How Science influence Technical and Tactical Approach to Tennis

The MOTION OF THE BALL (trajectory and bounce) are completely determined by physics and its laws. Topspin balls bounce higher then flat shots, backspin lower then flat shots. Topspin gives ball bigger angle when going over the net then a flat shot or a backspin shot. With topspin the ball is diving and with the backspin is floating. I will explain how this works and when you realize the difference of it you will understand how to perform it differently and with more success.

TOPSPIN VS BACKSPIN- BALL BOUNCE Topspin makes the ball dive and hitting the ground at higher speed, so it rebounds with greater speed and therefore has a higher bounce. Ball with backspin floats to the ground with the lower speed so it rebounds lower.

Let’s keep it simple: the rebound angle is determined by the surface and its friction (the resistance of the surface and object when moving  over another). The harder the surface(hard court, grass) the friction is smaller, the softer(clay court) the friction is greater. So harder the surface the bounce is lower and faster, softer the surface higher and slower bounce of the ball. Knowing this, you as a player could understand to prepare for the stroke faster or slower.

INCIDENT ANGLE OF THE BALL( when the ball is coming into your side of the court)When the ball is bouncing into your side of the court it comes down to bounce with the specific angle. The higher the incident angle there is a bigger chance that the ball will bounce higher (top spin), lower the angle there is a bigger chance that it will bounce lower (flat and backspin shots). So there is an easy way to be a better player and prepare for your shot in more easier way because you can anticipate the ball bounce and prepare and position faster.

TIP: Watch the ball as it is crossing over the net, if the ball is higher it will bounce high so be ready to take a step back. If the ball is lower crossing over the net, be ready for a low faster ball and bend your knees down, be at a very low position expecting the shot. 

TRAJECTORY When you hit the ball there are three forces that are influencing the balls trajectory:

  1. Gravity (which makes the ball go down. Topspin uses gravity to get more speed and backspin fights against gravity so the ball is slowing down)
  2. Air resistance (which makes the ball lose the speed as it travels through the air. Slower the ball the air will make it lose the speed faster)
  3. Magnus force (causes ball to curve. Topspin combines with gravity is pulling the ball downwards and this is why topspin forehands in tennis arc viciously over the net and down toward the court. A topspin rotates in the same direction that the ball is traveling, and the spin causes the ball to accelerate once it hits the court surface. A backspin, on the other hand, fights against gravity. The more spin, the more the ball will “hang” in the air.


Simple- the higher percentage of the shots go in, you will win higher percentage of the points. Simple right?

To understand this we need to introduce two important angles in tennis:  vertical (how the ball goes over the net) and horizontal angle (direction of the ball after the impact)

When ball leaves the racket after the shot it has a vertical angle. If for example you hit the ball from the baseline your shot has a minimum angle( just above the level of the net) and maximum angle (ball landing on the baseline on the other side)and this is called VERTICAL ACCEPTANCE ANGLE. The lower zone of hitting the ball your acceptance angle is smaller, therefore the ball should be always be hit in the two zones: zone between the knees and hips which requires higher vertical angle as the ball needs to go over the net first so it could land on the opposite side and the zone between the hips and shoulders which is most of the time the height above the level of the net (BEST HITTING ZONE). Why best hitting zone? Because you could use topspin, backspin or flat shot as the vertical acceptance angle is much higher. Hitting the ball bellow the level of the knees or above the level of the shoulders have very low vertical acceptance angle and therefore is very difficult to get the ball in a safe manner. So now we know what determines the ball trajectory when going over the net.

Next step is to define the direction of the ball. Should the ball go straight or cross court? Cross court is always a safer shot as the area where you hit the ball is wider (less mental pressure). The baseline from the cross court perspective is further away then from the down the line perspective, so the area to hit the ball is much bigger. The ball hit cross court is having a higher vertical acceptance angle, therefore it is a safer shot. If you watch a tennis match the players usually keep the rally cross court and then they change to the down the line, they don’t keep the rally down the line, right?! The cross court shot puts you in the better position to cover the court as well. So when you are at the corner the safest area to hit is cross court.

What about when standing in the middle? When you stand in the middle, hitting the ball through the the middle the net is lower and closer but the baseline on the other side is closer as well. Hitting in the corners the net is just a bit higher but the baseline is further away. Tactical advantage of hitting to corners is that that puts you in a controllable role, more offensive dictating tempo.

The best tactical and safest area would be what I call M ZONE.

What about the position of the court? Moving back increases the chances of the shots to go in. As you move back, it’s the safer the angle at which the ball is leaving the racquet, the approaching ball will slow down due to air resistance and you would have more time to prepare the shot. Hitting the balls when higher increases the chances as well. If the player moves to much back then it looses control over point relying only on the rally as the tool to win points. 

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