Oh, Those Eyes--Again!

You warmed-up your groundies, and you were golden--good clean hits, deep placements--just perfect.  But the first time you return and volley, your forehand goes clank!  The racquet shakes in your hand, and the ball smacks the net.  What's up with that?  Or, how about this one?  You make your first volley, a nasty one at your shoe tops, and you get a sitter for a putaway, an overhead--which you shank for an unforced error.  F%#@*^!!

Usually, eye contact problems are context specific.  It's not that you don't watch the ball, it's that you don't watch the ball in certain situations.  The return of serve is a classic example.  After the return, you've got places to go, toward the center mark in singes, up to net in doubles, and you can't dawdle.  But if you rush your stroke, the first consequence is bad eye-contact.  Your body lifts to start moving and, well, you know what the hit is like:  clunk.  Or, in the latter example above, what about when you get all giddy as you go for a kill?  So much eager anticipation and delight!  Except you just can't take the time to watch the ball; your eyes are already on glory--that could have been yours!

Fixes:  You know the sign of bad eye contact, those hideous off-center hits.  If you start to suffer them, don't tell yourself to watch the ball.  First, figure out the context of your mistake.  If it's on the return of serve, for example, take more time.  Tell yourself to hit the ground stroke then move forward as if it's an afterthought.  Or, if your eyes are coming off the ball on your putaways, go for less--not as close to the line, with a little less pace.  Don't just address the symptom; address the context, where you'll find the cause.

c Keith Shein