Ball speed and spin perception

FiReFTW

Hall of Fame
#1
This question is particularly for more experienced people like @rogerroger917 @J011yroger @nytennisaddict etc.. but still, anyone can feel free to chime in.

Im starting to find out some very interesting things in terms of ball speed/spin perception as im getting more tennis experience, and some of it is particularly puzzling to me.

1, How come your eyes literally see the same speed ball slower as time goes on? And im not even joking, last year my buddy's serve seemed insanely fast to me receiving it in 1st person, but this year his serve is SLOWWWWWWWWWW.
Same for groundstrokes at this group thing im going to, if some of you remember some months ago I brought up the fact that these juniors hit the ball hard and have TON of spin and the ball after the bounce seemingly picks up 3 times more speed and I struggled alot when I started visiting this group thing, but now currently after some months the balls for me are not even fast anymore and neither is the spin anything great, they feel normal to me, nothing special.

And I get that with time you get used to better and faster swings and strokes, but even if you get used to them, your eyes should still perceive them as the same speed as before, how come you literally see them slower like they were in fast speed before and now in slow motion? (obviously a bit of an exageration).

2. Do you find that you see your opponents shots as faster relative to you that they are in reality?

I noticed again in this group thing im going, when I watch from the side when they play the shots seem INSANELY fast, since I don't have experience with atp pro players real life, if I would watch these guys play from the side id probably say they are pros, the perception is just that they hit the SH*T out of the ball, groundstrokes, serve etc...

Also when I play AGAINST them, its not close to that, but it still seems to me that their spin and pace is more than mine, and serve comes in pretty damn fast (even tho its not overwhelming) and I would bet my life their strokes are faster than mine, serve and everything.

But when we do some drills lately where im standing right behind them as they hit their strokes and their serve, it actually looks slower than mine, specially the serve by quite a big margin, and even the coach was commenting the last time to some guy how hes not really using his pronation well like me thats why his serve is nowhere near as fast as mine.

Is this something you guys have also noticed? That when you play against someone you see their serve as fast, but when you serve yourself you don't really perceive your serve or groundstrokes as fast as the ones that come from your opponent, even if they are?
 
#2
I think you just get used to it. You get used to a faster pace of overall game. But there is technical elements that allow you to handle more pace and spin as well. Such as how to properly defend a deep fast ball into your body etc....
So mental and technical. Technical more imo.
 

FiReFTW

Hall of Fame
#3
I think you just get used to it. You get used to a faster pace of overall game. But there is technical elements that allow you to handle more pace and spin as well. Such as how to properly defend a deep fast ball into your body etc....
So mental and technical. Technical more imo.
Yeah but the balls visually look slower, hows that possible, brain playing tricks on me?
 
#4
Not surprising. You are improving. Your technique and movement is hopefully improving and getting more efficient. My coach said when he was playing and moving really well, the ball seemed to move in slow motion.

There’s also another factor involved. If your technique is improving, the balls you are hitting to you partners will be more penetrating with more spin pressuring them more than before so if they are having trouble handling them, the end result will be a ball that is returned with less spin and pace since they won’t be hitting cleanly.
 

FiReFTW

Hall of Fame
#5
Not surprising. You are improving. Your technique and movement is hopefully improving and getting more efficient. My coach said when he was playing and moving really well, the ball seemed to move in slow motion.

There’s also another factor involved. If your technique is improving, the balls you are hitting to you partners will be more penetrating with more spin pressuring them more than before so if they are having trouble handling them, the end result will be a ball that is returned with less spin and pace since they won’t be hitting cleanly.
Thats true, I made a huge technical improvement lately that improved my shot speed, spin and consistency by huge margins, it was a bit of your advice and a bit of something that I discovered by pure chance by a small injury :-D
 
#6
as you improve the ball will appear slower... you’re just moving/anticipating faster.

regarding seeing 2 people hitting from the sideline... i’ve definitely come to the courts to see 2 guys crushing the ball, from like 5-6 courts away... as I get closer I realize they are my buddies, or guys i’ve beaten.

that said, i later measure my groundies it’s only about 55mph avg.

I think it just depends on the environment you’re used to. if you hit at academy of good players I bet everyone is crushing the ball.


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FiReFTW

Hall of Fame
#7
regarding seeing 2 people hitting from the sideline... i’ve definitely come to the courts to see 2 guys crushing the ball, from like 5-6 courts away... as I get closer I realize they are my buddies, or guys i’ve beaten.
Yeah its quite insane if you see 2 guys that hit decently hit from the sides the ball seems like a bullet, then you play them and your like... this is it? wow.. can't imagine how pro player strokes must look from the side.

