A little more on timing today - top, rise or fall?

Whilst I'm looking to establish position around the ball to time the ball 'out in front, to the side, and waist high' I can also choose to make contact at three particular moments (tactical timing). They are:

  • On the rise - towards* the peak of the bounce - difficult to time but very effective in terms of taking time away from the opponent and using the speed of the ball
  • At the top of the bounce - that moment where the ball is neither rising or falling.  A little easier than on the rise and the ball has slowed somewhat but allows you to hit with real positive intent.
  • On the fall - as the fall is 'on the turn' and beginning** to fall.  This is in fact the easiest ball to 'time' and promotes more of a low to high racket path and potentially easier to generate topspin off as there is a natural opposite reaction to ball and racket taking place.  Often used in rallying situations by all levels of players and best for your minis and beginner players when looking to develop consistency in your shots.

*This is not a half-volley.  Too many players will select a half-volley from the baseline in a rally situation, and lose tempo on their shots.  Still important to allow to ball to rise some distance to give you more tactical options on the shot.

**Important not to let the ball fall too far so it drops below an optimal height

Distance yourself....from the ball!

We should be pretty well versed in distancing ourselves from each other right now!  So, here's a chance to take this skill into your tennis and ensure you establish the right distance between yourself and the ball for a well-timed contact!

Have a play around with the three dimensions of 'technical timing' today....

Be brilliant at the basics with r.e.s.p.E.c.t!


Energy in the feet

Split step


Establish the right distance between yourself and the ball for a well-timed contact



The third component to the recovery trinity

In order to recover effectively from my last shot to give myself time to prepare/set-up well for my next shot, we've already looked at 'where' to reposition yourself based on your shot direction, the 'how' (as in what kind of movement patterns), and today we look at the 'by when'.

In this, I like to challenge players to 'beat the bounce of their outgoing ball'  and the video below demonstrates this concept further.

Tomorrow we'll begin to explore the second 'E' in R.E.S.P.E.C.T as we continue the theme of being 'brilliant at the basics rather than having flashes of brilliance!'

'I always had the ultimate goal of being the best, but I approached it step by step.  Fundamentals were the most crucial part of my game in the NBA.  Everything I did, everything I achieved, can be traced back to the way I approached the fundamentals and how I applied them to my abilities.' Michael Jordan

Whilst the tennis has stopped look who's taking up court space now?!

A fantastic picture taken down at Halton by my good bro Steve James.  Mother duck and her 12 babies have re-positioned themselves on-court safe in the knowledge that no tennis is being played!  Amazing how quickly nature recovers its territory during these times.

Speaking of re-positioning and recovery, here's a little video on perhaps the most common lateral movement pattern when recovering from an 'out-wide' shot.

A few stats on footwork and movement (Tennis Science: Optimising performance on the court)

  • 80% of movement in tennis is lateral
  • Players change direction on average 4.2 times per point (can be up to 15!)
  • Players in a competitive match at pro level can run anywhere between 1-5 miles in distance
  • Most movement is within a 2.5 - 4.0 metre radius

Great preparation for your next shot begins with effective recovery/repositioning from your previous shot...

Smart players know 'where' to recover to when in a  both back rally situation.  Are you doing too much, too little?  Are you stuck with the misconception that you have to recover to the middle each time?  Once we know 'where' we can then focus on the 'how' and the 'by when'.

In today's video I provide a few tips on this for you to consider.

I would certainly argue that great preparation for your next shot begins with effective recovery/repositioning after your previous shot.

Ready to read and react

Energy in the feet

Split step





As we begin to think about our preparations to get back to work and school in a few weeks time, a 'recovery' strategy will no doubt be a priority, and we may well need to re-position ourselves and our thinking for what will be a new and different world.

Overcoming the time puzzle...

'She has so much time!...'

So often a comment I hear around the club when club players are watching some some of our coaches or top juniors play.

How can we develop more 'time on the ball' and look calm and un-hurried as we play our shots?  Well, good anticipation and reading of the oncoming ball (particularly direction and depth), great movement initiated by a well-timed split step (see the last few posts) and good tactical understanding of how to control time and space (hit higher and slower when out of position for example and reposition well to bisect the angle of your opponent's best two replies) are good places to start.

These are important parts in solving the 'time' puzzle, but let's get down to looking at the 'P' in R.E.S.P.E.C.T shall we? 

