In talking about a scientist who was born in 1643 I run the risk of losing my audience very early in this article. However Sir Isaac Newton’s theories are important and help clarify for us the essential laws governing tennis. The most important of Newton’s theories related to tennis is his 3 Laws of Motion.
Here are Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion, explained in a way that both coaches and players can immediately incorporate into practice sessions…
1. The Law of Inertia
“An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force”.
This highlights the fact that in tennis, the ball (object) doesn’t have to be stroked in order to achieve your goals. Strokes such as the return of serve and the volley can be directed to the target with minimal swing and by merely using the already existing inherent energy present in the ball. The ability to use the energy supplied by your opponent is crucial to a player relating to the ball and adapting to speeds and depth issues.
2. Acceleration is Produced when a Force Acts on a Mass
“Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object)”
If the goal is to create more speed to the ball, the racquet must gather more speed. In tennis terms we can create more racquet speed by creating a bigger backswing and allow momentum from the backswing to increase velocity before contact. This can occur when a player has time to take a full backswing but if time is limited, Newton’s first law comes into effect.
3. For Every Action there is an Equal and Opposite Reaction
“For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action”
This is perhaps the most important and most misunderstood law when applied to tennis. Simply put, every stroke you play in tennis must be generated by an equal reaction somewhere else. That “other reaction” is created in the ground through a players’ interaction between their feet and the court. Once started, this reaction transfers through the body through a kinetic chain, until it transfers into the racquet swing and finally the ball. Get that ground reaction correct and the timing and power all players seek will be achieved.
Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion supply you with numerous practice topics and takes you back to the essential elements that contribute to optimum ball control, timing, generating power.