Timing in Tennis and How to Improve It

Aug 13

One of the most difficult things in tennis, in my opinion, is not learning technique or even footwork—it’s the timing and rhythm.

Because timing in tennis naturally improves over time, most players and coaches don’t pay much attention to it. They also misdiagnose many errors as technical mistakes when the incorrect technique in many cases is just a consequence of poor timing.

If you start tennis very early and play a lot, then timing, ball judgment, and rhythm won’t be a problem. All will eventually improve naturally and unconsciously.

But, if you’re an adult and you started late, then timing exercises can greatly improve your game, especially since they take your focus away from technique, which is so often the key limiting factor that holds you back.

The following three drills will help you improve your timing and rhythm—and help you play tennis more effortlessly.

With less effort put into your strokes, you’ll improve consistency and accuracy and eventually be able to add controlled power to your groundstrokes.

Drill #1: Playing Far Behind The Baseline

So many club players stand much too close to the baseline, and I understand why—they play points most of the time, and they want to be able to reach short balls.

But, by playing close to the baseline, you shorten the distance to your opponent and therefore have less time to hit the ball.

When your timing is not that good yet, it will cause you to shorten your strokes, and you’ll do that by tightening your muscles. That will cause a lot of poor technical shots and inconsistencies.

incorrect forehand

By playing too close to the baseline you may develop poor timing and tight strokes

My first suggestion is to play way less tennis for points if you want to improve in the long term.

And my second suggestion is to play way behind the baseline for 5 to 10 minutes every session (perhaps even more).

By playing 2 or 3 meters behind the baseline, you’ll have much more time to prepare and swing. You’ll also have a much longer court to play into.

Relaxed tennis swing

Playing far behind the baseline gives you time to swing freely and in a relaxed way

So, you’ll benefit in two ways: more time to swing and more freedom to swing, as the other baseline will be quite far away and you’ll see that it’s quite difficult to hit the ball too long.

The goal is to find the rhythm with the ball—try to hit the ball when it’s falling down and swing freely without tension through it.

With practice, you’ll find it very enjoyable to play like that. As you’ll feel no time pressure, you’ll finally be free to swing and let go.

This type of timing is the FOUNDATION for other timing where there is less time, like hitting the ball at the top of the bounce and hitting the ball on the rise.

Once you have this timing in place, it will be much easier to adjust it and still retain the feeling of no time pressure and the relaxed swing through the ball. In turn, your technique of groundstrokes will also be much smoother.

Drill #2: “Do I Have Time?”

Because coaches and players notice very early that the beginner or intermediate tennis player is late hitting the ball, the most common correction is to “put your racquet back” early, as that will give the player more time.

In theory that’s correct, but in practice that doesn’t work well. That’s because the player actually breaks down their timing by the sudden movement of bringing the racquet back.

The racquet then also starts the forward swing from a still point, which requires a jerky movement to get it started. In order to accelerate the racquet suddenly from a still point (to jerk it), we need to use a lot of force suddenly.

We can achieve that only through tension and strong muscle contraction, both of which cause inconsistency of the shot and a lot of wasted energy.

Forehand rhythm and timing

3 phases of a forehand groundstroke where each is performed with a different speed

In reality, the swing of the groundstroke has 3 phases:

Quick preparation

Slower movement of the racquet in the phase between the backswing and the forward swing

Acceleration toward the ball

In order to make all three work in harmony, the key part is the second one—it’s where we transition from backswing to forward swing.

This part MUST be smooth, as that allows gradual acceleration toward the ball. If the acceleration is not gradual but jerky, then muscles will tighten, contract suddenly, and cause small changes in the racquet head orientation, which in turn will cause a lot of errors.

Tennis timing drill

The key phase of a groundstroke where you need to “find time”

That’s why it is crucial that the second phase of the swing is smooth, and it can be smooth only if we don’t feel any time pressure.

The best way to achieve that, in my experience, is to keep asking yourself whether you have time in that part of the swing.

The more you are aware of that phase and how you go through it, the more you’ll be able to adjust your swing.

