I see so many players at club level staring at the front wall when their opponent is playing a shot from behind them – so not watching their opponent as they play their shot. This is a huge ‘no no’, as you do not give yourself much time to react to their shot.
I understand that some people are nervous about being hit in the eye, but if this is you, there is a way to watch the ball without putting yourself in any danger. The key is to have a forward facing stance on the ‘T’ and simply turn your head to watch your opponent.
This way you get to read all the clues from your opponents body position and the angle of their racket, giving you an excellent chance of reading where they will hit the ball. Plus you also get to watch the ball all the way from their racket to the front wall. Both these factors give you maximum time to react to where they have hit their shot.
If in the extremely rare case your opponent hits the ball in your direction, you simply turn your head away to protect your eyes; whereas if you were watching your opponent behind you by turning your entire body to face them, then you would have a much slower reaction if the ball were to come your way, as you would need to move your entire body to protect your face.
Let’s have a look at the photos below:
Examples of what not to do:
Pictures 1 and 2: The player on the ‘T’ is facing forward, not watching their opponent. Their reaction time is greatly reduced (basically halved to what it could be) as they only get to react to where the shot is going once it has passed them and has hit the front wall.
Picture 3: The player on the ‘T’ is ‘too turned’, making it slow to change direction (to the forehand side of the court), and reducing their reaction time if the ball were to come flying toward their face.
Examples of what to do:
All 3 photos show the player on the ‘T’ with a forward facing body position but with their head turned to their opponent, and watching the ball intently – and they will continue to watch the ball intently, all the way up until impact, then they will follow the ball with their eyes and their head as it travels toward the front wall. Never take your eyes off the ball.
This forward facing stance will allow the player to react, even if the ball travels across their body (ie. a boast or cross-court).