Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tennis and the Power of Rotation

Why is a rotating object so pleasing for us to see?
Think of any rotating object - a ball, a sphere, or even a coin. Why do we like to watch it? Why are we sometimes even mesmerized by it? Because there appears to be a "smoothness" or "fluidity" or "flow" to such an object which the human eye is naturally attracted to. Indeed, there seems to be something strangely hypnotic and appealing about the object's rotating quality.

Think again about more rotating objects. Think of a spinning top. Think of the waves of the ocean at the beach. Think of that old toy for kids called the "Slinky". Think of a swinging pendulum. Think also of watching a video of a tennis ball rotating in slow-motion hit by your favorite pro. And on "contact" the spin of the ball changes, and it suddenly spins in a different direction.

The sight of rotation for most of us appears to be magnetic.

Why is rotational force so fundamental to our world?
The power and constancy of rotation is self-evident everywhere in our world. And it appears to be a primary force in our universe in creating energy and motion. Our Earth rotates on its axis, and also rotates around the sun. Our sun and solar system rotate within the galaxy. Our galaxy itself rotates around its core, and rotates within our observable universe.

And on the other side of the cosmic scale, at the sub-atomic level, electrons rotate around protons and neutrons. The electron itself was recently measured by scientists at the Imperial College London as the purest spherical object in nature, and itself always rotating or spinning on an axis.Thus, rotation is fundamental.

How does rotational power work in tennis?
Rotational power in tennis essentially comes from rotating your hips and shoulders into the shot. Your arm and racket head follows from behind your body and completes a full follow-through in a circular motion. Some coaches describe this as "sinking and coiling, and lifting and uncoiling". You are using your body's largest parts to power the racket head "through the line of the shot", and the shot "through the body of the court."

This is the bio-mechanical generation of power and spin through the release of the human kinetic chain:
1. From ground to foot & ankle
2. ankle to knee
3. knee to hip
4. hip to shoulder
5. shoulder to elbow
6. elbow through forearm
7. wrist & hand into ball contact point


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mapping: Tennis' Version of the Holographic Principle

The Holographic Principle is a scientific concept which has to do with information. It states that our entire observable universe consists essentially of information.

More precisely, this concept suggests that every piece of our reality - called "spacetime" - is encoded with informational content. And understanding this content can further our knowledge of the world and how it works.

Why use the term "holographic"? Because this principle, and its view of the universe, is just like what we know as a hologram - a reflection of light, which is simply 2 dimensional information, but which appears to us in our world as a 3 dimensional image. (Footnote 1: What is a Hologram?)

The Holographic Principle goes on to make a stunning speculation. Everything we see as 3 dimensions in our world is only informational code which is actually written somewhere else - on a 2 dimensional boundary outside of our observable world. Thus, our entire universe itself, ourselves included, may actually be a "Super-Hologram " of informational code written from a place beyond our horizon. (Footnote 2: Is Our World really a "Super-Hologram"?)

Let's get back to tennis. How does all this apply?

We now know that information is the key foundation of our reality - and it is all around us on the tennis court. Thus, "mapping" this information may be greatly beneficial or even vital to our game.

What is tennis mapping, and how does it work?

Mapping is a methodology in tennis to visually record information about your tennis opponent and his side of the court. And it arguably improves our prospects for victory.

Most players are generally concerned only with their own strokes and play. And they make only the most cursory observations of their opponents and the other side of the court. They might choose to briefly take notice of whether their opponent is right or left dominant, and whether their opponent favors the forehand or backhand side.

Mapping encourages a player to quickly make much more detailed and meaningful observations. A player doing mapping must not only look at the opponent but also the physical space on the other side of the court. And he must break down the space on the other side in terms of a visual grid of red zones and green zones: red zones are place to avoid hitting to, while green zones are places to aim for.

Let's use a simple example to illustrate this "visual grid" mapping.

Let's say we are playing a relatively tall right-handed baseline player, whose speed/fitness, net game and backhand stroke are mostly suspect. And let's just consider 3 simple factors in our grid.

When looking at our hypothetical opponent's court we see:

*(Right means a Rightie Opponent's Backhand side.)(Left means a Rightie Opponent's Forehand side.)

2. UP and BACK
*(Up means a short shot hit to opponent.)(Back means a deep shot hit to opponent.)

*(If opponent has weak speed, then running opponent from side to side is one option.)(If opponent has low endurance, then hitting longer rallies vs. short points is one option.)

What does our visual grid look like for this hypothetical opponent?

