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Tony Lee's Professional Tennis School


AnticipationGood anticipation is a PRIMARY reason great players make the game look so easy. They always seem to be moving in the right direction toward their opponents' shots and rarely seem surprised by what is happening on the court.Many players think of anticipation as knowing exactly what type of shot it will be. And the only way to develop that sense, they believe, is by playing hundreds, if not thousands, of matches. Sure, experience helps. But you can cut the learning curve.

Anticipation is not so much knowing the exact shot your opponent is about to hit as it is narrowing the number of possibilities he has to the one or two likeliest.To illustrate how you can predict the spin and placement of your opponent's serve by watching his toss, a clear indication of how anticipation begins even before the first ball of a point struck. (e.g. (a) if a toss is back over your opponent's head, ANTICIPATE a high-bouncing kick or twist. (b) if a toss is out to the side of his/her hitting-arm shoulder, ANTICIPATE a low-bouncing slice. (c) if a toss is above his/her hitting arm shoulder, it gives no clue to the type of serve he/she is about to HIT. When this occurs, look for other cues, such as his/her position on the baseline.)

The fewer realistic options you determine your opponent has, the faster your response time (the time if takes you to react, plus the time it takes you to move to the ball). In fact, I believe you can reduce your response time by up to 50 percen t. And once you do, you will move much more freely to the ball because you will feel less stress. that free flow of movement can allow you to do more with your shot, such as run around your backhand to hit your favourite forehand. There are three steps you can take to enhance your response time: SCOUT your opponent, make a commitment to run for every ball and use the split-step. And there are a number of cues when your opponent is hitting that help you anticipate his shot. Here's a look at these keys to ANTICIPATION.


SCOUTING :- There is no substitute for scouting an opponent. Note his/her :

  • Strengths - What is his/her favourite shot?
  • Weaknesses -Does he/she push the backhand?
  • Patterns -Does he/she, for example, serve wide, follow it to the net and aim the first volley crosscourt?
  • Tendencies -Does he/she try to run around that weak backhand to hit forehand?

And write down your observations. By all means ask others before your match about the upcoming opponents' game. And once the match starts, pick up on you opponent's pattern during play.


I recall rallying with a promising player at a training camp and hitting a short ball. He didn't run for it. When I asked why, he replied, "I'm not doing short balls right now". Every time a ball landed short and he didn't run for it, he was arresting the development of his anticipation skills. Start moving first, and ask questions later. When you make the mental commitment to run hard for every shot of your opponent's racquet, your brain becomes keener at picking up cues and processing the information it has stored inside. Your first step gets quicker, your mind reacts faster and your response time improves.


The key to getting an explosive jump on the ball is establishing your balance with a well-timed split-step. Focus in when your opponent is about to make contact. Start your split-step the instant before his/her racquet meets the ball. Your alertness to your opponent's contact ties in with your commitment to run for everything; alertness gives you a heightened physical and mental awareness that subconsciously translates into a faster response to your opponent's shot.


In most cases, as your opponent prepares to hit the ball, you should be able to find some clue or recognize some cue about what kind of shot is coming. Sometimes the clues are from his/her strokes: his/her racquet work, body position and footworks. Sometimes your cue should come from the quality of your shot to him/her. And sometimes your cue should come from your opponent's court position

  • Shoulder and Racquet : if front shoulder is low and racquet head is high, ANTICIPATE a powerful drive. If front shoulder is high and racquet head is low, ANTICIPATE a loop or a LOB.
  • Weight transfer : if weight is on front leg, ANTICIPATE a powerful drive. If weight is on back leg, ANTICIPATE a loop or a LOB.
  • Racquet Face : if racquet face is almost perpendicular to the ground, ANTICIPATE a heavy topspin or a drive. If racquet face is more open (the hitting side of the strings is facing up), ANTICIPATE a slice.
  • Footwork : If stepped across his body and in a very closed stance, ANTICIPATE a down the line shot. If step is in an open stance, he can go either down the line or crosscourt. Look for other cues and remember your SCOUTING report.
  • Shoulder and hips : if front shoulder and hips have really rotated, ANTICIPATE power. If upper-body rotation is minimal, ANTICIPATE finesse.
  • Bounce height : if the ball is right in his strike zone, or as normally called power zone (usually between waist and shoulder height). ANTICIPATE power to all fields, and remember your scouting report. If the ball is below Power, ANTICIPATE a shot with much pace.
  • Court position : if your opponent run at an angle away from the net, behind the baseline. ANTICIPATE a down-the-line shot, with his only other options being a weak down-the-middle shot or a lob. If your opponent moved at an angle toward the net, inside the baseline, plus the ball is in his power zone, he is in COMMAND; you're on the defensive. What did your scouting report says about his favourite shot?
  • Quality of shot : If your shot is forcing him to hit a ball that is above his power zone from well behind the baseline and with his weight back, ANTICIPATE a weak return, so move forward. If your passing shot is forcing him to stretch and volley up from below the top of the net, ANTICIPATE a weak volley or drop volley, so move forward.
Tip from EFTC

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