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TennisSlowMoGuy
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Monday
Jan092012

Active Tennis Watching

How many of you like to watch tennis? Do you prefer to watch it live or on TV? How many of you watch tennis "with a purpose"? In other words, rather than people-watching and oohing and aahing about someone's monster serve or impossible gets, do you watch tennis to learn and improve your own game? I have found that most people, even crazy tennis players such as ourselves, don't watch tennis with the right attitude. We watch to be entertained but not to improve our own level of play.

Given the current state of technology, we find this to be incredibly tragic. If you care about learning the game - becoming a student of the sport - make active tennis watching one of your top priorities. Remember, you might not end up playing against Federer (or Serena) but you will, most likely, end up playing against someone who is idolizing him and emulating their game after his. Therefore, by knowing the pros you will end up knowing your opponent. 

Here are some tips for becoming a better player by watching tennis with a purpose:

1. Freeze frame the serve. In the picture above, can you guess where Tomic is serving? Can you guess given the score? What about the coiling of the body? Toss? 

2. Spot the patterns. Also in the picture above, I have used two strips of white athletic tape and placed them on the screen so that they would be coordinated with the fixed camera angle on the screen. Try this and see how many shots are hit around the service line. You will begin to notice how hard the players try to keep the ball away from the middle of the court. They are consciously trying to work the point and get an opening through well-placed, high-percentage shots. 

3. Get in on the action. Rather than sitting on the couch and kicking your feet up, stand up, grab a racket in hand and "live" the point. As soon as you hear the ball being struck by one of the players, change your grip to the recipient's groundstroke. Train yourself so that the response is automatic. This is particularly helpful when one of the players is serving. Learn to read the server's motion and see if you can anticipate where the ball will be going. 

4. Match analysis. The stats put on the screen regarding 1st serve percentage and unforced errors are often useless. The numbers will not tell you where the player was serving, what were the circumstances that caused a miss, how the point was set up for a winner. Without this additional information, the stats can be confusing or open to interpretation. Therefore, keep track of the stats but add a comment section further explaining the information. For example, did a player miss 22 forehands? Well that's bad. Oh, wait, did he miss them all from 3 feet behind the service line (i.e., he was in an aggressive position)? Well, that's certainly something that's worth noting. The same concept would apply for serves. For example, if a player is hitting 25 double faults in a match but hits them all at 40-0 or 40-15, the basic statistic is incomplete and possible irrelevant. 

5. Write impressions. During ever changeover, write a quick one- or two-sentence impression concerning the games so far. If you were a coach, what would you tell the players about what's going on? What strategy would you suggest? How is "your" player winning and losing? If it helps you, tweet it or facebook the status. 

6. Rewind. It's OK to rewind even the most mundane points and see if you've missed things the first time around. Build your "rolodex of plays" by actively trying to figure out what exactly is happening on the court. 

After you've watched tennis with a purpose, you will never watch a match the same way again. Furthermore, your whole outlook of the game will change and you will be in a better position to take an active role in your development. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to add your comments below. 

 

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Reader Comments (1)

One of the best suggestions that was given to me on "how to watch tennis on TV" was from a very high level player from Brazil. He said don't watch the ball and don't even watch the racquets move, instead just "watch the feet"

I watch the foot/leg movements and the body preparations, leg movements during serve, etc. When I play, I can't watch the other guys feet at all, Im so focused on the ball (hopefully). In fact, I try to force myself to really watch the ball even as it hits the strings or my racquet during live play - but its not that easy for me to watch it all the way to the strings during live play. I eyes tend to not want to watch the string contact for some reason.

Anyway, "watch the feet" when you watch tennis on TV - it works for me.

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertweener

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