What is the key to timing on ground strokes?

#1
According to FeelTennis, timing is not taught and undervalued by most coaches...

But I look online and see coaches like Jorge Capestany teaching players to time the ball by saying "bounce. hit."

And then other coaches say that his teaching is flawed because you're supposed to time the ball based off its speed - not its bounce.

Needless to say, the subject of timing is controversial and its teaching as well.

I recently posted a threat about 'How to develop Agassi's timing', and basically the answer to developing timing is to spend hours on the court. I'm all for that (spend about 2-4 hours every day) but I'm always looking for ways to accelerate my development.

What is the key to timing the stroke?
1. Is it all about timing the hip and shoulder rotation without focusing on the arms?
2. What IS the correlation between the ball and timing the stroke if it isn't the bounce?

Above any theory, practical drills would be the most helpful to myself as well as other players. Thank you.
 
#2
For me the logical answer is practice and mileage hitting 100000000000000 shots.

Timing is alot about your brain reading the ball and based on the ball path and speed and spin calculating when to swing to time it optimally.

So for that the more balls you hit the better, but im sure its a very long process.
 
#4
For me the logical answer is practice and mileage hitting 100000000000000 shots.

Timing is alot about your brain reading the ball and based on the ball path and speed and spin calculating when to swing to time it optimally.

So for that the more balls you hit the better, but im sure its a very long process.

Yes but surely there are ways to accelerate the learning curve and train the brain faster. For example, I think Bollettieri Academy trains students by starting out by using decompressed balls (because they're slower and easier to time).

I think the notion of hitting 1000...0 shots could be applied to anything - if someone had a ball machine and 100 years to perfect their technique, they would probably find their optimal technique at some point through trial and error. But teaching the player stuff like the split step or kinetic chain will improve them much faster.
 
#5
I'm sure you've heard this before, but watch the ball. It's easy to take one's eye off the ball just before impact. I believe that if you focus on the ball your timing will automatically be correct.
I agree with that 100 percent. Interestingly, I have developed the habit of doing this for my forehand but not my backhand (which is inconsistent). I guess this has to be developed as part of each stroke.
 
#6
I think that the "bounce-hit" technique can be great for lots of players. It really puts the ball's approach into sharper view for lots of hitters who are seeking better timing. It's often helpful - I've seen a local high school singles champ using it on the practice court - but doesn't necessarily have to be the one technique that helps a player's timing.

I've used a variation of the "bounce-hit" technique where I have my hitters call out "set" when they feel like they've finished loading up and are ready to swing through the ball. When "set" is called out either at or before the bounce, the hitter can generally hit a decent shot. I like this method because it creates an instant comparison between what we feel with our own setup in contrast to the incoming ball. When a hitter calls "set" well after the bounce, it's easy to recognize the rush and arming of the racquet that's needed to get the strings on the ball.

Hitting the ball on the rise is a circumstance that's even more challenging - the forward swing needs to be happening even before the ball bounces in our court when we hit with this style (at least for me). I wouldn't expect the "bounce-hit" method to help with this sort of shot too much.

One other idea that can be good for improved timing is the tactile approach. Instead of using a verbal or visual cue, I sometimes have kids I'm coaching do a few practice or "ghost" strokes without hitting a ball so that they can get the feel for their more comfortable swings - find their best tempo. Then I have them hit some balls and see if they employ that same tempo. Switching off between ghost strokes and actually hitting an incoming ball can also be great for tipping off a hitter as to whether efficient setup and proper swing timing are happening or not.

Those practice swings are also really useful when working with servers who compromise too much of their comfortable motion to steer the racquet to the ball. Even though we're not hitting an "incoming ball" when we serve, some players put their toss in the air well before they're properly loaded up to take a smooth, full release over the top. Practice serve motions can reveal whether a server is creating his/her own emergency by tossing at the wrong time.
 
#7
I think that the "bounce-hit" technique can be great for lots of players. It really puts the ball's approach into sharper view for lots of hitters who are seeking better timing. It's often helpful - I've seen a local high school singles champ using it on the practice court - but doesn't necessarily have to be the one technique that helps a player's timing.

I've used a variation of the "bounce-hit" technique where I have my hitters call out "set" when they feel like they've finished loading up and are ready to swing through the ball. When "set" is called out either at or before the bounce, the hitter can generally hit a decent shot. I like this method because it creates an instant comparison between what we feel with our own setup in contrast to the incoming ball. When a hitter calls "set" well after the bounce, it's easy to recognize the rush and arming of the racquet that's needed to get the strings on the ball.