In fact, most of the adjustments will happen unconsciously as your brain will adjust the speed of each phase and the transitions between them.

But again, in order to pay attention to these details, you need to rally in easy conditions without playing points.

Your whole awareness must be in your stroke—that’s why you must receive easy balls.

It’s best if you combine this drill with Drill #1, where you rally 2 to 3 meters behind the baseline.

Your final goal in this drill is to find time in phase 2 of the swing. You’ll find it through awareness and repetition. Once you feel no time pressure, you’ll be able to relax.

Once you relax, the swing will be much smoother and will generate much more force with less effort.

Feeling no time pressure and hitting effortlessly will tell you that you’re on the right track.

One more thing: allow your unconscious mind to make all the adjustments in the long term. Don’t force it consciously—just look for time in phase 2, hit 1000 balls, and wait.

Give your cerebellum enough information and feedback so that it can adjust this highly complex operation of sending thousands of signals to hundreds of your muscles that need to operate in almost perfect harmony.

Drill #3: Align With The Ball Flight

This is a drill I first discovered through The Inner Game of Tennis from Timothy Gallwey, and it’s one of the best drills to work on both timing and rhythm at once.

Gallwey called it “riding the ball”, and the idea is that you move in the same way as the ball does.

When the ball is going down, you’re going down, and when the ball is going up, you’re going up.

Rhythm in tennis

When the ball is going down, I am going down…

Rhythm towards contact point

… and when the ball is going up, I am going up towards it.

This drill works best if you don’t stand too far behind the baseline because then the ball will be falling down again at the time you need to go up toward it.

So, it’s not a drill that works in every situation, as the rhythms of your movement need to adjust to the ball’s flight.

Sometimes you hit the ball when it’s falling down, sometimes on top of the bounce, and sometimes when it’s rising—so there isn’t one drill that teaches you all three rhythms at the same time (except simply playing).

So, try to go down and load the energy in your legs and then go up once the ball bounces off the ground and release that energy into your stroke.

This will be the correct rhythm in most baseline exchanges when you rally nicely with your partner but also in most exchanges later when you play points.

One of the best hidden benefits of this drill besides helping you improve your timing in tennis is also helping you focus more on the loading of your legs and becoming more aware of the power you can generate off the ground.

By “pressing” into the ground with your legs, the “ground will press back”, and you’ll feel as if you’re receiving energy from the ground.

Of course, the ground doesn’t send energy, but that’s how it feels.

By finding more power in your legs you’ll be able to let go of some of the tension in your arms, and you’ll find another level of more effortless swing and eventually more consistency and power.

In summary, timing and rhythm in tennis are not easy to master, and most technical errors that we see are actually caused by poor timing.

In fact, when you’re thinking about the “correct movement of the racquet”, then in your mind’s eye you’re observing your racquet path and you’re not really tracking the ball.

How can you time the ball well when in fact you’re not even paying attention to it?

Only when you have your full attention on the ball will you be able to gauge the right time to go against it in the most comfortable and efficient way.

It is crucial that you complement your technical lessons with timing and rhythm exercises in order to achieve that effortless stroke in the long term.

Test these drills repeatedly, and let me know how they work for you!

Leave a Comment:

(73) comments

Alan Vawdrey August 13, 2013

Thankyou Tomaz,

I will try them out.

Alan

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    Milivoj Klibucar August 13, 2013

    Thank you Tomaz,
    just what I need advice!!
    I start usually from the base line and since I need
    a time to get going, I am “fighting” the ball all the time.
    Now I will start 2 met. behind base line as you suggested.
    Thanks
    Milivoj

    Reply
    Luis Vazquez August 13, 2013

    Simple, clear……Excellent!!!!!

    Reply
    Dennis August 14, 2013

    To reiterate…

    I took it (played farther back, time between backswing and ball strike and did the “up & down”) onto the court this evening. Result? Nailed it! Funny though, it seemed I was playing in “slo-mo” time. However, certainly hit more winners. Hope it will become consistent.
    Thanks for tips that are simple and deliver!