The most funny thing is, there were actually 2 juniors today playing on the opposite court that we were at, and when we came in they were crushing the ball, flying like a bullet, and I was thinking...damn...ffs, what are these futures players? holy **** these guys would smoke the hell out of me, then they left.. and after a while when I watched my 2 group members hit from the side I was like wtf it looks as fast as the other 2 guys lol.
 
#8
Yeah its quite insane if you see 2 guys that hit decently hit from the sides the ball seems like a bullet, then you play them and your like... this is it? wow.. can't imagine how pro player strokes must look from the side.

The most funny thing is, there were actually 2 juniors today playing on the opposite court that we were at, and when we came in they were crushing the ball, flying like a bullet, and I was thinking...damn...ffs, what are these futures players? holy **** these guys would smoke the hell out of me, then they left.. and after a while when I watched my 2 group members hit from the side I was like wtf it looks as fast as the other 2 guys lol.
and it’s tough to see spin... I have to feel the shot, to understand it’s quality beyond just “looks fast”.

that said it’s clear when watching good college players they are playing on another physical level.


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#10
Another easy tell of work put on the ball is the sound of the ball. A good 5.0 adult say 35 to 40 years old makes a nice loud pop. It makes a loud sound. Impressive. Ball looks fast.

A national level 18 and or D1 player the ball makes a hammer sound. Very loud fast and sharp sound. It sounds like if you took a hammer and hit a piece of wood. Very little resonance just a loud hard sound. Ball is like a truck when it gets into your racket.
 

FiReFTW

Hall of Fame
#12
Another easy tell of work put on the ball is the sound of the ball. A good 5.0 adult say 35 to 40 years old makes a nice loud pop. It makes a loud sound. Impressive. Ball looks fast.

A national level 18 and or D1 player the ball makes a hammer sound. Very loud fast and sharp sound. It sounds like if you took a hammer and hit a piece of wood. Very little resonance just a loud hard sound. Ball is like a truck when it gets into your racket.
Yeah no wonder they break strings so fast, specially the pro players, the damage that each shot makes on the strings is insane.
 
#13
@FiReFTW

A fast ball is not the same as fast, penetrating and heavy ball.
Totally agree. I hit with the same pace as higher players, but their ball has more action and weight coming at me than mine to them. Or I suppose I assume my balls isn't as weighty having not hit my own ball coming to me. Anytime I hit with higher players, for me, it is very apparent the quality of their shot (spin, weight, action, etc) is all better, even if speed wise I can hit the same.
 
#14
Totally agree. I hit with the same pace as higher players, but their ball has more action and weight coming at me than mine to them. Or I suppose I assume my balls isn't as weighty having not hit my own ball coming to me. Anytime I hit with higher players, for me, it is very apparent the quality of their shot (spin, weight, action, etc) is all better, even if speed wise I can hit the same.
No offense intended by this. They are probably leaning forward and getting their body weight behind the ball whereas in your videos your upper body is generally canted backward and your legs have very little bend to them so you aren’t using legs to unload on the ball.
 

time_fly

Professional
#15
I noticed again in this group thing im going, when I watch from the side when they play the shots seem INSANELY fast, since I don't have experience with atp pro players real life, if I would watch these guys play from the side id probably say they are pros, the perception is just that they hit the SH*T out of the ball, groundstrokes, serve etc...

Also when I play AGAINST them, its not close to that, but it still seems to me that their spin and pace is more than mine, and serve comes in pretty damn fast (even tho its not overwhelming) and I would bet my life their strokes are faster than mine, serve and everything.

But when we do some drills lately where im standing right behind them as they hit their strokes and their serve, it actually looks slower than mine, specially the serve by quite a big margin, and even the coach was commenting the last time to some guy how hes not really using his pronation well like me thats why his serve is nowhere near as fast as mine.
I can speak to this part of it. When the ball is going across your field of vision as you sit on the sideline, it takes you a lot more effort to track it. You need to move your head and your eyes to keep it centered. When the ball is coming at you, it stays in a much smaller area as far as your eyes are concerned. It's easier to track, so you perceive it as slower until it gets close. Those last few yards you notice the speed again, since -- unless it is headed straight at your face -- you will need to start to move to keep tracking it.

A great place to notice this is on TV watching baseball. I can identify pitch types and balls and strikes very easily based on the camera position behind the pitcher. The pitches look like they would be very easy to hit. It's a whole different matter actually standing in the batter's box!
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
#16
I can speak to this part of it. When the ball is going across your field of vision as you sit on the sideline, it takes you a lot more effort to track it. You need to move your head and your eyes to keep it centered. When the ball is coming at you, it stays in a much smaller area as far as your eyes are concerned. It's easier to track, so you perceive it as slower until it gets close. Those last few yards you notice the speed again, since -- unless it is headed straight at your face -- you will need to start to move to keep tracking it.