Hitting the ball on the rise is a circumstance that's even more challenging - the forward swing needs to be happening even before the ball bounces in our court when we hit with this style (at least for me). I wouldn't expect the "bounce-hit" method to help with this sort of shot too much.

One other idea that can be good for improved timing is the tactile approach. Instead of using a verbal or visual cue, I sometimes have kids I'm coaching do a few practice or "ghost" strokes without hitting a ball so that they can get the feel for their more comfortable swings - find their best tempo. Then I have them hit some balls and see if they employ that same tempo. Switching off between ghost strokes and actually hitting an incoming ball can also be great for tipping off a hitter as to whether efficient setup and proper swing timing are happening or not.

Those practice swings are also really useful when working with servers who compromise too much of their comfortable motion to steer the racquet to the ball. Even though we're not hitting an "incoming ball" when we serve, some players put their toss in the air well before they're properly loaded up to take a smooth, full release over the top. Practice serve motions can reveal whether a server is creating his/her own emergency by tossing at the wrong time.
+1 i still use "bounce-hit" to calibrate my timing, refocus myself, etc...
hitting 1000-2000 balls a day has been known to help.
 
#8
I'm sure you've heard this before, but watch the ball. It's easy to take one's eye off the ball just before impact. I believe that if you focus on the ball your timing will automatically be correct.
This is probably the most underappreciated component of the tennis stroke. Many, many times I've stood there for an hour, wondering why the hell I was inexplicably making faults and UE's, and then discovered that I was taking my eye off the ball JUST before impact, although I swore I wasn't. It'll screw you up every time.
 
#9
According to FeelTennis, timing is not taught and undervalued by most coaches...

But I look online and see coaches like Jorge Capestany teaching players to time the ball by saying "bounce. hit."

And then other coaches say that his teaching is flawed because you're supposed to time the ball based off its speed - not its bounce.

Needless to say, the subject of timing is controversial and its teaching as well.

I recently posted a threat about 'How to develop Agassi's timing', and basically the answer to developing timing is to spend hours on the court. I'm all for that (spend about 2-4 hours every day) but I'm always looking for ways to accelerate my development.

What is the key to timing the stroke?
1. Is it all about timing the hip and shoulder rotation without focusing on the arms?
2. What IS the correlation between the ball and timing the stroke if it isn't the bounce?

Above any theory, practical drills would be the most helpful to myself as well as other players. Thank you.
Here's the problem. As we develop our strokes, and tweak them, we mess up our timing, every time. Going to a more compact FH to get rid of that giant WTA loop? You shave time off your stroke, messes up timing. Trying to lower your serve toss from that towering 9 footer? Timing f'd. Every change we make, timing is reset, and the learning process begins again. So the frustration of trying to improve our technique is that timing is a constantly moving target. Only as our strokes get more consistent and technically efficient, can we really find timing. I feel this is why so many pros are peaking or mainintaining now in late 20's, even 30's. It just takes that long to hone timing, once your strokes have "settled."

At the rec level, this is part of the success of the junkballer. Their strokes have been locked in--for better or worse, often times worse--for years. But the advantage of locked in strokes? All they're left to do is to hone the timing, and they have!

So I'd say work all the other fundamentals first, because timing is the last piece of the puzzle, and will happen with reps once everything else is looking good.
 
#10
Here's the problem. As we develop our strokes, and tweak them, we mess up our timing, every time. Going to a more compact FH to get rid of that giant WTA loop? You shave time off your stroke, messes up timing. Trying to lower your serve toss from that towering 9 footer?.
Oh yeah. I have a solid serve, but desperately need to toss a little higher. When I try, though, the results could be on "America's Funniest Videos." I'm really not sure how to approach it.
 
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#11
This is probably the most underappreciated component of the tennis stroke. Many, many times I've stood there for an hour, wondering why the hell I was inexplicably making faults and UE's, and then discovered that I was taking my eye off the ball JUST before impact, although I swore I wasn't. It'll screw you up every time.
In a way it's unnatural. There's this instinct that tells you to look at where you want the ball to go, and a feeling that you can guide the ball to the target with your eyes even after you hit. You feel like the ball won't go to the target if you aren't watching it. Of course, that's clearly not true, but it feels that way. Maybe that comes from throwing sports like baseball, basketball, football, where that is exactly what you are suppose to do - look at the target. You don't have to watch the ball when you throw or shoot the ball (just when you catch it). Tennis combines catching and throwing, in a way those other sports don't, and forces you do decide which part is the most important to focus on because you can't really focus on both. For me it's the catching the ball on the racket part that demands all my visual concentration, but it's still hard not to look away.
 
