Perceptual processes elicited in responding to the tennis service  

Gherzil A., Galmonte A., Righi G., Bianchi B., Pin A., Agostini T.
First author's affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

The visual strategies that tennis players use in responding to the service have a determinant role in optimizing the return hit. In fact, the possibility to anticipate the direction of the ball by extracting the information coming from the opponent's movements, allows the athlete to reach his/her aim by saving time and energy. In the first experiment, we studied the ability to predict the trajectory of the stroke in tennis players. In particular, we tested whether there is a difference among tennis players of different expertise levels (unexperienced, amateur and experienced). To analyze this, movies with temporal occlusion were used. More specifically, the image was blocked when the racket of the server came in contact with the tennis ball. The results of this first experiment showed a difference among the different groups. Subsequently, other two experiments were run to test the hypothesis that a video training (with visual stimulus or with acoustic feedback) could improve the performance of unexperienced subjects to anticipate the final destination of the service. The results showed that the visual training did not improve the ability to predict the right trajectory of the ball, while the performance of the subjects improved if a training with acoustic feedback was used. We concluded that visual cues are important elements in predicting the trajectory of the ball. Furthermore, it has been shown that specific training can improve the performance but only if an acoustic feedback is present.