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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Tennis


Tennis - Anticipation

Early Warning Systems, What Is It?

Sérgio Cruz

The radar early warning systems in computer games, calls your attention to an incoming missile or enemy attack...and you take evasive, defensive or aggressive action. Boy, would this be useful in tennis!

Some players seem to have that kind of radar; Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Martina Hings to name a few. In lay terms it is called "anticipation", in the players above it is almost an inborn factor that they naturally just use. For us regular humans it is something that one can learn and train.

How does it function? There are several other factors that influence "anticipation" but I am going to focus on just one; ball tracking.

Teachers often keep on telling pupils to "watch the ball", I say, "track the ball". Professional players track the ball from the moment it leaves their rackets to the moment the opponent strikes it and so on. Why tracking and not watching? Because when you track the ball your minds eye automatically produces a directional vector of the ball's trajectory from the point of impact to the point of landing, therefore, giving your brain the exact coordinates where to go next.

There are different levels of tracking reactions, beginner, amateur and professional.

- Beginner; the ball is struck by your opponent, travels past the net, bounces off of the ground and at that moment you start reacting.

- Amateur, the ball is struck by your opponent, travels a few feet past the net and then you start reacting.

- Professional, the moment the ball is struck by your opponent, you react and move immediately in the direction the ball is going to bounce.

So when practicing, get used to activating your "early warning systems", track the ball from your racket and the moment your opponent strikes it, react immediately. Once you start using this new weapon in your game, you will notice that you will have plenty more time to get to the ball and you will eventually begin to beat opponents you thought were out of your reach!

Hope you will enjoy becoming a "faster" player. Have fun with "The Game".

For comments or ideas about this article please email the author.

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Sergio Cruz is ex # 1 National Champion, Davis Cup Player from Portugal and former Coach Jim Courier ATP World Ranking # 1 Contact: or

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