Watching professional tennis can provide both entertainment and educational value. In the following paragraphs, I am going to share some ideas that will ensure a great educational experience while watching tennis live, on TV, or online.
Before you start watching:
Be ready to take notes
Be specific about what you are looking for. Only focus on 2 to 3 things at a time.
Try to chart specific stats that are relevant to your game. For example, the number of cross court shots vs. the number of down the line shots or the number of times an approach shot was hit when the ball was hit short, etc.
Net Clearance (Best to look for during live tennis). In tennis, clearance over the net often equals depth of the shot. TV tennis provides an illusion with the cameras placed up high and filming at a downward angle. However, when you watch players live, this phenomenon is much more clearly on display. An analysis done in 2013 had “the big four” players clearing the net anywhere between 60-90 inches on average through the season – that is 2-3 racket lengths above the net.
Footwork If your goal is to study footwork, you have to look at the following in detail:
Movement to a ball and recovery after hitting the shot
How professional players balance themselves at the end of a shot
It is very important to focus on the players and not the ball. Try taking a towel or sheet and covering up half of the screen so that you are focusing strictly on one player.
3. Study Slow Motion for Technique (Best to look for when watching TV or online). When you watch matches on TV, there are a lot of slow motion replays shown. It is important to understand what truly happens in slow motion as the human eye does not pick up on some details at regular speed. YouTube is a great resource for slow motion study.
4. Shot Selection and Ball Placement The tennis court is 27 ft. wide for singles and 36 ft. wide for doubles. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of shots are hit inside the middle 18 ft. of the court in both singles and doubles. Professionals usually change direction when they see an attacking opportunity, the pattern is changed, or when they are pushed into a corner and are forced to hit an emergency shot.