One of my favorite movies to watch is Escape Plan with Stallone and Schwarzenegger. If you have not seen it, their job is to escape from a maximally secured prison.
A principle of movement for tennis players I use is to “escape space.” Escaping space for a tennis player means to move out of their current space and attack new space where the ball is, and as quickly as possible.
Escaping space should be completed in one movement, not two. If a player made more than one action with their feet and legs and didn’t travel anywhere, this is a waste of time and inefficient.
When teaching a player to escape space, always think about it as they are “PUSHING” their body into new space with one direct push off into the ground- opposite of the desired direction of travel.
Let’s look at what movement must occur for a tennis player, who is up at the net, to now have to turn and run down a lob. Any wasted motion will cost a chance at moving to the lob. The player must efficiently and effectively escape from the net and attack the new space using great acceleration ability.
Another great example is when a drop shot occurs, and the player is six feet behind the baseline. They have to be like a prisoner on the run and escape!
There is also another situation that makes a tennis player and prisoner attempting to escape similar- Anticipation!
Today’s tennis game is fast and furious; players won’t have a chance against top opponents if they can’t anticipate. The ball is traveling across the net at incredible speeds. As with a prisoner, they must have great anticipation, or they will be caught and locked back up…okay, enough with the comparison!
When a tennis player can anticipate where the shot is going and begins to shift their body in that direction, or at least anticipate using the proper push-off foot just before the opponent hits the shot- they will improve their chances of getting to the ball a lot.
By now, I am sure you’ve heard me talk about the “Glide-Step,” where the player anticipates and sees the shot early enough, so both feet don’t touch down on a split step. They glide in the direction of the ball. I cover this in detail in the Certified Tennis Speed Specialist course.
The Hip Turn is another significant escape move to advance into acceleration very quickly. The player must have excellent disassociation ability of the upper and lower body to redirect energy from the ground into the upper body as it uncoils during the turn.
Tennis players that lack escapability won’t last long in such a fast-paced game. They can’t keep up.
Learning to escape has a definite physical component to it, but there is also the experience component. Experience is when the anticipation, perceptive, and predictive abilities become developed. The more a player plays the game, the more experience they gain. The more experienced, the more their subconscious mind “sees” shots unfolding early.
Learn to escapes current space and attack new space and watch your game rise to new levels.
Practicing tennis is the best way to gain the experience and anticipation skills that follow… but, if you can address this attacking of new space by being amazing at escaping current space through direct performance strategies, success will follow.