Tennis is a very tough game. In addition to having very good technique, you also need to possess these other skills:
►Mental: You must be resilient and positive.
►Physical: You need to be fast, strong and with good stamina.
►Tactical: You must make the right decisions in very limited time frames.
Through my years as a tennis coach, I have seen a lot of mistakes in decision-making because the player is not aware of their opponent. This is called “perception.”
What does perception mean?
“Perception” means that after each contact with the ball, you must know how good or how bad your shot was, how your opponent reaches the ball, and what kind of shot you can expect in return. With good perception, you can get to the best position on the court, you can make the best decision and can move and adjust better because you already know/anticipate how the ball is coming. Taking these initial steps, you can hit the ball cleaner and on time, helping to send the ball back with better quality.
One clear example of perception is when you are playing a point and …
1. You hit the ball to make your opponent run deep to their backhand;
2. Your opponent reaches the ball and is very off-balance and you are aware of this;
3. You move forward;
4. They are looking for time, sending the ball high; and
5. You make a fast move to the open court, taking the ball early, depending on how deep and high the shot was.
Now, I am going to mention some drills that are going to help you improve your perception. These drills can be performed with two players, in private lessons, or with a coach and two students:
1. Two players forehand cross-court, one of them opens or closes his non-dominant hand on purpose and the other player needs to watch and say if the hand is open or closed (one of them is lefty the drill is down the line forehand).
2. Two players are hitting forehands or backhands, one of them is hitting with variation, top spin, slice or flat and the other needs to read it and say it louder as soon as he sees the opponent preparing for his/her shot.
3. Two players are competing on the whole court, one of them is simulating a situation, it can be neutral, defense or attack, while the other player needs to take the best position on the court and make the best decision. If you are the coach and are working with two students, feed balls from one side asking the student to move together with you. Then feed the ball and play the point.
4. Choose any competition drill. One player needs to say “yes” when they can make their opponent lose their balance. You, as a coach, must check their position on the court and their decision.
Hopefully, this advice about “perception” will help you improve your game.
Saul Salazar is a High Performance Director at CourtSense Tennis Academy and has been part of the CourtSense team for more than nine years. Saul has been coaching tennis for more than 30 years, and was critical in the development of many top national players in Mexico. As Director of a prominent tennis academy in Mexico, Saul was known for his skill and ability to rejuvenate deteriorating clubs throughout Monterrey. Also serving as USPTR Head Pro, Saul's experience has made him a vital component to the development of CourtSense Academy.