    Dr. D

    Reply
      Tomaz August 14, 2013

      Great, thanks for the feedback, Dennis. Keep playing with these drills and experiment with them, hitting will get more and more comfortable.

      Reply
Lionel August 13, 2013

Thanks for the info. You are really good at bringing the feel into tennis. These are great drills for improving your timing and rhythm which I think is the most important aspect of playing tennis, followed by fitness and technique. One thing you did mention however is about paying attention to the ball. The biggest problem I find is not that you don’t want to pay attention to the ball. It’s that when you are playing a point you automatically pay attention to where you want to hit the ball. This is what takes your attention off the ball. Can you elaborate how these drill can keep you attention on the ball rather than on where you want to hit it?
If you go to tennis courts you will see a lot of players who at the last instance before they hit take their eyes of the ball and look where they want to hit. So they don’t really see the ball. If you could delay this movement up to contact their consistency, timing and rhythm would improve significantly.
Thanks once again for your interesting insights.

Lionel

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    Tomaz August 13, 2013

    Hi Lionel,

    You’re right about players looking where they want to play the ball in many cases.

    Firstly, we need to understand that we are wired to do that. We look at the target to judge the distance so we can “throw the spear” at it or “shoot it with a bow and arrow”.

    So secondly, a tennis player must unlearn that and learn to play “blind”. The pros all play “blind” – meaning that look at the ball at point of contact.

    But that requires trusting the process that goes in tennis and realizing that looking at the ball will produce a better shot than looking at the court.

    I believe that for most tennis players this is true – namely they would hit better shots if they watched the ball and played “blind”, but the anxiety takes over and they are unable to overcome it.

    So that’s another reason why club players should play a lot without playing for points so that they can develop a habit of keeping their eye on the ball. This habit will then be easier to transfer into a match situation.

    Reply
      Grahame March 8, 2014

      Quote “I believe that for most tennis players this is true – namely they would hit better shots if they watched the ball and played “blind”, but the anxiety takes over and they are unable to overcome it.”

      This is so correct. I can have great form in practice but when I am playing comp I can’t deliver. No doubt this is the reason. Anxiety. I must just let go and not worry. Trouble is its hard to do in doubles because getting belted 6-0 in singles is part of the journey in doubles you are anxious not to let your partner down. I dont play singles because of a foot problem Maybe I have to tell my partner that things could be rocky for a while ’till I get my radar in? BTW your coaching is great. Thank you.

      Reply
        Tomaz March 16, 2014

        Thanks for your thoughts, Grahame. If your partner understands tennis and some human psyche, then he will understand that making you feel guilty for mistakes will NOT improve your play.

        That’s why good team players in any sport always support their team mates and never criticize. Criticizing doesn’t work…

        Reply
Robert August 13, 2013

This series of drills is colossal. It is 1 – 2 – 3, but it really is three major lessons. Clearly the ‘2 meters behind the baseline’ drill is necessary for the other two. Only the most accomplished players have incorporated the third skill thoroughly into their games. I started figuring this out when trying to improve my timing by watching pros play and tracking the flight of their incoming ball as they make their turn. When you can do this part, there is lots of time for the second part. But this makes me realize much more clearly what the controlling factor in the timing of the stroke sequence is.

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Bogdan August 13, 2013

Very useful lessons!

It’s the first time I found something like this on the web.
Definitely I’ll try that.

Thanks.

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maurizio August 13, 2013

Dear Tomasz
thanks for your precious suggestions , so we have to wait for the ball don’t we ? we have to restrain to open too early , learning to
look for the second curve of the ball , traying to push it when it stops ( as agassi once said , right ? )and then accellerates… do you think that open stance will give us more help or not ?
n.b. you are one the best tennis teacher in the net , thank you so much !

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    Tomaz August 13, 2013

    Good points, Maurizio!

    I think open stance is more tricky than it seems. If you do it properly, then it’s very comfortable, but when you don’t, it will cause a loss of power.

    Don’t think about footwork in general, just let it happen.

