Anticipate NOT Guess!
Anticipation is a vital thing when you’re playing the fastest game in the World. When the ball is moving at well over 100 miles per hour in a small space, you have fractions of seconds to react, get to the ball and play a good shot with sound technique. When you actually think about it, it’s ridiculous any human can play this sport at all!
Anticipation involves an educated idea of where the ball is likely to go, without fully committing yourself to it. A guess is a fully committed, desperate act.
When you play a certain shot well, you limit your opponents options. For example, if you play a very tight straight drive, it’s likely your opponent will have to scrape a lofted straight drive back, so you can lean towards this shot being played. But, they could play a straight drop or possibly a cross court, so if you need to be aware of this in case it happens.
Anticipation is leaning one way, towards a shot you think is likely to happen, but you must keep your back foot near the ‘T’. This way if the expected shot happens, you’ll continue your weight towards the shot and pounce on it. If an unexpected shot happens, you still have your back foot on the ‘T’ as an anchor, so you can lean back and pivot of this anchor foot and chase after the ball.
Guessing is where you have committed with your whole body, and worst of all, both feet. Once both feet have made the movement it’s almost impossible to change direction, and if you can it will be a very slow change of direction, so you are relying on your opponent to hit a bad shot in which you have time to recover.
There are times to anticipate though. When you hit a good shot, you limit your opponents, so you can anticipate on of the few options they have. If you hit a poor shot, your opponent can play any shot as they are not under pressure, so you have to place yourself in a position where you can cover many options without anticipating.
So as you can see, anticipation can happen almost all the time. The more accurate your shots are, the more often you can anticipate. Guessing is pure desperation and usually signifies the end of the rally.
Here you can see Peter Barker (in the back of the picture) has played a good drop shot. His weight is towards the left hand side because he know Gaultier’s options are limited, to probably a counter drop or a straight lob. If on the off change Gaultier plays another shot to the right side of the court, Peter can still change direction as his Right foot is still on the T. This is a perfect example of Anticipation.
If he had guessed he would be much further across to the left.