Andy Murray and the 4 X-factors of great tennis movement
Earlier today Andy Murray claimed his 40th career title with victory in the China Open over Grigor Dimitrov. In Beijing, this year and over his career he has showed time and time again how hard it is to beat someone that can get to ball after ball and then send them back with interest. Murray constantly exhibits the 4 X-factors of tennis movement
- Wide/low base
- Split Step
If you watch Murray and other great athletes from all sports you will see that they all position themselves with a low centre of gravity. This wider and lower position allows them greater foundation on the ground enabling them to push off fast to react to their sport specific situations. When Murray is competing this allows him to move into position quickly once he knows what the oncoming ball is going to be. Maintaining this low base during the movement to and from the ball will also help to create a strong position on contact and a quicker recovery.
Tip – take a loop theraband and place it around your ankles. Widen and lower your stance so that the band is pulled tight. Practice movement patterns around the court such as sidesteps while keeping the stretch in the band more often than not.
Anticipation is a trait that you will see in all great sportsmen and Andy Murray has this skill in bucket loads. The ability to know a split second before, what your opponent is going to do, will give you the edge that could make all the difference. Murray developed the sense to know certain things about his opponents, whether it be; the position of their racket or feet before contact or where they look before a serve. Knowing these queues about many of his opponents allows Murray to prepare and begin his movement that split second earlier, thus getting to ball quicker and with more balance. Murray has honed this skill over years and years of practice and match play where he has been highly attentive and focussed on what is going on during these moments.
Tip – during match play be aware of what your opponent does in certain situations, make mental notes and see if any patterns arise. If they do, then use this knowledge to your advantage!
The split step is the art of positioning your weight equally just as your opponent makes contact with the ball. Anyone who has watched Andy Murray enough can tell you he is a master of this art! His body weight is almost always evenly distributed, which enables him to push off in any direction as fast as his speed allows and this for the Scotsman is quite fast indeed!
Tip – Build up the split step with the ‘bounce-feed-split’ drill. Your coach or practice partner will hit bounce feeds, when the coach/partner bounces the ball the player will begin the upward movement of the split and on the coach/partner’s contact will land on the ground with their weight even ready to move to the oncoming ball.
Perception is the ability to describe an outside stimulus. In tennis this would mean where the ball is going and how it has been hit. As we already mentioned, Murray has a high level of anticipating skills, which gives him the initial information about the possible characteristics of the oncoming ball. However, once the ball has been hit the subtleties of the shot are revealed. Murray is able to gain the knowledge of the exact ball characteristics so quickly and it enables him to decide on where to move, how to move, and what type of footwork to use once he is in position. All great tennis players have this skill, they are in position so quickly and normally hit the ball back with interest and Murray stands out from the pack in exhibiting this skill.
Tip – with your coach or practice partner set up 4 flat cones of different colours. The coach/partner will yell out random colours and the player will have to touch them with either hand or foot. You can then advance the drill with the coach/partner then holding up specific hands or feet (left or right) so the player has to touch a specific colour with a certain hand or foot. This drill can be evolved many ways if you get creative!
After victory today, Andy Murray is closing the gap on world number 1 Novak Djokovic in the ATP rankings. Djokovic has a huge amount of points to defend over the next 5 weeks, more than 3 times the amount Murray does. There is a chance that these 4 X-factors of great tennis movement will help Andy Murray become the first British man to top the ATP rankings!