    Reply
Arturo Hernandez August 13, 2013

Great post Tomaz! Would you characterize these drills as creating more of a ballroom dance feeling? Basically, the ball is like your partner and you want do everything to blend with the ball. Then you and the ball just dance together. Does this analogy work? Or Is there a better one?

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    Tomaz August 13, 2013

    Good one, Arturo!

    Never thought of the dancing analogy but yes, you could put it that way.

    In my experience, all I am trying to do is to judge / assess / gauge the ball’s flight so I can time my energy release into it. I think volleyball training helped a lot as we were taught to bump (pass) the ball mostly with our legs even though you contact the ball with your arms.

    So I was trained to push off the ground to go against the ball. I think these helped me greatly in tennis and I don’t see this taught in tennis enough as most are thinking too much about their arms and rotations – but the initial thrust that starts the whole process starts from the legs pushing off the ground.

    Reply
Milan August 13, 2013

Thank you Tomaz. These are excellent tips. I especially like the third one to learn timing for hitting on the rise. However, I don’t think that you can you use it effectively if you stand a few feet behind the baseline and let the ball drop. I would appreciate your comment on that.

Thanks,
Milan

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    Tomaz August 14, 2013

    You’re right, Milan. If you stand far behind the baseline, there’s a different rhythm. In my experience, this is not a problem even for beginner and intermediate players – as long as they have enough time, they will find the rhythm unconsciously.

    But I do like to use the volleyball analogy for bumping (passing).

    It’s best if you have a bigger lighter ball like a volley ball: have the player sit on the bench with their arms together as in volleyball bump. Throw them the ball so that it’s falling down and then need to stand up from the bench and bump the ball on the way up.

    If you repeat a few times, the player will understand that they need to go “against the ball” – so the ball is falling and they are rising towards it.

    Here’s an example of a volleyball bump:

    Once they understand the principle, you feed them easy balls on the court and they try to use this principle of “rising towards” the ball while hitting it. When to go down will take care of itself, they just need to time the “rise” into the ball.

    I prefer to teach with principles than with mechanics as they give deeper understanding of what needs to happen.

    Reply
Bob August 13, 2013

Tomaz,

I’ve just recently found your website and tennis instruction. It makes so much sense – the focus on relaxed feel and rhythm. It’s fantastic!

I’ve been concentrating on technique with the result being tightness and frustration on the court.

With only a couple of times, so far, trying to implement your teaching, the tension is already beginning to drain away with the shots improving simply because I’m more relaxed and hitting more easily.

I’m 66 years young in California, between a 3.0 and 3.5; play more singles than doubles and hoping to get the consistency to reach 4.0 or 4.5 in my ability level.

Thank you very much for how you focus on the “feel” of the game.

Bob

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    Tomaz August 14, 2013

    Thanks for the kind feedback, Bob! Stay in touch, cheers.

    Reply
Caoihmin August 13, 2013

Hi Tomasz,

Very enlightning as always. You stressed on a very important and mostly ignored point. I was on the court this afternoon eager to put your advices into practise. The first 2 drills seemed to produce very interessant results. I struggled with the third one though. It seemed painful to be “up with the ball”. I found myself in very incomfortable positions to hit the ball. So I have a question: don’t you think that the timing of the “up” phase is depending a lot on ball’s pace, amount of spin, etc? More, this drill awakened the conscious mind into my game. I was suddenly thinking too much about my leg’s role resulting in poor shots. You seemed really relaxed in your video so that’s raising some questions to me 😉

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    Tomaz August 14, 2013

    Hi,

    I see two options: you may not be used to having so much time and not being used to “waiting” a little bit once your legs are loaded – so it feels strange. Play with this idea and see how it goes.

    Another option is what I also mentioned in the article – this rhythm works only a certain type of ball that reaches you before it starts falling. So the ball must have enough pace to reach you.

    You may have been playing with someone that plays too slow or you may be standing too far behind the baseline.

    Also, don’t think about footwork but about sending the energy against the ball off the ground.

    Reply
      Caoihmin August 15, 2013

      Different mental images, different results! Thanks a million, that was much better today.