#12
@fuzz nation : The "bounce-hit" method works great for me. As you said, the key is to be "set" at the bounce, which is the initial turn with the racket aligned with the ball (for me). The final adjustment happens after the bounce, where you may take some more back swing (based on pace of ball) and drop the racket before starting the forward swing. This works even for deep balls, because the amount of back swing adjusts to the ball. It is a great way to take timing from being an art form to a science, and I regret I didn't learn this earlier in my life... oh well, better late than never, I suppose!
 

Dragy

Professional
#13
that is exactly what you are suppose to do - look at the target. You don't have to watch the ball when you throw or shoot the ball (just when you catch it). Tennis combines catching and throwing, in a way those other sports don't, and forces you do decide which part is the most important to focus on because you can't really focus on both.
It’s easier to overcome if you get it the way that the ball is the target.
 
#15
I think that the "bounce-hit" technique can be great for lots of players. It really puts the ball's approach into sharper view for lots of hitters who are seeking better timing. It's often helpful - I've seen a local high school singles champ using it on the practice court - but doesn't necessarily have to be the one technique that helps a player's timing.

I've used a variation of the "bounce-hit" technique where I have my hitters call out "set" when they feel like they've finished loading up and are ready to swing through the ball. When "set" is called out either at or before the bounce, the hitter can generally hit a decent shot. I like this method because it creates an instant comparison between what we feel with our own setup in contrast to the incoming ball. When a hitter calls "set" well after the bounce, it's easy to recognize the rush and arming of the racquet that's needed to get the strings on the ball.

Hitting the ball on the rise is a circumstance that's even more challenging - the forward swing needs to be happening even before the ball bounces in our court when we hit with this style (at least for me). I wouldn't expect the "bounce-hit" method to help with this sort of shot too much.

One other idea that can be good for improved timing is the tactile approach. Instead of using a verbal or visual cue, I sometimes have kids I'm coaching do a few practice or "ghost" strokes without hitting a ball so that they can get the feel for their more comfortable swings - find their best tempo. Then I have them hit some balls and see if they employ that same tempo. Switching off between ghost strokes and actually hitting an incoming ball can also be great for tipping off a hitter as to whether efficient setup and proper swing timing are happening or not.

Those practice swings are also really useful when working with servers who compromise too much of their comfortable motion to steer the racquet to the ball. Even though we're not hitting an "incoming ball" when we serve, some players put their toss in the air well before they're properly loaded up to take a smooth, full release over the top. Practice serve motions can reveal whether a server is creating his/her own emergency by tossing at the wrong time.
I've heard of the "bounce-hit" drill before - I think it's effective in regular rally circumstances where the ball bounces at about the service line. But if it's at your feet or if it's a moonball, the timing will be different.
The idea of alternating between ghost strokes and using a ball sounds effective. I agree that tempo and rhythm are key ingredients to timing.
Thank you for the value!
 
#16
Here's the problem. As we develop our strokes, and tweak them, we mess up our timing, every time. Going to a more compact FH to get rid of that giant WTA loop? You shave time off your stroke, messes up timing. Trying to lower your serve toss from that towering 9 footer? Timing f'd. Every change we make, timing is reset, and the learning process begins again. So the frustration of trying to improve our technique is that timing is a constantly moving target. Only as our strokes get more consistent and technically efficient, can we really find timing. I feel this is why so many pros are peaking or mainintaining now in late 20's, even 30's. It just takes that long to hone timing, once your strokes have "settled."

At the rec level, this is part of the success of the junkballer. Their strokes have been locked in--for better or worse, often times worse--for years. But the advantage of locked in strokes? All they're left to do is to hone the timing, and they have!

So I'd say work all the other fundamentals first, because timing is the last piece of the puzzle, and will happen with reps once everything else is looking good.
Wow, perfectly said. :) I never thought about how technique actually messed with timing - even small grip changes. That's probably a big reason why lots of ATP players a hesitant to change their technique.
 
#17
This isnt going to go down well, but if you exhale at the point of impact and do a bit of a "urgh" on contact it does actually help with timing.

Instinctively, if you say "urgh" before youve hit the ball, that feels weird and youll know it feels weird. Its a similar case if you hit the ball late or say "urgh" after the ball has left the racket - it feels weird.

