How to improve reaction skills in offensive, fast-paced tennis

This month’s column of tennis coach Marcin Bieniek elaborates on the importance of good reaction skills in contemporary tennis and gives us tips on how to maximize our potential in this department that is the base for effective modern style of play.

Tennis is completely different than it was even ten years ago. New technologies, better athletes and access to broad knowledge have greatly transformed the game. It is quite simple to observe that tennis is a quick sport based on powerful shots, swift decisions and fast movement.

Nowadays, the majority of players, and that includes the best players in the world, such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova, possess offensive style of play, which is based on short and dynamic rallies. Even when they play against opponents who like consistency, they look for shorter points and try to put pressure on rivals from the first shot.

It doesn’t matter at which level you play, if you’re striving for improvement, you should make reaction one of your priorities, while if your goal is to become the next Serena Williams, without excellent reaction you don’t have a chance to chase the GOAT.

Why is reaction so important for tennis players? Because of the specificity of the sport and because tennis is faster than ever before, so reaction gets major attention for coaches who want to develop successful tennis players. With good reaction you have more time to prepare your shots, so you start to feel less pressure. The more time you have, the easier it is to execute your strategy successfully. That is why if you work on this aspect and develop this area to the highest possible level, you will immediately see positive change in your game and results.

HOW TO IMPROVE REACTION?

1. Ready position

Your stance before the opponent’s shot can either help you or make your next move really difficult. Good players constantly move their feet and make regular split-steps to be ready to answer incoming balls. Additionally, they strive to keep their weight on the front part of their feet, to be able to accelerate to the ball. To achieve these tasks, your legs need to be prepared for long-term work. You can improve this aspect with a simple tool such as footwork ladder, which you can find at Tennis Warehouse Europe.

2. Ball perception

Good reaction is not related only to your legs, rather, it is a process where your perception skills have big impact on the final result of your action. The faster you are able to read incoming balls, the more time you have to react and prepare your shots. If you can read the ball while it is still on the opponent’s side, you have enough time for preparation. On the other hand, if you realize where the ball is going after it crosses the net, there is a big chance that you will hit the ball late. The easiest way to improve this area is to learn how to perceive the ball as fast as possible. You can use balls of different colors to develop solid perception skills.

3. Have laser focus

To react quickly, you have to fully focus on the ball, meaning that nothing and nobody can disrupt your focus. It is not an easy task, so only by performing specific tasks during training sessions will you be able to improve focusing skills to the point where you won’t see anything other than the ball. How can you do that? Do exercises where you have to perform given action successfully a few times in a row. It will teach you to keep your focus sharp and to not waste previous effort.

Tennis is a complex sport where many skills are necessary to successfully compete against good opponents. One of these skills is reaction. Players who react fast have more time to prepare their shots, so they get invisible advantage over the rival. Would you like to get this advantage? Then use tips from this article and be faster than ever before.

Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach, currently working with a Top 60 ITF player, and founder of instructional website TennisIsland.us. Marcin is the author of Enjoy Tennis Blog and a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines. Moreover, Marcin was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA. 

MORE ARTICLES BY TENNIS COACH MARCIN BIENIEK:

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