The old adage “keep your eye on the ball!” is probably the most used instruction ever given in tennis.
The key to watching the ball when playing tennis is keeping your head still while making contact. This is definitely one of the most difficult things to master in tennis, especially for recreational players. The reason this is so difficult is because it’s not very natural to us. What’s natural to us, is to look at the place across the net that we want to hit the ball to. This instinct has to be overridden with very deliberate practice, so that not looking at the target across the net and simply knowing where it is becomes second nature.
The reason we want to keep the head still at the point of contact is because if we “pull” the head away too quickly from contact as we are swinging the racquet, we also inadvertently “pull” the racquet away from the ideal contact point and therefore mishit or hit the ball off the center of the racquet, which results in a poor shot.
Because most recreational tennis players do not play that much, this “technique” of keeping the head still does not easily become second nature. As recreational tennis players also like to compete a lot, we play under a lot of pressure which often makes us look up even more because we are so anxious to see what happened with our shot and what our opponent is about to do. That’s why keeping your head still while you’re hitting the ball is a much more MENTAL process than simply a mechanical one.
So, practice keeping your head still while making contact and you will have many more clean hits of the ball!