Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tennis and Time: How the Concept of Time is Pivotal to Tennis

Time is a Fundamental Yet Elusive Concept in Our World
Time exists all around us, and apparently without end. We live our lives by it. For example, we constantly measure the passage of time with clocks and calendars. We sometimes use time wisely to get things done. But we sometimes waste it foolishly and regret its loss.

Time is often described as a "dimension", equal to the 3 common dimensions of space: vertical, horizontal and depth. Time is as familiar to us as our wristwatches. Yet we intuitively know that there is something mysterious about it.

Time also has a single direction - always from past to present to future, and never any other way. Theoretical Physicist Sean Carroll, in his recent book From Eternity to Here (Dutton, 2010), calls this the arrow of time. He explains that, while no known law in physics requires the past to be followed by the present and then the future, this structure is part of the cosmic blueprint in our Universe.

Time is also a relative concept as Einstein's Theory of Relativity teaches. It can speed up or slow down. Let's say that an astronaut in a spaceship is traveling at the speed of light. He would sense time for him moving normally. But he would see years of time elapse for his friends on Earth for every few minutes of his travel at light speed. Conversely, his suddenly-older friends would say that their astronaut friend traveled into the future as he would not appear to have aged.

Perhaps most important for us is that time is at least partially manageable. We can try and manage our time. We can organize and adapt our activities to time. We can do things faster or slower or differently to conform to time.

Let's talk tennis. How does all this relate?

How "Time" is Related to Tennis:
Controlling Time by Taking the Opponent's Time Away

Consider that, in tennis, there is no shot clock as in basketball. There also is no game clock as in soccer or football. You cannot sit on a lead and "run out the clock" on your opponent. In tennis, no matter how long it takes, you must win the last point and actively "close out the match."

Yet time is still a pivotal axis for success in tennis. How?

Modern tennis, it is argued, is really about taking time away from your opponent. The less time your opponent has to reply to your shot, the greater chance that you will hit a winner or force an error. The more time that you give yourself to set up, prepare and execute a shot and then recover, the greater chance you will hit a winning point.

Therefore, think time.

Monopolize time for yourself, and squeeze time on your opponent.

This applies both during points and even between points.

In playing points, Andre Agassi made a career in "taking the ball on the rise", and thus effectively robbing his opponent of time to properly strike the ball. Recall his exquisite timing in hitting the ball well before it rose to its apex, and thereby squeezing his opponent's options.

In between points, Rafael Nadal is probably the current master at controlling the tempo and rhythm of play. Observe how he deliberately slows down the pace of play and methodically towels off between point exchanges so as to impose his tempo on the match and his opponent.

Thus time, and how well a player can manage and utilize it to his advantage, can be crucial in a player's immediate and long-term success in tennis.


Ranking Tennis Players Based on:
"The Time Preparation Scale"

Top 20 Player
*Prepares and sets up a day early

Top 10 Player
*Prepares and sets up a week early

Top 5 Player
*Prepares and sets up a month early

Number One Player in the World
*Prepares and sets up a year early

Video: Taking Reflex Time Away from Your Opponent!
(Poaching in Doubles)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gary,

    This is a great article and concept. I also believe there is a Yin Yang counter concept to this. So, you can also mess up someones timing and rhythm by giving the time. :)