The Eyes Have It

“Watch the Ball, Bend your Knees, That will be $20, Please!�
This was a book by Ed Collins published in 1977 but the message is
pretty much the same. I would like to talk about the first phrase, â
€œwatch the ballâ€�.
In tennis it is vital that a player keeps their head still while moving
and hitting a tennis ball. Moving or tilting the head before contact can
produce mishits. On low balls, it is important to bend the legs and go
down with the ball so the head remains upright.

The reason man was created with two eyes is for depth perception. It
is very hard to track a tennis ball with one eye closed. This shows
how important it is to have the head facing towards the ball and not
sideways. When your head tilts the eyes lose the speed of the
oncoming ball. Try driving your car or riding your bike with your head
tilted at an angle. Be careful you don’t run into anything. Eyes
that are not horizontal have trouble with the speed and closing rate
of objects coming at them.

A modern example of this is Roger Federer. If you watch slow motion
of the world’s number one hit a tennis ball, you’ll notice how
still his head remains during contact. His eyes remain focused on the
contact point long after the ball has left his strings.

The application of this knowledge is to slow the body down when
hitting any ball. Taking smaller steps as you get closer to the ball
allows your head time to stop bouncing around, which helps stabilize
the eyes. Secondly, bending the knees and going down to hit low
balls is preferred to leaning over with your body.

Remember the eyes have the most important role. You can’t hit
what you can’t see!

Doug Hofer, USPTA & USRSA                               February 21, 2007