Learn About Anticipation

By Samson Dubina

A probability is what is likely to happen, an indicator is what is happening.  Why is it important to understand these terms?  Because your ability to anticipate properly totally depend on these 2 – probabilities and indictors.  Let me explain…
Every serve, return, loop, chop, block, etc, has a likely return based on your shot and based on the style and level of your opponent.  When serving long backspin to the forehand, there is a high probability that Billy will loop.  Once you have served and you see him preparing to push, you now see the indicator that he is indicating that he is going to push.  The probability is what is likely to come.  The indicator is what you see is actually coming.  Typically, you should adjust your ready position based on probabilities, but you should not commit with your backswing until you see an indicator.  If you don’t see an indicator, you will likely need a shorter swing.  If you do see an indicator, then you will sometimes be able to take a slightly longer swing.
Most players have a very lopsided approach.  For example, they serve topspin short to the forehand and expect a normal flip crosscourt to their forehand.  They are playing so much with the probability, that they aren’t looking for an indicator.  The other wrong approach is to not consider the probability and just feel it out looking for last-second indicators.  This too is wrong.
Your coach can give you guidance on this as well.  Simply start with your serves.  Think to yourself about when you are playing Billy…  When I serve ______ or ________  or ________, what is the likely response.  Learn to take your time between points and consider the probabilities before serving.  Don’t, however, get stuck on watching your amazing serve; open your eyes and look (yes, look) for an indicator.  Once you have mastered doing this on your serve, then move to the more difficult aspects of the game, the rallies.  As you are playing points with your practice partner and coach, talk about the rallies.  Wow, you really tricked me on that deceptive block!  Wow!  Was that a probable return?  If so, you should have been ready!  If not, were there any indicators that you should have read?  As you learn to know the probabilities and read the indicators, you can become the most consistent, yet trickiest player at your club!   


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