Play Better Tennis by Focusing In Segments
by David Ranney, Author of Playing Zen-Sational Tennis
You can learn to play better tennis and by focusing on very specific parts of your game. I learned this concept from a terrific book called The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle. This book discovers how talent is developed by focusing on specific segments and this is an important technique.
Although this technique can be applied to any aspect of your tennis game, I want to talk about how it can be used when watching the ball. I am sure that you know that watching the ball is the most important thing for you to do when playing tennis. That being said, I believe that most players do not know how to watch the ball properly or even know how to work on it.
Let’s talk about how you can practice watching the ball in segments.
The order of working on these segments of focusing on the ball is not important. However, there is an order of importance in order to play your very best. I will list these segments in this order of importance.
1. Focus on seeing the ball after the bounce all the way to your racket.
2. Focus on seeing the blur of the racket as you hit the ball, keeping your head at the contact point for a fraction of a second. If you don’t know what I mean by keeping your focus at the hitting point, watch Roger Federer hit a ball. You will see his head stopping at the hitting point for a fraction of a second.
3. Focus on seeing the ball hit your opponent’s racket. Make sure that you also look for the direction of the ball as it comes off their racket.
4. Focus on the ball as it comes over the net towards you and before it bounces.
5. Focus on the ball after you hit as your ball crosses the net all the way to when the ball bounces on the other side. If you keep your focus at your hitting point, by the time you pick the ball up again, it will be just crossing the net.
6. Focus on seeing the ball from the bounce on the other side up to your opponent’s racket.
Even though there is an order of importance, all of these segments of seeing the ball need to be worked on. Another good way to work on seeing the ball in segments is to use Tim Gallwey’s signature exercise called Bounce Hit. I discuss this exercise in detail in my book, Playing Zen-Sational Tennis, if you are not familiar with it.
Because you are working on just one aspect of seeing the ball, it may mean that you miss some balls that you would not normally miss. On the other hand, you may find yourself playing extremely well. But whether you play better, worse, or the same is not the purpose of this technique. When you put it all together and begin to see the ball the entire distance, coming and going, you will find your game being much more consistent.
The length of time that you spend working on these segments of seeing the ball is up to you. I personally have spent up to four or five practice sessions, just working on one segment for the entire time. Once you get through working on all of the segments for a period of time, you may want to spend some longer times on the segments that you feel you are the weakest at doing.
Seeing the ball properly is a process and is an important skill that absolutely needs to be worked on in order to play better tennis. Your assignment is to read The Talent Code, which has many other ideas on how to develop your talent, practice seeing the ball in segments, and read the lessons in my book, Playing Zen-Sational Tennis on seeing the ball the way it needs to be seen. And who knows, after doing these techniques, you may have spectacular results as some of my students have.