Timing and the Zone
STEP 2 AND TIMING
Step 1 is all about using your strokes to keep every ball from getting past your imaginary window. That's it. That's all you try to do in Step 1.
But every time you prevent an oncoming ball from getting past your imaginary window, you are also timing your contact to occur at the exact point the ball arrives at your imaginary window. And as you will see, Step 2 is all about timing.
What Is Timing?
Timing is defined in the Random House Dictionary as: “selecting the best time for doing something in order to achieve the desired effect.”
In tennis, the desired effect you're looking for is the ball going back over the net and landing in the court, and in order to achieve this desired effect you have to contact the ball with your racquet.
Timing, then, is all about selecting the best time to contact the ball with your racquet, and Step 2 is all about the difference between Positive, Neutral, and Negative timing.
THE CONTACT ZONE
In order to find the best time to contact the ball with your racquet, it helps to have a better understanding of the full depth of your Contact Zone; because the more you understand about your Contact Zone, the easier it will be to pick the best Contact Point for every ball you hit.
Imagine one window spanning the court in front of you at a comfortable arm’s length and another imaginary window of the same dimensions located right against your body.
Now you have two imaginary windows - a front window representing the front side of your contact zone, and a back window representing the back side of your contact zone.
Here's what it looks like:
Now you're looking at a 3-dimensional Contact Zone that has height, width, and depth and spans the court in front of you. And if you assign numbers to the different depths of your Contact Zone, you can start to measure your timing every time you hit the ball.
POSITIVE, NEUTRAL, AND NEGATIVE TIMING
As you can see in the diagram above, every ball that passes through your contact zone can be contacted at a 3-Depth, a 2-Depth, or a 1-Depth.
Contact at a 3-Depth means that your stroke was in full control of the contact zone; the ball never penetrated the contact zone.
Contact occurred at the exact point the ball first entered your contact zone - the 3-Point.
Contact at the 3-Point is Positive Timing.
If you make contact at a 2-Depth, then the ball controlled the positive half of the contact zone and your stroke controlled the negative half.
Contact occurred at a point in the middle of your contact zone - the 2-Point.
Contact at the 2-Point is Neutral Timing.
Contact at a 1-Depth means that the ball was in complete control of the contact zone while your stroke never entered into your own contact zone.
Contact occurred at a point in the very rear of your contact zone - the 1-Point.
Contact at the 1-Point is Negative Timing.
Once you get comfortable with defending your imaginary window (Step 1), you ready to start identifying the contact depth of each and every ball you hit (Step 2).
As you use your strokes to keep the ball from getting past your imaginary window, ask yourself this question: did contact occur at a 3-Depth, a 2-Depth, or a 1-Depth?
Be very specific. Call your depth of contact. Immediate verbal feedback for your brain.
That’s it. That’s Step 2 of the Parallel Mode Process.
You made contact somewhere in your Contact Zone. Was it at a 3, a 2, or a 1?
Calling Your Contact Depth
It's best to start this Step 2 exercise from half-court and work your way back to the baselines. You'll find that calling your depth of contact on every ball is more difficult than it sounds. It takes and takes total concentration on the location of contact.
But with practice, you'll be able to call your contact depth every time you hit the ball. You'll also start to notice in which quadrants your timing is positive and which quadrants your timing is neutral or negative.
And when your timing is neutral or negative, it's time to fix your timing!
Fixing Your Timing
The real question is: how do you fix bad timing?
If your timing is negative, how do you make it positive?
By using your contact zone to objectively measure your timing, you can also make measurable changes in your timing.
Maybe you're suffering from bad timing in your lower left quadrant, or maybe your timing varies in that quadrant; you make contact at a 2-Depth one time, a 3-Depth the next, and a 1-Depth the next.
That's Variable-Timing, and it's a common problem for recreational players. It's also the root cause of most technical errors.
The solution is to change your variable-timing into Constant-Timing, and for that you can use the front window of your contact zone (3-depth) as your timing constant.
Here’s a Step 2 exercise that will show you firsthand what constant positive timing feels like and what it can do for your performance on the court.
Like defending your imaginary window, this exercise has nothing to do with the objective of hitting the ball back over the net. It is a timing exercise and it involves concentrating only on making contact at the 3-Depth.
That's your concentrative task in this Step 2 exercise: create contact at your front window no matter what you have to do with your strokes.
Again, say "yes" if you are successful, "no" if you're not.
Immediate verbal feedback again. Only this time it's all about contact.
Contact the ball at your 3-Depth every time and not only will you feel what it's like to have perfect timing, but you'll also experience what perfect timing does for your game.
for a great article on timing from Tomaz Mencinger's wonderful instructional website:
Back From Step 2 to Tennis In The Zone.com