Visual cues key
Posted by Dean Holden at August 9th, 2013
by James Skitt, 27 June 2013
With serves in excess of 100mph there’s been plenty of powerful hitting on display as the world’s best tennis players have descended on SW19 for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships this week.
As ever breaking an opponent’s serve is no easy task on the quick grass surfaces, but one we can expect to see players become increasingly adept at throughout the course of each match according to English Institute of Sport (EIS) Skill Acquisition Technical Lead Oliver Logan.
Logan, who also provides Biomechanics support to GB Archery, told eis2win.co.uk: “Whilst the players get used to the surface and their opponents you would expect to see most games going with serve in the early stages, with the non-server likely to become more effective with their return the longer the match goes on.”
But whilst it seems the old adage of ‘getting your eye in’ plays its part, it’s the receiver’s ability to pick up on visual cues from their opponent that are an even greater factor in this steady improvement.
He explains, “The ability to anticipate the outcome of the serve based upon information coming from the server’s postural orientation is key in tennis where the speed of the serve, particularly on grass, means that decisions may sometimes have to be made in advance of the ball contact on the racquet.”
“Picking up on these visual cues from things such as how the ball is tossed, where they stand, the angle of their body and where on the racket they strike the ball will all help the receiver learn more about their opponent and become more effective.”
“The top tennis players should also be better at recognizing and recalling movement patterns.”
“So not only will they be more attuned in what to look for but also will process this information more quickly and be able to relate it to stored movement patterns. This anticipation and decision making skill may be the key between winning and losing the point”
“For players they haven’t played against frequently they may review video footage to look at the service technique and also review data service direction and percentage data particularly to see where the player tends to serve on key points. For more well known opponents then the player is more likely to have a bank of experience from which to recall”
Since 2009 the EIS has been working closely with UK Sport and external partners to investigate the performance impact of the scientific discipline of Skill Acquisition, which focuses on understanding and improving how we learn perceptual, cognitive and motor skills.