You end up launching your whole body rotation into that "urgh" like a coiled spring. Its a bit like how martial artists shout at the point of impact when they hit things.

Its a simple trick but you end up timing the ball better.

Spectators wont like you for it though. Alternatively just mutter it under your breath or in your head.
 
#18
For me the logical answer is practice and mileage hitting 100000000000000 shots.
That's very pessimistic! I'm sure there is an easier way: Practice to be in this position at the time of ball bounce every single time. It definitely works.
Watch pro hitting videos and stop the video when the ball bounces and check their position. Compare with yours.

 
#19
In a way it's unnatural. There's this instinct that tells you to look at where you want the ball to go, and a feeling that you can guide the ball to the target with your eyes even after you hit. You feel like the ball won't go to the target if you aren't watching it. Of course, that's clearly not true, but it feels that way. Maybe that comes from throwing sports like baseball, basketball, football, where that is exactly what you are suppose to do - look at the target. You don't have to watch the ball when you throw or shoot the ball (just when you catch it). Tennis combines catching and throwing, in a way those other sports don't, and forces you do decide which part is the most important to focus on because you can't really focus on both. For me it's the catching the ball on the racket part that demands all my visual concentration, but it's still hard not to look away.
True. Good post. One analogy I like to use is driving a nail with a hammer, especially a long nail that's easy to bend. Notice how you focus intently on the head of the nail. If you take your eye off that nailhead for a split second, you'll miss and bend it. I think hitting a tennis ball follows the same principle.
 
#20
Here's the problem. As we develop our strokes, and tweak them, we mess up our timing, every time. Going to a more compact FH to get rid of that giant WTA loop? You shave time off your stroke, messes up timing. Trying to lower your serve toss from that towering 9 footer? Timing f'd. Every change we make, timing is reset, and the learning process begins again. So the frustration of trying to improve our technique is that timing is a constantly moving target. Only as our strokes get more consistent and technically efficient, can we really find timing. I feel this is why so many pros are peaking or mainintaining now in late 20's, even 30's. It just takes that long to hone timing, once your strokes have "settled."

At the rec level, this is part of the success of the junkballer. Their strokes have been locked in--for better or worse, often times worse--for years. But the advantage of locked in strokes? All they're left to do is to hone the timing, and they have!

So I'd say work all the other fundamentals first, because timing is the last piece of the puzzle, and will happen with reps once everything else is looking good.
No wonder my timing sucks! I tweak some stroke element every second day!:D Really good point, thanks.
 
#21
According to FeelTennis, timing is not taught and undervalued by most coaches...


What is the key to timing the stroke?
1. Is it all about timing the hip and shoulder rotation without focusing on the arms?
2. What IS the correlation between the ball and timing the stroke if it isn't the bounce?

Above any theory, practical drills would be the most helpful to myself as well as other players. Thank you.
My approach to timing is to prep correctly, then use the slow part of the accel phase from the slot to time the contact.
 
#23
The timing that you can do with your mind, eyes and even the hands are relatively simple and easy to acquire.

The real problem with timing that results in crappy shots that nobody has pointed out is... your movement (footwork) and the whole set up with the body required for the shot. If you have to move and you're lazy, don't know how to back/forward/diagonal runnning/steppings/setting up for the shot, you'll miss-time the ball. This isn't something that the "bounce-hit" can address.

The proof of this is you often hear a seemly average hitter says he hits so well with balls coming at him, even hard -- feel like real tennis to him -- but he'll have troubles if the ball is placed away that makes him run.

That's basically pusher's error-free, slow, well placed game triumphs immobile ball bashers.
 

IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
#24
Wow, perfectly said. :) I never thought about how technique actually messed with timing - even small grip changes. That's probably a big reason why lots of ATP players a hesitant to change their technique.
And their rackets! Changing to a different racket also changes your timing... This has been the case at least since Connors' obsession with the T2000...
 

IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
#25
The proof of this is you often hear a seemly average hitter says he hits so well with balls coming at him, even hard -- feel like real tennis to him -- but he'll have troubles if the ball is placed away that makes him run
... or a good slice that makes him generate his own pace and/or get set up lower than he is used to ...
 
#28
Watch the ball as it leaves, unit turn as soon as possible, and shuffle steps. Foot work is the most important thing to me. Staying aggressive as well!.
 
#29
Yeah, actually hitting a clean ball off a good slice requires very good footwork, especially if the slice has a slight side spin component like Fed's.

Did you see the match between Djokovic and Millman (Federer's slayer) today?

