“Keep your eye on the ball” is probably the most universal coaching philosophy in sports, whether its tennis, golf or baseball. Even in football receivers are told to watch the ball into their hands. Unfortunately this is impossible to do in tennis as once the ball gets within 5 to 7 feet of the player they become legally blind and the ball becomes a blur. Players and coaches who talk about seeing the ball hit the strings must have super human powers cause it isn’t possible as the ball is only on the racquet for 3 to 6 milliseconds and the eyes can not see this fast of an event. This is especially true when running and hitting a ball. Have you ever tried to read a book and run at the same time? Not easy to do.
What most coaches mean when they say watch the ball is to keep the head still. Even Michael Jordan on one of his intricate dunks or passes with lots of different body movements will keep his head still. Check out the below sequence of images to see how his head stays still.
Watching the ball as long as possible has several benefits both tactically and technically.
Tactically, keeping the head still helps a player focus on hitting the ball and not on potential distractions. Distractions can include the player’s opponent or what’s going on outside of the court. Some players get so worried about their opponent that they are more concerned with what they are doing then focusing on hitting the ball. These players seem to forget that it doesn’t matter what their opponent is doing if they don’t return the ball back into the court.
For anyone who has played on a public court their are numerous distractions all around and sometimes catching something out of the corner of the eye can take the focus off of hitting the ball.
Technically it helps a player hit the ball at the center of the racquet.
The head is the heaviest part of the body density wise.