What my Doctoral Thesis Taught me: Tennis Training for the Future Champions

Anticipation as a concept of movement to the optimal court position before detection of the incoming direction presents highly challenging aspect in tennis teaching and application. The most challenging aspect of it would be the fact that tennis is considered as a hitting and not interceptive sport. Coaches teach tennis from the point of “racquet-ball” rather than movement and timing. Interception has two aspects, movement towards the ball to intercept it and create an impact point. This can differ from the concept of the hitting in which player can wait for the ball to approach before the impact. Even with the perfect contact point in which the ball lands at the string bed at the sweet spot, if the momentum of the hitter’s racquet movement does not match the movement momentum of the incoming ball, the stroke will not be satisfactory in intensity and direction. Therefore, to intercept the ball and create highly efficient strokes, hitters need to engage into the movement towards the ball which demands timely momentum of the movement initiated as earliest as possible. 

Due to the lack of understanding the game concept, junior players that usually have highly competitive aspirations are taught tennis in a space and time limited aspect. Technical-tactical aspect is often taught separately and the court geometry and notion of the momentum in tennis very seldom. The concept of establishing the point control by taking away the time and limiting the space to act from the opponent is not that often. In order for the players to have more time and space to act with affordances, they have to create high limitations for the opponents. Even with pressure in time, without the control of the space, opponents still, although limited in time, do not feel urgency in creating stroke limited in placement. On the contrary, with the limits in space, if without pressure in time, opponents do not have urgency to set-up making a timely decision of their stroke. 

The advantage of the anticipation is that enhances the much-needed spatiotemporal pressure which should eventually pressure opponent to make an error. Therefore, this error would be caused in lesser amount due to the powerful strokes but to higher amount to the movement at the court. 

As shown in my doctoral thesis, anticipation has two aspects: observation of the game context and kinetics of the hitter. 

My belief is that by teaching junior players of the whole concept of the hitter’s hitting zones and most possible direction of the incoming ball, players should become proactive in their movement to intercept the ball earlier. Understanding and teaching of the kinetics of the hitter would be the process that demands firstly awareness of own stroke mechanics, to which it takes years of highly attentive practice to master and fully understand. 

As shown in my doctoral thesis, momentum of the movement relates to the success of the momentum of the stroke and its’s execution. 

My belief is that by teaching junior players to use visual field more efficiently and towards the relevant information sources should improve their anticipatory and by that movement and striking abilities. For example, diverting their attention from the ball to the opponent’s movement behavior instead would provide much information about the potentials of the set-up and striking potentials in intensity and direction. 

As shown in my doctoral thesis, expert players use anticipation to take control of the point dynamics and create situations of high affordances for the subsequent strokes. 

My belief is that this concept should be the main idea behind teaching juniors to be proactive players and efficient in their interception during the tennis performance. Apart of the contextual cues, although observing kinetic cues are somehow difficult to teach, creating awareness about it should be the first step of accepting anticipation as a crucial part of their tennis development and future performance. 

As shown in my doctoral thesis, disguising strokes can be a very valuable tactical application when creating spatiotemporal control over the point and its’ dynamics. 

My belief is that teaching the disguising mechanics would be very positive for improving the anticipation skills as its’ execution is depends on the deception and showing the stroke intentions based on the observable mechanical cues. Although the experts showed high frequency of the disguised strokes as hitters causing incorrect anticipatory responses, the fact is that the disguising is much efficient if the receiver is expert in anticipation, which in case of junior players is rare. None the less, teaching the strokes with disguising intention should build a deeper understanding of the stroke execution and its’ mechanics and create notion of the tactical variations and unpredictable game patterns. 

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