I Can’t Hear!

What role does hearing play in effectively hitting a tennis ball?  You would think that it would have very little effect; but, for me, it plays a big role.

Vernon Tennis Club

When I lived in Connecticut, I first played at this club, which was located about 15 miles east of Hartford and right next to I-84.  They had four indoor courts with a fast-playing carpet surface; but then added two outdoor HarTru courts.

When the weather cooperated, we all quickly tried out the new courts; but found it almost impossible to play.  With all the truck traffic on the highway, you couldn’t hear the ball striking your opponent’s racquet … and thus had no idea what kind of ball was coming your way: solid hit, miss-hit, topspin, etc.

In just a couple of months, everyone stopped using those courts.

The Role of Hearing

According to Martina Navratilova, at the 1993 United States Open, she blamed planes overhead for interfering with her play.  “You really depend on hearing the ball being hit, particularly when you are at the net,” Navratilova said. “You first hear the ball. Then you react to the speed and spin according to the sound. And when you can’t hear it, it really throws you off. I did miss some volleys there because I didn’t hear the ball.”

In his book “The Inner Game of Tennis,” W. Timothy Gallwey wrote, “I learned how effective the remembering of certain sounds can be as a cue for the built-in computer within our brains.  While one listens to the sounds of his forehand, he can hold in his memory the sound that results from solid contact; as a result, the body will tend to repeat the elements of behavior which produced that sound.

What do YOU think?  (Can you hear me now?)

PS Bob Wilkie and i won the weekend Pelican Bay tennis Open championships.  Done with tournaments for this season!

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11 thoughts on “I Can’t Hear!

  1. And when you played indoors, didn’t you also notice how hard it was during a rainstorm?

    Rick, no question about it! thanks, george

  2. For me, loud noises are a distraction from play, but my game isn’t finely tuned enough to pick up the differences in the sound of the ball coming off the racquet.
    Kudos to those who can make the distinction.

    Michael, when we play at Spike’s and the lawnmowers are going, i have trouble! george

  3. What does topspin sound like?

    Bob, you may be joking, but there is a real sound difference in topspin vs a flat drive! george

  4. Before it closed years ago in Chicago, I played at Fullerton Tennis Club which was right under the el tracks. We would stop play when a train came by-it was incredibly loud.

  5. I think this is why Bolletieri teaches his players to grunt so long and loud during and after the hit. It prevents the opponent from hearing the quality of the hit. This should be ruled a hindrance, but rarely is. As a result, some tennis these days is far better to watch on TV with the sound turned off.

    Joe, when it is Maria vs Azarenka, i always have the sound off! george

  6. The first time i played on grass, i was put off because there was no sound of the ball bouncing and i didn’t realize trying to take the ball early if the ground how much i used the bouncing sound for timing.

    Jeff, never thought about the sound of the ball on the court, but you are probably right. thanks, george

  7. Maybe I’ll leave my hearing aids in now when I play.

    Dave, i would be interested if, in fact, there is a difference for you? george

  8. King Van Nostrand is ” stone deaf ” —- he plays well.

    The eyes are the MOST important thing a tennis player needs. They tell the brain WHAT to do which transfers to hands & feet. Just saying…..

  9. I have always been keenly aware of the kind of ball my opponent hits by the sound. I can hear the topspin, the slice, or the miss-hit sound on every shot and it works in tandem with the visuals I’m getting on the ball. most definitely!! Great post Geo!


  10. Just wanted to add that nothing is sweeter than to hear the “POP” off of your newly strung racquet in the sweet spot. Hearing it and feeling it in the palm of your hand really is …SWEET!

    Jim, not a sound I usually hear! George

  11. It will be interesting to see how the noise affects the players when the Miami Open moves to the Hardrock stadium. The renderings have the courts sited very close to a major highway.

    Pam, like the airplanes at the US Open! Thanks. George

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