Whenever your opponent is hitting a shot, there are two points in time that are important. The first is when the opponent has committed to his shot both the specific shot and the placement, speed and spin. The second comes a split second later, and is when you can see what your opponent’s shot is going to be.
You could just wait until you see what your opponent is doing before you react. Most often, that is what you should do. However, you are giving up a lot if you never try to anticipate.
Suppose you have a strong forehand. If you play a strong backhand to the opponent’s backhand (assume both players are right-handed), then it is very likely the next shot will come back to your backhand. If you wait until you are sure of this, it’ll be too late to get your powerful forehand into play. If you wait until your opponent has committed to his shot, and then move – then you are very likely going to get an easy forehand. By waiting until the opponent is committed, you don’t have to worry about him changing directions and acing you to the wide forehand.
The most common time to anticipate is when following up your serve. If you serve into your opponent’s backhand, and your opponent doesn’t want to feed your forehand, he’s probably going to go to your backhand. Anticipate!
Corollary: Don’t over-anticipate. If your opponent begins to anticipate your anticipation, and crosses you up several times, you are overdoing it.
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