      Love your articles, keep them coming

      Reply
Steve August 14, 2013

Excellent tips. You are one of the best coaches. I always look forward to your videos. Thanks very much.
Regards,
Steve

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    Tomaz August 14, 2013

    Much appreciated, Steve.

    Reply
Mark August 14, 2013

Great, informative video… Was it filmed in Singapore?

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    Tomaz August 14, 2013

    Thanks. Yes, in Kallang. I teach here now full time.

    Reply
Henry August 14, 2013

Excellent!

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bart August 15, 2013

You are soo right

Timing and rhythm is everything

The idea of saying down when the ball bounces is a really great way of going down your legs!!

I am definitely going to use that.

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jenna August 15, 2013

first of all, id like to say im a huge fan of yours. my forehand base is strong only becuz i followed every internet coaching of urs. these drills are excellent as always but i have a little trouble understanding the second one. i just did a shadow swing at my living room and asked myself “do i have time between the backswing and contact” and i was surprised my swing did feel a lot more smooth. but i still dont understand the gist of this drill. why do we need time in between? can u enlighten me more? my stroke feels smooth yes, but i just dont understand the logic behind it . thanx again 🙂

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    Tomaz August 15, 2013

    Hi Jenna,

    The reason why we want “time” in the second phase is because if we have time, then our arm is moving relatively slowly. If it’s moving slowly, then it is most likely relaxed.

    If we don’t feel time, we need to rush that second phase. If we rush it, we’ll need to tense our muscles because we’re trying to overcome the backward momentum of our arm initiated with our backswing. So we’re trying to change very quickly from backward to forward and we can only do that with tension – strong contraction of our muscles in the arm.

    And if we do that, then our shots will be inconsistent because tension in the arm causes small changes of the angle of the racquet head and robs us of the speed of the racquet head.

    By looking for “time” in phase 2, we will also find relaxed arm which allows us a smooth and gradual acceleration in phase 3 without much tension.

    So we get fast racquet head without much tension which also gives us a very consistent shot.

    Reply
Rui August 15, 2013

I have tried this drill twice, with mixed feelings. When I focused on relaxing my arm, I tended to ignored coiling body, and when I focused on coiling body, I tended to ignored finding time.

Maybe first thing first.

which one should I focus on firstly?

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    Tomaz August 15, 2013

    Hi Rui,

    Every instruction will fail if you become too conscious and try to perform that instruction too forcefully.

    Every instruction needs to be applied gently while still keeping most of your current technique intact.

    Also there can be too many instructions. Coiling of the body is an instruction from some other article, perhaps on my site perhaps from somewhere else.

    So yes, first things first – whatever you work on, just do that one thing for a while.

    No problem if there is not much coiling if you’re working on a specific rhythm exercise. Just play with it repeatedly – see how it feels.

    Coiling will happen naturally anyway. It’s a consequence of your intention to give energy to the ball. There is no way you can play without coiling, it will happen…

    Reply
      Rui August 15, 2013

      Thanks a lot !
      Your words enlighten me more.

      Reply
Adolfo Nunez August 15, 2013

Hi Tomaz,

Simplicity, is the perfect word to describe these three drills. Often times, as teaching pros we forget that the human body is the most sincronise and rhythmic machine ever made. There’s no other machine like the human body. We give the body way too many instructions to execute just one shot, the fact is, by simply focusing on the eyes, hands, and feet, the body can perform practically any type of physical activity without getting the conscious mind invilved; walking is a clasic example, although not as physical, driving a car is another example.
I like how during each one of these drills, in order to develop timing and rhythm, we don’t see a lot of physical demand. I also adimire your approach to simplicity on each one of your presentations.

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    Tomaz August 15, 2013

    So well said, Adolfo. Yes, the human mind and body are amazing and we can all learn through tennis that we can trust in them and leave our conscious ego behind here and there…

    Reply
    Marcelo September 5, 2014

    I discovered this page yesterday. I am Argentine and play in clay, NTPR 4.5/5, 48 years old.
    Incredible your advises. I can´t stop to read and watch videos of that page.

    A lot of thanks for your advises.
    Best regards, Marcelo.

