The Difference Between The Professional and the Amateur Tennis Player - How to take your game to the next level
As Tennis players and even as general athletes, we all want to do better, even if it’s by the smallest margin. We want to improve and succeed at what we do so that we can achieve our own personal goals, whatever they may be. As a Tennis player, you may want to improve your serve power, your forehand accuracy, or even just your overall physical fitness so that you can compete at a higher level for longer. Whatever the goal is, as athletes, we want to improve.
In our experience as coaches and avid tennis fans, there is one element that the stands when we’re comparing the pros to the amateurs. Of course, there are many elements that make the better players better. They’re faster, more powerful, more committed, the list goes on. However, the one tangible element that stands out is TIMING. This element applies more to the higher level, but can also be considered at a basic level as well.
So what is timing? Timing is the ability to hit the ball from the middle of the strings. A player with good timing will hit the middle of the strings more often, whereas a weaker player will hit the middle less often and “shank” more than their better opponents. The benefit of good timing is huge. In order to have full control over the ball, we need the ball to strike the middle of the racket. Good timing also means the ball can be hit cleaner (less hiccups) and with more effortless power. When we watch the pros, their timing is what stands out the most, as very rarely do they mishit or “shank” the ball. This is why we watch them. The monotony of a pro Tennis rally is almost hypnotic but it’s why we love watching it. If players were shanking more often, this wouldn’t happen.
Luckily, there are a few indicators for good timing. The first is the SOUND. The sound of a ball being struck cleanly is very pure and could be described as a “boom” sound.
The second indicator is the FEEL. This is the most important as it’s why most players pick up a racket and continue to play in the first place. A well timed shot just feels awesome.
The last indicator is the VISION. A well timed ball does exactly what you intended it to do. If Djokovic wants to hit the ball low over the net, he will hit the ball, and it will do exactly that. Therefore he probably timed the ball well!
So you’re probably dying to know how you can improve your timing! These are the ways in which you can improve your timing:
1. Play more often. This is a no brainer as the more you play the better you get.
2. Breathe out on the hit. This helps the diaphragm and the core muscles relax throughout contact, creating a smoothe swing. This also helps your rhythm.
3. Take care at contact. Rather than the speed of the swing getting faster further away from the ball, swing fast but much closer to the ball. A good analogy of this is snooker. As you line the cue up to hit the white ball you slowly take the cue back. Then, all of a sudden, you push forward and strike the ball. In order to make a clean contact with the white ball, the take back is slow, and is quite close to the ball. If we reverse that, and take the cue back further and start the speed from there, there is a much greater chance of mishitting or even completely missing the ball! The smaller the target, the smaller and slower the swing.
So, the next time you watch a game of Tennis, take a look at the players timing. Is the ball consistently timed well? And if not, why? Where on the court was it not timed well? What was the player trying to do when they mistimed it? This opens up so many avenues as a coach in finding areas of development. As a player is also makes you aware of the areas in which you need to develop better timing. Good luck!