Bollettieri Q&A: Preparing for the shot

by: Nick Bollettieri | December 24, 2011

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Nick, what exercises are there to train a player to spot and read the ball as fast as possible?—Marek

If you want good vision and anticipation, pay attention during the warm up. Observe your opponent's strokes. Do they hit with lots of spin and height, or do they slice? Where do they position themselves to hit groundstrokes? During a match, look at your opponent’s racquet head, especially on the backhand side. If it’s open on the backhand side, you’re going to see a slice or a drop shot.

Here’s a drill to improve your recognition and reaction time. Divide the court into these three zones:

Zone 1: Net to service line
Zone 2: Service line to baseline
Zone 3: Baseline to the back fence

Before the ball bounces you must yell out the zone where you'll be standing when you hit your ball.

Dear Nick, how do you explain to people what it means to prepare early on groundstrokes? How should their bodies feel? Do you describe at as coil and release? Is that an adequate description? If not, what is missing?—Arturo Hernandez

So many coaches use the old expression “take your racquet back.” I suggest this: As soon as you know whether it is a forehand or backhand, turn your hips and shoulders immediately. This will take the racquet back naturally. Early preparation is the single most important factor in groundstrokes and volleys. Today's inside-out and inside-in shots demand very early preparation.

Have a question for Nick? Write to him at

Nick Bollettieri of the Bollettieri Tennis Academy has trained many collegiate and professional players, including 10 who reached the world No. 1 ranking.

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