Anticipating the Serve
Machar Reid, Miguel Crespo , Damian Farrow
Many elite players, particularly in the men's game, are able to direct serves in excess of 125 mph to all parts of the service box. This presents a considerable challenge to their opponents, standing some 78 feet away, who have approximately one third of a second between the hit and the ball bounce to assess the ball's flight and begin a well-timed return.
The battle between the server and returner has attracted the interest of researchers for more than 20 years. Various researchers have focused on what information or cues returners can use in that third of a second of ball flight—as well as the split seconds prior to the hit --to help determine the serve's likely direction, allowing for an improved motor response.
Skilled players have been shown to use two forms of advance information. First, situational probability information, such as strategic insights based on known preferences of the server. Second the mechanics of the service action.