A great place to notice this is on TV watching baseball. I can identify pitch types and balls and strikes very easily based on the camera position behind the pitcher. The pitches look like they would be very easy to hit. It's a whole different matter actually standing in the batter's box!
Idk what it is but when I'm watching a match from a viewing area above and to the side of the court it looks much faster than either ground level or behind.

J
 
#20
@FiReFTW : I have thought about the same phenomenon, and I have a theory about this. I think you have learned to become more alert, that's why the serve looks slower. The analogy would be that your eyes are the lens, and the visual cortex in your brain is like the camera equipment. You view the ball as it comes to you in frames, and the time between each frame can vary based on your state of alertness. If you raise your heartbeat, and concentrate really hard, the shutter speed increases, and you start recording more frames per second in your visual cortex, just like in high speed video equipment. And you react faster.

Another way to look at it is to view your brain as a CPU. As your alertness goes up, the clock speed increases, and you process more video frames - to you, it will seem like time has slowed down, but actually, you are going faster.

Maybe this is what all the mystic gurus mean when they say you can slow down time... just be more alert!
 
#21
Mood/emotion can have a profound effect on perception as well as athletic performance. As you gain more experience with faster ball velocities and greater ball spin rates, you undoubtedly have learned to be more relaxed, more centered. When you are more relaxed/centered, your reflexes/reaction time often improves. Fast ball don't appear to be quite as fast as before -- back when we were less experienced and more anxious.

https://www.stack.com/a/how-your-mood-can-affect-your-sports-performance
.
 
#22
Here is a publication about time perception, a strange subject.

Time perception has a lot to do with what is happening.

Experiment (c) described a well known experiment.
1) You press a button and there is a delay and then a white light flash#1 occurs.
2) You keep doing it and after a time when you press the button flash#1 seems to occur at the same time as the button is pressed. "toward simultaneity" (I have seen this discussed for computer keyboards and screens.)
3) The publication even says that if a new second yellow flash#2 is introduced by surprise before the original flash#1 the second flash#2 can even be perceived to be after the original flash.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866156/



"c) Recalibration of perceived timing. Given delayed sensory consequences (a button press followed by a delayed flash, top), temporal expectations are dynamically adjusted in order to bring sensory consequences closer toward simultaneity (bottom). As a result of recalibration, unexpected events occurring after the flash may be perceived to have occurred beforehand [40]"
 
#23
Wow...... that is super deep and geeky.

Here is a publication about time perception, a strange subject.

Time perception has a lot to do with what is happening.

Experiment (c) described a well known experiment.
1) You press a button and there is a delay and then a white light flash#1 occurs.
2) You keep doing it and after a time when you press the button flash#1 seems to occur at the same time as the button is pressed. "toward simultaneity" (I have seen this discussed for computer keyboards and screens.)
3) The publication even says that if a new second yellow flash#2 is introduced by surprise before the original flash#1 the second flash#2 can even be perceived to be after the original flash.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866156/



"c) Recalibration of perceived timing. Given delayed sensory consequences (a button press followed by a delayed flash, top), temporal expectations are dynamically adjusted in order to bring sensory consequences closer toward simultaneity (bottom). As a result of recalibration, unexpected events occurring after the flash may be perceived to have occurred beforehand [40]"
 
#24
It's honestly more about your mind perceiving the tells/clues/probabilities and adjusting to the ball flight path earlier. Especially with ground strokes... the fastest groundy is slower than most second serves. The ball can feel super slow when playing a guy you're familiar with and who has good consistency. You could walk to the next court over and the same speed balls would feel like missiles if someone else who you couldn't read was cranking them out.
 
#25
Mood/emotion can have a profound effect on perception as well as athletic performance. As you gain more experience with faster ball velocities and greater ball spin rates, you undoubtedly have learned to be more relaxed, more centered. When you are more relaxed/centered, your reflexes/reaction time often improves. Fast ball don't appear to be quite as fast as before -- back when we were less experienced and more anxious.

https://www.stack.com/a/how-your-mood-can-affect-your-sports-performance
.
Other thoughts/suggestions on slowing down time (and the ball):

How To Trick Your Brain To Slow Down Time
 
#39
@FiReFTW : I have thought about the same phenomenon, and I have a theory about this. I think you have learned to become more alert, that's why the serve looks slower. The analogy would be that your eyes are the lens, and the visual cortex in your brain is like the camera equipment. You view the ball as it comes to you in frames, and the time between each frame can vary based on your state of alertness. If you raise your heartbeat, and concentrate really hard, the shutter speed increases, and you start recording more frames per second in your visual cortex, just like in high speed video equipment. And you react faster.

Another way to look at it is to view your brain as a CPU. As your alertness goes up, the clock speed increases, and you process more video frames - to you, it will seem like time has slowed down, but actually, you are going faster.

Maybe this is what all the mystic gurus mean when they say you can slow down time... just be more alert!
As usual RajS has the most scientific explanation!
 
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