We, tennis players, know that between serving and returning the serve, there is no much time to think… and there are many things to do before hitting the return of a fast serve… actually the ball travels 24 meters in 0,6 second!
After the server toss and just prior the impact, there are:
- The perception of the spin, the pace and the trajectory
- The movement to the ball
- The placement around the ball for best positioning
- The hitting part
- Recovery to the best place before the next shot
and not more than six tenth of a second (6/10e) are needed, so that a tennis ball struck in 200 kph crosses the court.The high-level players, to whom we ask to analyze their method of teaching reading of the opposite service, evoke rather the instinct, although there are parameters, as the trajectory of the throw of ball, the orientation of the racket, and the body posture, to proceed in one lightning check list. A scientific study realized in 2007 shows that a player of elite can know which side is going to leave the ball within eight hundredth (8/100e) of a second after the impact.
In summary, it is "a lot of instinct, a little nose ", for a kind of "unconscious strategy "…
When does returner know which side he is going to return?
Between impact and eight hundredth (8/100e) of a second after the impact, this show the importance of anticipation – however it seems that there are actually two perceptions for the returner when he is watching the server:
The Central vision: on the spot of the impact and the racket, when the ball is tossed.
Juniors tend to just watch the ball. Although professional seems to look at the future ball contact of the serve – they watch an empty space when there is no real rational information. This allows having the second useful information of the returner:
The Peripheral vision: from trajectory of the toss, orientation of the racket, hand and shoulder movements, to judge (and mostly guess) the trajectory and the spin of the serve.
The returner then unconsciously relates this personal perception to his own technical and tactic knowledge and his past experience…
For the movement going to the ball – The returner uses a quick split step to be quick to react (unloading) – best returners have the first foot after this split step landing directly towards he future ball direction – consequence of the efficient information taking.
Just remember that the ball is going quite fast, so the return technique is most similar to the volley technique, with a quick shoulder turn and a short compact backswing – he needs to privilege a clean impact to safely return the ball.
Source l’Equipe.fr / 09/09/2010 (in french)
Link to understand more- about this quick reaction:
Is it possible for a batter to see a 90 mph fastball?
Sport Science: MLB Vision Publish
Date: Jun 21, 2010, Duration: 03:40