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Defending Your Court: Defending with Anticipation
By:  Scott Baker | Tennis4you  | Tennis Forum  | E-mail

..."against the experts in defense, the enemy does not know where to attack". - Sun TZU, "The Art of War"

I have been avoiding writing this article for sometime now due to the complexity of the subject. Teaching someone how to anticipate is not something that can easily be done. Learning to anticipate your opponent's next shot is something that you need to teach yourself. The more you play tennis the better you get at learning to anticipate.

For some players anticipation comes naturally to them. Luckily I am one of those players and it has paid off in large dividends for me on the court. Although I am good at anticipating I still will not be able to teach you how to do it. I can however give you some basics and list some items you need to consider to improve your anticipation.

Anticipating your opponent's shots is something that happens very quickly. You do not have time to determine where you "think" your opponent is going to hit the ball. You need to trust your instincts and start moving. There are several factors in anticipating your opponent's shots. All of these needs to be calculated in a matter of split seconds. Below are just a few factors to consider:

1. Where your opponent is in the court and where you currently are in the court.

2. Where you hit the ball and how you hit the ball.

3. Which side of your opponent you hit to

4. How much angle you hit on the ball and what angles that opened up for your opponent to hit.

5. What direction your opponent favors to hit the ball.

6. How quickly your opponent got to the ball.

7. What kind of shot your opponent looks like he/she is winding up to hit (topspin, slice, flat)

8. Your weaker side.

9. What surface you are playing on.

There is so much to think about that is can be mind boggling. Above are just some of the factors you will need to consider to anticipate correctly. Obviously you do not have time to stop and think about these things which is why it is a must that you trust your instincts in these situations. I wish I had a secret to learning anticipation but it is just something you need to teach yourself. Study your opponent in warm up, study them during your match and notice any tendencies they might have. Keep a mental list of which side they have been attacking and where they like to hit their winners. Remember this though. Anticipation is trusting your instincts, but our instincts are not always right. There is no 100% guaranteed that you will guess right. The better you get at it though the higher the percentage you will guess right and the more pressure you will put on your opponent.

I have played many players who were not fast players yet they could get to just about every ball I hit. They were able to anticipate the situation, trust their instincts and move to where they thought I might hit the ball. Learn to evaluate the situation and trust your instincts, if you can do both you will be anticipating your opponent's shots.

Good Luck on the Court!
Scott Baker
Tennis4you.com