    Reply
John Carrizosa August 15, 2013

Hi Tomaz,
Another excellent teaching point. These timing issue’s are almost always ignored by coaches,leading to tight, uncomfortable, and rigid looking strokes. Thanks for posting!
John

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Jun He August 15, 2013

Sometimes, when I pay attention to the ball, I forget to move. This causes me late a lot.

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    Tomaz August 17, 2013

    Yes, it happens until your movement becomes automatic. Of course, if you do anything in tennis TOO consciously, then the rest of the body will slow down because you are focusing so hard.

    The term I use is soft focus. Even though you choose to focus on something this focus in soft, more gentle. You’re still alert, in relaxed intensity while you are choosing to focus on a certain task or goal.

    Reply
Eiji Tsuboi August 16, 2013

Three points make me move to be back to basic practice in tennis. I could break through my problems. Thanks a lot!

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Paul Dempsey August 16, 2013

I’ve spent too much time on mechanics with all the downside you described,especially losing all the natural athleticism I brought to the game.I’ve tried your drills twice and know they will get my focus back to where they should be.Wish I had read this a few yrs ago.
Thanks much.

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    Tomaz August 17, 2013

    You’re very welcome, Paul. True, mechanics are the foundation but still just part of the whole puzzle.

    Since you’ve worked on mechanics for long, you can now trust your technique already and let it be. Allow it to adjust to different bounces, speeds and spins and work for a while on timing and rhythm tennis drills.

    Reply
Ed B August 18, 2013

Hi Tomaz,

Can I just say a big thank you for this and all your other videos. Compared to so many other web based instruction methods, your approach to tennis makes so much sense and produces instant, and huge, results (at least for me).

As someone who only took up the game 4 years ago at 44, this timing and rhythm issue is a huge one for me. I have days when everything flows and seems easy and other days when I am late on everything and its a big mess. Hopefully these drills will help me reduce the instances of these bad days.

A suggestion / request for you: a few years back I watched a series of videos on your other website, in which you helped some German guy sort out his one handed backhand. I remember watching those videos and the very next time I stepped on to court to practise, the effect on my 1HBH was both instant and almost miraculous. It would be great for you to combine those videos and put it up on this new website.

Once again, THANKS!

Ed

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Rodger Schuester August 19, 2013

I found this lesson to be well done and very helpful. You are right, it is hard to know what the problem is that needs to be solved and it is easy to focus too much on ones stroke when our shotmaking breaks down.

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keith August 30, 2013

Thanks, Tomaz,

Your comment of having a “Slower movement of the racquet in the phase between the backswing and the forward swing” reminds me of the golf swing. I think of the middle part of the swing -the part between takeaway and acceleration to contact- as having to be slow and “coasting”. The part where I have to accelerate and be fast is before, during and after contact. Glad to know I’m on the right path, thank you. I always wait for your posts.
Additionally, I am in need of help teaching footwork;specifically, anticipating shots instead of reacting,late, to shots.

Thanks once again.
Keith

Reply
    Tomaz August 31, 2013

    Hi Keith,

    Yes, “coasting” is a good idea to have, so it’s definitely similar to a golf swing.

    As for footwork and anticipation, there could be different reasons why you’re late to react.

    You may not be watching the impact of your opponent hitting the ball well, perhaps you’re too absorbed watching your own shot and seeing where it lands.

    Perhaps you are thinking ahead and not having a clear mind and be open to any shot from your opponent’s side.

    Perhaps you’re also too tight and anxious not knowing what you’re opponent will play and your legs don’t respond quickly.

    Let me know if any of these sound right…

    Reply
silincic April 13, 2014

Excellent lessons. So simply and so strong advice for club players. I played tennis once or twice a week. Thinking about timing and ritham helped me to enjoy more and not to be in tension trying to do best shots.

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Hemant May 2, 2014

Tomaz, I have been your long distance fan for a couple years now and love the site.

On going down with the ball – when ball is crossing net and dropping and when I am running towards it – how do I keep rhythm of going down with ball. I probably can mimick ball when I already am in position and balanced but how do I do that while in motion to run towards it?