The one thing I'll see time and time again (no pun intended) is late Preparation, particularly in beginner and intermediate standard players but also at higher levels where players just develop better coping mechanisms to hide this flaw in their games.  There is of course is a natural tendency to want to 'get to the ball' as quickly as possible but doing so without preparing and readying the racket as we move can have catastrophic effects on the outcome of the shot. 

So, work on 'move and prepare' whereby we learn to turn our shoulders and torso (know as a 'unit turn') to set the racket in place as we move, rather than 'move then prepare'.  A good measure is to ensure your racket head is behind your hitting shoulder as the ball bounces on your side of the court.  The speed of the oncoming ball of course will determine adaptations to this, but not a bad general rule to follow to 'set up well and in time' for your next shot.

Here's a nice example of Felix Auger Aliassime that I took at Wimbledon's practice courts a couple of years ago showing his early preparation on two different forehands.

I begin to explore this in today's one-minute video that you may want to check out.

A key to winning the 'inner game'...what we do in the gap between stimulus and response

I was reminded yesterday on Twitter by @JB-sportspych (Julia Blackwood HCPC registered/BPS Chartered Sport Psychologist) of a super quote attributed to Victor Frankl (see Man's Search for Meaning):

'Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom' 

For me this provides a great reference point to the 'inner game' as described by Tim Gallwey, author of 'The Inner Game of Tennis':

'A tennis player first confronts the Inner Game when he discovers that there is an opponent inside his head more formidable than the one across the net.  He then realises that the greatest difficulty in returning a deep backhand lies not in speed and placement of the ball itself, but in his mind's reaction to that ball: his thinking makes the shot more difficult than it really is.

The Inner Game is that which takes place in our mind, and is played against such elusive opponents as nervousness, self-doubt and lapses of concentration.  It is a game played by your mind against its own bad habits.  Replacing one pattern of mental behaviour with a new, more positive one is the purpose of the Inner Game.'

So much of winning the inner game comes down to our responsibility or better phrased our 'ability to respond' to whatever the stimulus and how we manage the gap before responding.  It may be that the first step is actually to create a gap, so quick we are to respond.  

Taking 5 deep breaths in and 5 deep exhales could be a great starting point!

In a tennis match we are constantly subjected to event after event after event (stimuli), as we are of course in life, particularly right now with the corona virus crisis.

So often we dive in with a response, and most often this response is generated first and foremost by an emotion.  The emotions we experience of course are undeniable and often unavoidable, but our response to them as seen in our own physiology and behaviour are more under our influence and they will have significant bearing on the outcome of a match, another day in isolation, and indeed our futures once we can resume life with degree of normality.

And the reward isn't just increasing our chances of winning a tennis match, but the 'winning' at life and the promised reward of personal growth and freedom from the thinking and fear that can limit and hold us back.

In today's video, we can train our 'mind's reaction to that ball' through a behaviour known as the 'split-step', and in today's case the 'uneven' split which takes place on one foot when we have been able to get a good 'read' on the direction of our opponent's shot.

Tomorrow, we'll look at what the 'P' in R.E.S.P.E.C.T stands for as we continue to explore how to become expert at the basics.

R - ready to read and react 

E - with energy in the feet (bringing sharpness to the mind)

S - split step (even and uneven)

P -

E -

C -

T -

Sharpen your movement with three options after an 'even split step'

Different game situations require different solutions and decisions and this is no different when it comes to footwork.

In today's video 

 we explore the 'even split' (when feet land together) and the movement options from it.

So off an 'even split' we can choose to:

1) Shift our weight onto one foot and move (perhaps more often on 'easier' balls in close proximity)

2) Step out in any direction - very often with an 'opposite force' step (not shown today but will explore this tomorrow) - where a more urgent movement is required in any direction

3) Drop step and move (drop a foot under our centre of gravity to initiate a sprint or when we've been wrong footed)

Have a go practicing these at home today, in the kitchen, garden, drive-way - wherever!  Either shadows with or without a racket, or grab a family member to feed you a few balls!

Exploring the 'S' in R.E.S.P.E.C.T - the 'split step'

A bright and chilly start to the day out there!

Today I begin to explore the 'S' in R.E.S.P.E.C.T in this little series in developing great fundamentals to your play.

It's the split step which serves as an unweighting of the body and the opponent contacts the ball.

The key aspect to timing the split step is to be 'in the air' when your opponent hits the ball, then landing after their contact as you perceive on oncoming direction (and then a fraction later the depth) of their shot to give you the best chance of moving quickly and efficiently to play your next next.

Have a go practicing this 'timing' today.  Here's my effort and there will be a few more ideas coming tomorrow as we build on this concept.