As for red zones (i.e. places to avoid hitting to), we would see a large red zone to our left or his Forehand side, especially deep. We probably also see a red zone in the middle of his court where he can easily get to on most shots.

As for green zones (i.e. places to aim for), we would see green zones to his right or Backhand side. We would also see green zones up close to the net where we would try for short and low shots, and shots to test his volleys.

We would see green zones on the far sidelines on both sides of his court due to his questionable speed and fitness (i.e. places to try and run him to). We would also see a green light when it comes to long rallies of over 5 to 8 strokes to take advantage of his doubtful endurance.

This then would be a simple example of mapping - a quick visual aid to help formulate and implement a strategy to win.


1. What is a Hologram? A hologram is light which appears to us as a 3 dimensional object. It is created by first enveloping the object in a laser beam. Then, a second laser beam is shined onto the reflected light of the first, and a digital video is made of the "interference pattern." A third laser beam is then projected onto the pattern, thus producing a 3 dimensional image.

2. Is Our World Really a "Super-Hologram"? This stunning speculation was first suggested back in the 1990s by quantum physicist David Bohn (University of London) studying sub-atomic particles, and neuro-psychologist Karl Pribam (Stanford University) researching the area of memory storage in the human brain, each working independently.

More recently, research done by renowned cosmologists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Susskind, and "string" theory research done by Princeton physicist Juan Maldacena, seem to lend more support for this speculation. Meanwhile, a project known as GEO600, an experimental device in Hanover, Germany built to detect gravity waves, made an unintentional find just in 2009 which New Scientist Magazine called perhaps "the most important discovery in physics in the past half century."

It inadvertently picked up a strange constant background noise, still being investigated, which could offer tantalizing proof of our possible Holographic Universe. According to astrophysicist Craig Hogan of Fermilab, the background noise may be the fundamental limit or irreducible "grain" of spacetime which leads him to conclude that "we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

1. The Holographic Universe, Michael Talbot (Harper: New York, NY, 1992)
2. The Hidden Reality, Brian Greene, Ph.D. (Knopf: New York, NY, 2011)(Chapter 9, The Holographic Multiverse)
3. "Our World May Be a Giant Hologram", Marcus Chown, New Scientist Magazine (January 15, 2009)

Video: John McEnroe Hologram!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Anticipation: Tennis' Answer to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976, German, Nobel Prize Physics 1932)

Werner Heisenberg is one of the 20th century's greatest physicists. He is the founder of the Uncertainty Principle in quantum mechanics.

Quantum mechanics is probably the most successful scientific theory in history. In fact, it is the basis for today's modern electronics, including smart phones, microchip processors, GPS devices and bar code scanners.

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle was developed in the area of sub-atomic particles, and essentially makes a statement of probability. It states that the more is known about the position of a sub-atomic particle, the less is known of its momentum and velocity, and vice versa.

It is often stated another way: We can only know the probable position of a moving particle such as an electron. Therefore by extension, we can only know its probable destination. Thus, we can never know with absolute certainty where it will go.

Similarly, in tennis, can we ever know with absolute certainty where the ball will go?

Probably not - at least not on real world tennis courts where extraordinary electronic measurements of the ball before every shot are not feasible.

But we can anticipate where the ball will probably go based on the human cognitive skill of anticipation: by perceiving its spin, speed, direction or height over the net.

Can anticipation be improved and developed? Most coaches say yes.

Anticipation can be developed through knowledge, experience and repetition.

It's a matter of closely watching the ball and its spin, speed, direction and height over net, over and over again. And repeatedly observing your opponent's body position and racket face and swing path.

And over time building up an innate feeling for the geometry of the court and its boundary lines. And learning where and how to move in response to all of these components.


Take this video test of your tennis anticipation skills!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tennis Quote of the Day: Thierry Henry

"What I like most about tennis is the beauty. It is the art. The way the players move their feet, the way they move around the court. I have a lot of respect for tennis players because . . . in tennis, if you have an off day, you are out. These guys have to perform every single game, every single ball. That is the standard they set."

--Thierry Henry
International soccer superstar
Tennis Magazine, June 2011, p. 56.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Womens Tennis Legends

Here's a short video from Tennis Now TV, showcasing some the top tennis stars of the past on the womens' side.


Courtesy: TennisNowTV

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mens Tennis Legends

Here's a short video from Tennis Now TV, showcasing some the top tennis stars of the past on the mens' side.


Courtesy: TennisNowTV