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Old 08-04-2012, 09:41 AM   #24
LuckyR's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: The Great NW
Posts: 6,400

Originally Posted by Funbun View Post
What makes you think a returner who doesn't swing at all means him making a wrong guess? Have you considered that the returner just admitted his opponent aced him?

There are plenty of Youtube video highlights. Many of them record the aces, too.

While this is operating on personal bias, the kid I played had aced me several times during the match simply because I admitted it. I thought it was going to be impossible to reach. Similarly, when I aced him by kicking it off down the T, he just stood and admitted it. He hit some crazy serves that managed to snag the line, and so did I. I don't think either of us guessed the direction of the ball; we just simply knew that it was a genuinely fast, surprising ball that was practically low-percentage and unreachable.

I don't think I've ever seen professionals make moves before even seeing the ball head in that direction. It may seem like it, because they react so fast. For instance, I think Federer will see a ball bounce in a generic area, and move around to attack with his forehand accordingly.

This isn't an ace, but I think it demonstrates my point; Verdasco isn't moving prematurely here at all:

^^I think many people will agree here that Verdasco did a genuine split, read, react. No guessing, just shanking.

Another link here, probably describing what you see when a player moves around to hit a ball:
As I described earlier, Federer moved back and went around to hit a forehand. You've probably seen Murray do this a lot to Tsonga during the 2012 Wimbledon Championships. Of course, I'm sure many players do this off second serves, but I'm certain it's not guessing or premature moving.

The webpage also states that players are simply in the air at the time of the service contact. Take a look at a professional match on TV, and this is very evident in nearly all returns, including Verdasco's return video above.

If it can't get any more clearer, you'll see that Murray is merely reacting as fast as he can, being in the air on contact, in accordance to the observation made in the article I posted:

I previously downplayed what Pros do, since neither the OP, me or you are Pros, so that information adds very little to this discussion. But that seems to be all you are interested in.

Nonetheless, the article you cite actually supports my point, that Pros move to the ball before seeing where it is going:

"Conventional wisdom says that the returner should split step as the server makes contact with the ball. The film shows this isn't quite how it happens. What we actually see is that most players are already in the air at the time of the contact. The split step actually begins a few fractions of a second before the server hits. At this point the server's racket is still on it's way up to the ball.

But there is something else. Traditionally when we think of the split step we think of the player landing on both feet in a balanced position ready to move either way to the ball. That's not always how it happens on the pro return. Take a close look at the feet as the players come down. You'll see that before the player lands on the court, the foot closest to the ball can actually start to flare in the direction of the return. This is the start of the turn or the preparation for the return.

So the players are starting the split step well before contact. They do this by unweighting before the server hits. This puts them in the air at contact. And sometimes they are actually starting their move to the ball before they land on the court. Were players taught this? I don't think so. It's an adaption developed through experience over time.

Can it be developed, and if so how? The conventional wisdom is that the key is to timing the return is focus on the ball and react to the contact. But there is some interesting new research that suggests something different. A study done by a researcher in Virginia used goggles to record what the players did with their eyes on the return. What she found was that expert returners focused on the ball, but they were also looking at the body of the server, particularly the upper body. The same research showed that novice players didn't do this, but could be looking at different areas around the court almost randomly.

Probably what this indicates is that the brain of the returner is picking up clues about the return from watching the body of server. They might not know or be able to explain what those clues are because it probably happens subconsciously. It's just something that the player's develop automatically from focusing on the right area of the body. This may explain some of the footage we've seen in which a player like Pete Sampras appears to be reacting and starting his move to one side faster than research says is humanly possible."

But again at the Club level it is no big deal to "know" that some guy's second serve is highly likely to be hit towards your BH (since he has done it 100% of the time so far) and start running around your BH for an inside out FH winner. Really it is not a big gamble, either on the prediction part or the recovery part if you guess wrong. Really.

Last edited by LuckyR; 08-04-2012 at 09:43 AM.
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