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    Tomaz May 3, 2014

    Great question, Hemant.

    I plan to show this in one of my future articles but you CAN do it while moving.

    You simply lower yourself while moving. I call it going “down the slope”.

    To simplify, imagine a sloped line going from the top of your head from the place where you started to the place where you’re going to hit the ball.

    Since you’re going to be down and loaded at the place where you’re hitting the ball, you’ll be lower.

    Now just try to follow this sloped line while moving towards the ball. I’ll show this soon…

    Reply
Rob Cross May 6, 2014

Love these videos. I’m almost 50 and injuries are an issue. I like the tips on how to be more relaxed and effortless. Thanks.

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Vietnamese54 June 28, 2014

Hi Tomaz,
Just say truely thanks to you for the valued works.
Wellcome to Ha Noi, Vietnam.

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Kenshi2005 July 2, 2014

Hi Tomaz,
I have a Silent partner ball machine. How could I practice timing gradually? Should I set the feeding rate slower then increase or the adjust speed of the ball. What is the best way to practice timing with ball machine.

Thanks

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    Tomaz July 2, 2014

    Yes, I suggest you start at slow speed and see if you time the ball well. The next step would be to increase the speed and also change your positions.

    Work on hitting the ball when falling down, then top of the bounce and eventually on the rise.

    So the speed and depth of the ball are the same, except you change your position in order to challenge your timing skills.

    Reply
      Kenshi2005 July 3, 2014

      What do you mean by changing the positions?

      I never thought about that type of drill: speed and depth the same but hit the ball when falling down, top of bounce and on the rise. I will try that.

      Thanks

      Reply

[…] “other” timing is when you initiate the stroke forward before the ball has bounced. This one is very challenging as you have NO CUE on when to actually […]

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Nilkanth Deshpande March 9, 2015

Your instructions are combination of two great books i e 1 Zen In The Art Of Archery by Prof Eugen Herrigel 2 Inner Tennis by W Timothy Gallwey. In life every effort should be effortless including tennis so your instructions are for living life smoothly,effortlessly. Please do elaborate about getting time for top of the bounce and rising balls, service and volleys
Thanks a lot Sir

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    Tomaz March 9, 2015

    Thanks, Nilkanth, more videos on the way…

    Reply
      Nilkanth Deshpande March 10, 2015

      You are a Zen master.Eagerly waiting for new videos.

      Reply
Carlo April 3, 2015

Unfortunately I just can’t go out onto the court and use your tips right away but they make so much sense to me! I just can feel it, It’s just me playng too close to the baseline and messing with the strokes because of poor timing.
I’m a good intermediate player and tecnique is cristal clear in my mind but when I’m playing I just don’t have time so good tecnique is useless.
I think that what I’ve just read here is the best tip I’ve ever gotten. It is precious to me.
THANK YOU!
Carlo

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Gary June 27, 2015

Tomaz,

Lots of great insights on your posts and videos. It is a challenge not to be overwhelmed with all the specifics you point out to consciously think about when in fact you are saying our subconscious has a large part of the outcome. I enjoy your instruction and will endeavor to do better while not getting down on myself for making mistakes along the way.

Thanks very much for your work.

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    Tomaz June 28, 2015

    Thanks, Gary. It is a challenge allowing our subconscious to work out many parts of the game…

    Reply
Ming Tu October 31, 2015

You are the Zen Master of Tennis Coaching!

The natural way, flow like water, the right way!
All your teachings make sense to me! They are tremendously helpful!

Aaa Ha!! after watching your tubes countless times!
you speaks the heart of tennis learnings!

Thank you so much!

Your loyal virtual student
Ming

Reply
    Tomaz November 1, 2015

    Thank you, Ming, very glad that you’re enjoying the game!

    Reply
Hung Phan November 12, 2015

hi Tomaz,
I see ATP top players like Murray he times the ball clearly by taking back the racket when the ball coming and swing forward with the racket lag back. The different is with ATP player you don’t see the racket head when it at the farthest position because it is already gaining speed due to the changing direction of the hand causing the racket head spring backward and quickly flex forward (centrifugal force). The method you mention is applied by most club player where their hands are not relax and they can’t use the core muscle to drive the hand.

