Tennis Mental Secret #1

David’s Tennis Lesson #2: Do You See The Ball Properly?

I am hoping that you have read the 1st Lesson that I sent to you a week ago. If not, please take the time now. It is important because it sets up the philosophy behind all your tennis play.

In this lesson you will learn some things about seeing the ball that I will bet you have not heard before.

As you already know, seeing the ball is important. But, do you know how important? Do you know that seeing the ball the way I believe it should be seen just may blow you away. Do it and see if it affects your game big time. Some people get spectacular results from just this one concept. See if you are one of those.

This is a long lesson but it is the most important of all the lessons even the ones in my book and CDs, period! Please read it all the way through.

This is just one of a number of concepts and techniques that will really help you when you play. Get them all now here.

In the next Lesson, I will show you a greatly undervalued but also powerful technique. This will come in 7 days so, in the meantime, you can practice this lesson.

See the Ball! Do You Really Know What That Means?

You know that you are supposed to watch the ball, right? Do you think you see the ball when you play? Of course you say you do. Otherwise you would not be able to hit the ball at all. But, do you really see it the way it needs to be seen? I will tell you that there is a 98% chance that you don’t and that percentage is based on giving ‘My test,” which absolutely demonstrates how to see the ball. I have given this test to hundreds of people and it is surprising to me how many people just don’t see the ball very well.

Here is the good news. When you really see the ball the way I know it should be seen, your tennis game will improve immediately and sometimes dramatically.

In case you haven’t guessed, seeing the ball is the single most important thing to do when playing and unfortunately, most people don’t see the ball properly, even after being shown how to do it and being told how important it is.

 “See the ball.” “Watch the ball.” “Look at the ball.” Yes, I know you have heard this so many times. But do you really consciously see the ball all the way to and from your racket? It is not as easy as it sounds. And as you get into really seeing the ball, it becomes easy to think that you are seeing the ball well when you really aren’t.

When I talk about how important it is to really see the ball clearly, some of my students try so hard to focus on the ball that they tense up too much. Remember that you don’t need to try hard to read the words when you are reading, and likewise you don’t need to try hard to see things if you were to look up and around the room. The same principle applies to seeing the ball on the court. Don’t try, just see. What may be hard is to keep your focus on the ball for an entire point, game, or match, and this, like any other skill, will need practice.

How do you know if you are seeing the ball well? This requires awareness. When you are playing, are you able to answer the following questions with absolute certainty?

  • Am I really consciously seeing the ball all the way from my opponent’s racket?
  • Am I really focusing on the ball as my ball crosses the net and bounces up to my opponent’s racket? 
  • If someone were to ask, could I tell them whether the ball was spinning fast, slow, or medium as it was coming to me and after I hit?
  • Have I ever seen a ball that has no spin? Those balls should stick out like a sore thumb because they are so different from the rest.
  • Am I able to see the ball spinning all the way to the blur of my racket when it makes contact with the ball?

You need to be able to answer these questions beyond a shadow of a doubt. If you find yourself saying that “I think” the ball was spinning slowly, then you didn’t see it. If you really saw it you would say without a doubt, “Yes, I saw that one.”

When I am giving a student a lesson for the first time, I usually start out by having them just see the ball. I explain that I don’t want them to think about their strokes or to think about hitting the ball into the court or aiming. Instead, I want them to just focus on seeing the ball all the way to their racket and all the way back over the net to their opponent’s racket.

After rallying with them for a few minutes, I then ask them if they saw the ball very well. Most of them will say that they did, and many times they will say that they saw the ball better than they ever had in the past. The reason they say this is because I have taken away most of the things they normally think about and just had them watch the ball. And, many times they are aware that they are hitting the ball more consistently solid and in the court. It is then that I give them “my little test.” This test is the best way for me to tell if they are seeing the ball the way I want them to see it and it demonstrates to them beyond a shadow of a doubt how the ball needs to be seen.

Here is what I say before I do the test with them. I say that I am going to give them every hint in the book so that they can get the “correct” answer to this test. I will tell them that I will be hitting four balls to them, two to their forehand and two to their backhand. I will hit the balls as easy as I can and that I will stand at the net so that I can hit the ball really easy. I will tell them that all four balls will have the identical spin, and I want them to explain to me what direction the ball is spinning all the way from the time it hits my racket to the time it hits their racket. I tell them the three “key” words that practically give away the answer. Those words are “all the way” from my racket to your racket. I also tell them that there are three ways the ball can spin: Sidespin, topspin and underspin.

When I do the test, I always use new balls so it is easier to see the spin of the ball. Would you believe that 98 percent of my students can’t correctly tell how the ball is spinning? Sometimes I even give them another chance after explaining to them again the three key words, and they still don’t get it right. Once I tell them how the ball is spinning and I hit them more balls, they see it immediately.

I once had a student who got really mad when I told him he didn’t get the test correct because he was so sure he saw the ball correctly. The point I am making with this test is that people think they are seeing the ball well when they are really not. Almost 100% of those who got it correct had no idea that the ball did what it did.

A few years ago, I gave this test to a friend of mine named Ken Stuart who came up from California to play doubles with me in the National Indoor 60s tournament in Seattle. Back in the old days, Ken was a world-class player. He is still a great player today, even though we have both aged a little. After I told Ken about watching the ball all the way to his racket and after we hit a few balls so he could get somewhat comfortable with focusing on the ball, I gave him the test. Well, he was one of the 2 percent who got it right the first time.

