From a Pro: Tracking the bounce

By John Cervantes, Founder/Board Member at San Francisco Junior Tennis League

In last month’s edition of Courtside San Francisco, I wrote about how one must become “aware of the ball” by seeing the spin. Now we will discuss tracking the ball prior to striking the ball.

Making visual contact with a moving ball – at the same time that you are moving on the court -- is easier said than done! One tip is to focus on the “bounce” on your side of the net, which sets up your body to strike the ball. Failing to see the “bounce” can lead to getting too close to the ball or mishitting the ball. 

bouncing ball

Our natural tendency is to look where the ball is going.  When you walk, bike or drive you look where you are going because the landscape is continually changing. In tennis, the landscape stays the same, so instead of watching where you are going, you watch the ball. 

Diagnosis yourself:

Say “bounce” when you see the ball bounce. 

  • If you say “bounce” prior to the actual bounce, you are already looking up, thus your eye is not on the ball.
  • If you say “bounce” after the actual bounce, you made a good error. You may discover your positioning (distance from the ball) is getting better. 
  • When you say “bounce” when the ball actually bounces, it is easy to position and make contact when you strike the ball.

After the bounce exercise, try tracking the ball from the time your opponent makes contact with it.    

Was it difficult to track the ball? If yes, you might have been focusing on the player instead of their racket. Next time, look at your opponent’s racket. Can you describe it? What color was it?

Then try saying “hit” when your opponent hits the ball.  If this becomes easy, try saying “react”. You are now going from seeing the ball to preparing.  Did you pivot your feet and shoulder? Don’t worry if you do this so early that you have too much time. Setting up early will allow you to make adjustments to your footwork and timing.