be visible during contact through the string bed from behind if the ball's high enough it's really looking from the back of the racket that primes this technique and not a desire to actually see the ball hit the strings. Federer is not trying to see the ball hit the strings, he is in fact seeing the racket hit the ball, specifically seeing the back of the racket flashing through.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2009
    #44
  45. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    #45
  46. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    I've been doing this for decades as well but have refined my teaching regarding "watching the ball" in recent years. Most, but not all, students of tennis do not really need to be told to "watch the ball". That should pretty much be intuitive for most players. However, what is not really intuitive is that the eyes and head should be kept still for a while -- just prior to impact, during contact, and for a while after contact. This is pretty much counter-intuitive.

    When players are told to watch the ball at all times, they will often move the eyes & head too much in an effort to follow the ball all the way into the strings and then try to follow the ball immediately after contact. Many others will pull their eyes & head up just before contact in a misguided effort to look at the target area. The eyes/head probably come up when they can no longer track the incoming ball with the smooth pursuit system. In either case, mis-hits will often result because the swing path is altered when the head moves prematurely.
     
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  47. slepax

    slepax New User

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    I am a very systematic myself so I want to make sure I understand what you are saying:

    1. Your opponent hits the balls towards your side of the court.
    2. You watch the ball up to several feet from where you stand, where at this point it becomes impossible to actually track the ball any further.
    3. Your head/eyes then jumps to the estimated contact point, while the ball is still travelling and your racquet is still travelling to the contact point.
    4. You then hit the ball while keeping your head still until sometimes after contact.

    That sounds extremely hard, something that requires a superb hands-eye coordination...
     
    #47
  48. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    ^ Yes, tennis is a bit of a challenge. This is also pretty much the same sequence a baseball batter or cricket batsman goes thru to hit a ball. With tennis pros, you do see some variations for #3. I believe that Agassi stopped moving his head & eyes at a approx the point where the ball vanishes rather than at the expected contact point. Many players will look at a point just in front of the racquet's expected impact point whereas Federer "appears" to be looking thru his strings to "see" the incoming ball.
     
    #48
  49. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
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    I can't agree that student don't have to be reminded of watching the ball, but do completely with what you say about keeping the head still, except that watching the ball would be counter to keeping the head still. I teach this in a way that the concepts work together. I've been teaching it this way since '93 and how nice it was when Fed came along as a super model for me to refer to.
     
    #49
  50. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2004
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    4,071
    Yeah, me too. Probably means that they "know to watch the ball" but its amazing the shortcut that constantly creep into the picture.
    Actually, we're all guilty of it from time to time. My mind, whats left of it anyway, has a tendency to wander.

    Good stuff though.
     
    #50

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