Reply
    Tomaz November 12, 2015

    Hi Hung,

    You are mentioning technical details like the lag of the racquet which is not really related to timing. Lag simply means that the wrist is very relaxed before accelerating forward, that’s all.

    But the timing of the stroke in most cases is exactly the same with Murray or me. He initiates the preparation (unit turn) immediately when the ball is going up over the net and times the rest of the stroke like I described above.

    But you may have looked at one single instance where for example he was about to hit a very slow incoming ball and therefore he didn’t need to prepare early or swing with the same rhythm.

    I mention in the article above that this specific way of timing the ball where you go down when the ball goes down and you go up when the ball goes up doesn’t apply in every situation but it does in most neutral ball exchanges from the baseline.

    Reply
      Hung Phan November 12, 2015

      Hi Tomaz,
      Thank you for answering my question. I should be more specific. As you said “Slower movement of the racquet in the phase between the backswing and the forward swing”
      Let observe Federer or any top ATP players FH. When the left hand release the racket racket head speed = 5mph, when racket at the farthest point of backswing ~ 30 mph, when racket hit ball ~70 mph.
      So for club players the racket start speed up at the end of the back swing, for ATP players racket speed up as soon as released by LH.

      So the timing must be different.

      Reply
        Tomaz November 12, 2015

        OK, I see your confusion now – you’re looking just at the racquet head speed.

        You need to look at the arm and the body and how fast they move.

        You probably got the speeds from this video:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcAcppK5ZbU

        Take a look at preparation from 1:49 to 1:57 and compare the speed of the arm in this phase to the speed of the arm until 2:03.

        You’ll see that it slows down. After that it starts to accelerate.

        We feel timing in the body and arms not in the racquet head, that’s why I talk about slowing down. It’s how it is in the body, but the racquet is at the moment starting to accelerate because it’s like a fulcrum.

        But again, it depends on the speed of play.

        Watch the first minute of the warm up here and see how slow the racquet is behind Roger on the forehand side:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9LzWVbck0o

        He turns very quickly, but then waits for the ball before he accelerates.

        Reply
peter May 3, 2016

Hi Tomaz
this timing tip was great!
Since I frequently find myself not really watching the contact of the racquet to the ball, I adapted your tip with a 3 word phrase: I see you. “I” is when the opponent hits the ball. “See” is when the ball bounces, and “you” is when the ball contacts my racquet. I find it helps the riding the ball rhythm and also in maintaining eye focus on the ball fully.

Thanks for your help.

Reply
    Tomaz May 3, 2016

    Great, Peter, thanks for sharing your tips. It gives readers more ideas on how to work their rhythm and timing.

    Reply
NILKANTH DESHPANDE June 11, 2016

Dear Tomaz, very well said, in fact this the soul of stroke making for a loose and relaxed swing.What about serve and volleys? It should apply to service also with fairly high toss for good timing. Please do elaborate with demo on these points. Million thanks

Reply
joe September 24, 2016

interesting drill (going up and down with the ball). i suppose that will cause the backtake and fwd swing to automatically synchronize with the ball.

Reply
Mik October 8, 2016

I’ve been practicing my technique by myself for a while and been able to hit pretty accurate shots with topspin.

I was confident enough to try hitting with a partner and wasn’t able to return a single shot. There was no time to think about swinging technique and all the balls were just going all over the place. I was so disappointed I gave up after 10 minutes.

Are these drills good to improve timing in that way or should I try some more basic drills? Any suggestions, anyone?

All I can do now is to try to put my racket in front of the ball and find myself swinging air instead of the ball.

Thanks in advance.

Reply
    Tomaz October 8, 2016

    Hi Mik,

    It sounds to me you have not played tennis before with a partner. It’s a very difficult sport – much more than it looks.

    I suggest you play with soft balls first and play mini tennis for some time so you learn how to judge and control the ball.

    Then gradually move back to the baseline.

    Reply
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