In the last few, critical games (for Millman), Djokovic sliced a bunch of shots with ease where Millman struggled to exert power to return and create meaningful shots himself. But Millman's returns slowly got weakened and out of position after each ball, and eventually Djokovic closed the points by his great offensive BHs and FHs. Quite interesting.
 

IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
#30
Did you see the match between Djokovic and Millman (Federer's slayer) today?

In the last few, critical games (for Millman), Djokovic sliced a bunch of shots with ease where Millman struggled to exert power to return and create meaningful shots himself. But Millman's returns slowly got weakened and out of position after each ball, and eventually Djokovic closed the points by his great offensive BHs and FHs. Quite interesting.
Will watch those highlights.

Did you see the U.S. Open match of Kohl vs. Zverev? Kohl (who has a nice 1HBH topspin) fed Zverev a steady supply of slices mixed in with heavy topspinners, I would say maybe 50% of Kohl's backhands were slices, and Z had trouble getting set up on many of them.

With Z's great 2HBH, you would think he might have the advantage in a BH CC duel with Kohl, but that wasn't the case. Z had 53 UE compared to 38 winners. 28 UE on Z's backhand.

Also note that Z has a flattish-topspin BH. Those typs of BH, IME, have more difficulty against low slices, plus the fact that Z is 6'6" and has a long way to go to get low for a slice return :)
 
#31
This isnt going to go down well, but if you exhale at the point of impact and do a bit of a "urgh" on contact it does actually help with timing.

Instinctively, if you say "urgh" before youve hit the ball, that feels weird and youll know it feels weird. Its a similar case if you hit the ball late or say "urgh" after the ball has left the racket - it feels weird.

You end up launching your whole body rotation into that "urgh" like a coiled spring. Its a bit like how martial artists shout at the point of impact when they hit things.

Its a simple trick but you end up timing the ball better.

Spectators wont like you for it though. Alternatively just mutter it under your breath or in your head.
Wow, I've never thought of grunting as a tool to develop timing - but you've got a point. I guess I'll stop trying to be like silent Federer and try it out.
 
#32
That's very pessimistic! I'm sure there is an easier way: Practice to be in this position at the time of ball bounce every single time. It definitely works.
Watch pro hitting videos and stop the video when the ball bounces and check their position. Compare with yours.

Yeah, timing the stroke with the bounce seems to be extremely effective - but I've noticed it's also limiting. Whenever the ball comes deep, I end up late since I've kept the same timing as when the ball bounces at the service line.
 
#34
And their rackets! Changing to a different racket also changes your timing... This has been the case at least since Connors' obsession with the T2000...
True. I guess for a lot of people experimenting and using different rackets is too fun to give up though. I think there can be a happy medium using different rackets as long as you keep a "main racket" though. Heavy rackets help players develop swing their normal racket faster when they switch back.
 
#35
Yeah, timing the stroke with the bounce seems to be extremely effective - but I've noticed it's also limiting. Whenever the ball comes deep, I end up late since I've kept the same timing as when the ball bounces at the service line.
How exactly do you time the stroke with the bounce?

The idea is there, but each player implements it differently. Thus, different effect.
 
#36
Did you see the match between Djokovic and Millman (Federer's slayer) today?

In the last few, critical games (for Millman), Djokovic sliced a bunch of shots with ease where Millman struggled to exert power to return and create meaningful shots himself. But Millman's returns slowly got weakened and out of position after each ball, and eventually Djokovic closed the points by his great offensive BHs and FHs. Quite interesting.
Interesting indeed. In my experience, the timing for returning a slice is completely different than return topspin. I usually have to stay lower and swing lower and move closer to the bounce because it doesn't bounce up as much.
 
#37
How exactly do you time the stroke with the bounce?

The idea is there, but each player implements it differently. Thus, different effect.
I use the bounce as a cue to start the "straightening phase" of the back swing on the forehand side. Then, I can time the arm straighten to be faster or slower until the ball get's close enough to my strike zone for me to accelerate forward.

But I've slowly shifted away from this method because it is fundamentally flawed in my opinion. When the ball comes at my feet, I noticed myself swinging forward when it bounces as opposed to straightening my arm.
 
#38
+1 i still use "bounce-hit" to calibrate my timing, refocus myself, etc...
hitting 1000-2000 balls a day has been known to help.
Also a huge proponent of Bounce - Hit.

Get your racket back when your opponent hits the ball then start your swing as soon as the ball bounces.

Taking small steps leading into swinging also helps with making minor adjustments to getting in proper position to hit the ball.
 
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