Because it was so easy for him, I was sure he thought I was lying about how many people got this test wrong just to make him feel good. About three weeks later he called me and said that he gave my test to 10 or so other players and all of them got it wrong. I told him, see, I wasn’t just trying to make you feel good. He now knows how special it was that he was able on the first try to see how the ball was spinning the way it needs to be seen. Did I tell you that when he could see the ball well, he really noticed the difference in how well he played?

Ken also told me another story about seeing the ball this way. He was invited to play doubles with 3 other 6.0 players. Ken told them that he wasn’t good enough anymore to play with them. They all said that they didn’t care, they needed a 4th and they really wanted him to play with them. Because Ken felt the pressure of playing well, he really focused on the ball. After the match was over, Ken said that he was the best player on the court. When you see the ball this way, it really can have a dramatic effect on the way you play.

Ken is the owner of the Palisades Tennis Club in Newport Beach, California, so if you ever get down there, give him a call and tell him I sent you and that you would like to play at his club. His staff has a terrific way of matching you up with players of your own level. If you get a chance to play there, you will see one of the best-run tennis clubs in America. They also host one of the largest senior tournaments their called the Pacific Southwest Senior Tournament.

Are you wondering by now what the correct answer to my test is? Since I am not there to give you the test in person, I want you to try to give yourself the test. It won’t be the same, but I am hoping that you will get the idea, not only about how you may not be seeing the ball as well as you could, but how really, really critical seeing the ball accurately is to your playing.

Here is what I want you to do. The next time you play, really work on seeing the ball as it comes to you, and notice which way it is spinning. After you get home, go to the super secret page on my web site and read about answer to the test. Here is the web address:

On this page you will get all the answers to how the ball is really spinning as well as all the answers to the universe. It is absolutely critical that you go to this secret page because you will find information there about seeing the ball that you won’t find anywhere else.

If you can’t wait until the next time you play, ask a friend or family member to throw a ball to you. Have them throw it so that it bounces so that you can then catch it after it bounces. Don’t forget to see the ball spinning from the throw, to the bounce and then all the way to your hands as you catch it. Have your friend toss it with any spin they want 4 times. If you cheat and just continue to read without doing this exercise, you will miss much of these techniques. When you see the spin continue reading and I will tell you the secret. Now stop reading and do the little throwing test.

In the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if you cheated and just reading to get the answer. What does matter is that you learn the answer to the test and how the balls are spinning. Here is the answer to how the ball was spinning as you were catching it.

The secret is that no matter what the spin is before the ball bounces, the ball will always have top spin on it after the bounce. Did you know this? Did you know that even when your opponent hits an underspin, the ball will still have top spin on it after the bounce?

Whether you played first as I asked or did the little throwing test, you still absolutely must go to the secret page on my web site as it has critical information that you must have in order to fully understand about seeing the ball. Again that web address is:

Seeing the ball the way I have described on my secret page may be a challenge for you. It took me years to get good at it, but when you really know you are seeing the ball, you will absolutely see a difference in your game. Some of the benefits of seeing the ball really well will be fewer miss-hits, more consistency, and more relaxed strokes. You will also begin to experience what it means to get your “conscious mind” out of the way and let your “other than conscious mind” direct your body.

Here are some games you can play that will help you to focus on the ball.

In Tim Gallwey’s book, The Inner Game of Tennis, he talks about a game called “bounce hit”.  Every time the ball hits your racket or your opponent’s racket, say out loud or to yourself “hit.” Every time the ball bounces on the ground, say out loud or to yourself “bounce.” Check to see if you are saying “hit” with a relaxed voice or a tense one. And check to make sure that you are saying these words exactly when it is happening and not before or after. You may not be able to do this very well at first, but please challenge yourself until you can do it even in a game situation. The benefits will be worth it.

Another game to play is to say out loud or to yourself what direction the ball is spinning. When you hit the ball, say what direction it is spinning as it is going over the net and again when the ball is coming back toward you. Don’t forget to consciously see the spin after the bounce. And we all should know what direction the ball is spinning then, right?

Here is one more game to play. Watch the trajectory of the ball as it comes to you and as it goes back to the other side. Ask yourself whether the ball is still rising, has reached its peak, or is dropping when you hit it. Do the same when your opponent is hitting the ball.

As you learn to let go and just see the ball the way I describe above and on my secret web page, you will see amazing things begin to happen. If nothing much happens, then maybe you are just not seeing the ball properly. Please contact me so we can figure out what is going on with you.

If you want to get a visual picture of what it looks like when someone sees the ball all the way to contact, watch Roger Federer’s head as he makes contact with the ball. He sees the ball better than any professional I know of. I use this visual picture when I am playing and am having difficulty seeing the ball. I just remember how Roger’s head moves when he hits the ball and immediately I begin to see the ball better.

The final thing to understand about seeing the ball is that even though it is your “conscious mind” that is seeing the ball, you want to have your “other than conscious mind” make it happen. This means that, for example, when you read, you are not trying hard to read, you just do it. Do the same for seeing the ball. Just see it.

One more final thing. Anytime you read or hear me say see the ball, I am talking about seeing the ball the way I described it in the answer to the test. If you have not gone there yet, you must stop reading and do it.

 If there is one thing in my book and in my CD series that is a must, this is it. Here I am giving it to you for free. Again, that web page is

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