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The Art Of Anticipation

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Bobcat hunting prey

Follow the ball like a predator tracking its prey.

By Jennifer Hornsby, Head Teaching Pro, Houston County Tennis Center

One of the questions that most of my adult players usually ask me is how to anticipate better. Most recreational 2.5/3.5 players do not see the ball until it has landed right in front of them. Thus, they do not have time to properly set up for the ball. So, let’s learn about the art of anticipation.

For professional tennis players, anticipation is both learned and acquired. We often watch them and feel in awe of how they can move around the court so effortlessly from one corner to the next. How do they know exactly what type of shot to hit and when/where to hit it? How do they redirect their shot accurately in a rally exchange? Well, they learned from very early on to track the ball and to follow it like a predator tracking its prey.

How do you get better with anticipation?
First, the player must recognize the incoming ball. According to Venus Williams, players must see the ball right when it crosses over to their side of the net, not when it lands in front of them. If the player waits until the ball bounces in front of them, then they are too late.

Second, players must be aware of their court position and the direction of the incoming ball. This will help them to set up properly and make the right decision on what type of shot to hit.

Third, work on your footwork. To track down the ball and set up for the right shot to hit, the player must be able to move and split steps prior to contacting the ball.

Lastly, good decision making is key to success. Most recreational players don’t make good decisions on court. Sometimes they just either panic or hit the ball hard and hope that it lands in to win the point. To make the decision on what type of shot to hit, where to hit it, how to hit it, and when to hit it, one must recognize the direction, depth, speed, spin, height of the ball, and their court positioning. Based on what one observes, one can then make an informed decision on what type of shot to hit.

In review, to anticipate better, remember to recognize the incoming ball, know your position on the court as well as your opponent’s, develop “happy feet,” and make an informed decision on what to do and commit to that decision.

No matter what type of player you are or your skill level and how long you’ve been playing, each one of us still has something within our game upon which we can improve. Commitment to self-improvement will help improve your game. I hope that this quick tip will help you to improve your game the next time you hit the court!


Jennifer HornsbyGPTA Teaching Professional Spotlight: Jennifer Hornsby
Submitted by USTA

Hometown (City/State): Kathleen, Ga

How did you get involved in teaching tennis? My community college coach, my children, and love of the game.

Diehard fan of what sports team? Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Best part of your game? Defense and overhead

Dream doubles match would be me and… Gael Monfils

When I’m not teaching tennis, I’m… I love hiking with my husband, cooking, and spending time with my children.

My favorite tennis memory is: Attending the US Open with my father.

My favorite professional player is: Gael Monfils

#1 reason why I enjoy teaching & coaching tennis: Giving back to the sport that has given me and my family so much over the years. We are a military family and tennis has always been a way for us to connect with other people and places that we moved to.

What important tennis message do you want to promote? Tennis is more than just a sport; it is an activity that can open personal growth across physical, mental, social, and economic aspects within both the served and underserved communities!

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