"You gotta watch the ball"

When we look at great sports players, we tend to think that their success is down to their superior techniques and talents. Of course, these are important attributes, but there are some more fundamental aspects we may have overlooked.

Take Stefan Edberg, one of my all time favourite tennis player, for example. People marvel at his volley, his back hand and his second serve, which are some of the best tennis shots you can ever see. But I remember reading years ago what he said about the foot being more important than the hand when it comes to playing good tennis. I cannot find the exact quote now, but the following extract from the Internet quoted him as saying something very similar:

"The great Stefan Edberg once said that many people think of tennis as a game of hitting, meaning that the player with superior strokes, skills, and overall tennis talent would rule the day each and every time out onto the court. Edberg, in all his great serve-and-volleying wisdom, instead said that tennis was a game of speed, a game of running and movement, and more importantly, footwork."

An even more fundamental piece of advice Stefan Edberg had to offer was given in an interesting situation - during a changeover in a match between him and Todd Martin. Here is how Todd Martin recalled it:

"At one point, I went through a game where I missed two or three volleys. He of course had missed two or three volleys the whole day. We're sitting there during the changeover, and I finally just said: 'Would you mind giving me a lesson one of these days on how to volley?' So he said: 'You gotta watch the ball.' And he was serious! One hundred percent serious! Here is possibly the best volleyer ever, and he's telling me to watch the ball. I thought: That's too good. I'm worrying about how low I am, whether my racquet head is up, how much spin I'm putting on the ball, and he says: 'You gotta watch the ball.'"

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