Why Do Tennis Players Need Reaction Time? (Fully Explained)

Tennis is a sport where everything goes fast. You have to move quickly around the court, the ball goes fast, and you have to be able to react quickly. So, is a good reaction time needed in tennis?

Having a good reaction time is of great importance in tennis. It allows a player to quickly anticipate where the ball is going to land. This allows the player to be in the right place on the court, giving them enough time to prepare for the next shot with the right balance and technique.

In this article, you will find out why it is so important to have a good reaction time in tennis, and how best to train your reaction time.

Why is Reaction Time Needed in Tennis?

Reaction time is a crucial factor in tennis. You can have the most amazing technique and great stamina, but if your reaction time is terrible, you will not be able to win many matches.

Reaction time is the amount of time it takes you to react to something and undertake action. For tennis, this refers to how long it takes for you to react to an incoming tennis ball.

Without a proper reaction time, you won’t be able to reach the ball in time to hit that winning shot. In the worst case, you will not even be able to hit the ball at all.

Reaction time is important for both technique and tactics.

A good reaction time allows you to get to the ball in time to hit it properly, which is why it’s important for technique.

Good shots are hit by a balanced player with a good stance. This is not achievable if you don’t have time to get into position.

Reaction time is good for tactics because the sooner you know where a ball will bounce, the more time you have to think of your shot. A drop shot will need a different preparation than a flat, powerful shot.

Good reaction time allows you to choose and get into the right position.

So, why is reaction time important in tennis?

Good reaction time helps you get into the right position to hit a technically correct shot. It also allows you to hit the ball since proper reaction time can make a difference between getting to the ball in time or missing it completely.

How is Reaction Time Used in Tennis?

As mentioned before, reaction time influences both your technique and your tactics.

Let’s dive further into technique first.

Different shots require different techniques and preparations. If you want to play a drop shot, you have to make sure you get to the ball in time and can hit the ball at the right height.

If it takes too long for you to see where the ball will bounce, you might not get to the right spot in time. This will make hitting a more difficult shot much harder.

When you want to play pretty much any shot, balance is key. Balance and stance are crucial for proper technique, which results in the best shots.

The sooner you see where a ball will bounce, the quicker you can start running there. If you get to a ball in time, it’s much easier to be balanced than when you’re still mid-run.

Tactics are influenced by your reaction time as well.

Of course, your main goal is getting the ball back to the other side of the court. But there are many different shots allowing you to do so.

Suppose you are about to hit a ball to the left side of the court, and you notice your opponent anticipating correctly and running to the left side of the field.

In that case, good reaction time allows you to change direction last minute and hit it to the right side instead.

Good reaction time also allows you just that extra second to decide what shot you will use.

Does Playing Tennis Improve Reaction Time?

Playing tennis does improve reaction time, but it mainly improves your reaction time in tennis.

You get used to different shots and might be able to recognize them sooner, which allows you to react quicker.

If you want to improve your reaction time in general, you might be better off doing other exercises.

How to Improve Reaction Time in Tennis (4 Drills)

Below I will explain some exercises that can help improve your reaction time in tennis.

1. Catch the ball

This is an easy exercise that many tennis players do to improve their reaction time. All you need is another person and two tennis balls.

The other person takes both of the balls, one in each hand. This person stretches their arms in front of them.

You stand in front of them, facing them, and put your hands flat above their hands.

Then the other person randomly drops one of the balls; you don’t know when or which one they will drop. You need to catch the ball before it hits the ground.

Do this exercise a few times in a row.

2. Blind reaction

Another fun exercise to improve your reaction time is to see how well you do at the blind reaction. Once again, you need another person and a tennis ball.

Stand a few meters in front of the other person, with your back facing them. The other person will bounce the ball at you, either on your left or right side.

It’s up to you to turn around in the right direction as soon as you hear the ball and catch it before it hits the ground for the second time.

3. Reaction ball

For this exercise, you need a special reaction ball. You can buy this online or at most tennis stores.

The ball is very unpredictable with its bouncing, so all you need to do is have someone throw the ball at you.

You then need to catch it, but after the first bounce and before the second bounce.

4. Volleys

When you’re standing at the net, you have less time to hit the ball than when you’re at the baseline. That’s why hitting volleys can be a good way to improve your reaction time.

Have someone hit several balls towards you, varying in direction and speed. If you have access to a ball machine, this is even better.


Reaction time is very important in tennis. Not only does it help with technique, but it also influences whether you even hit the ball at all.

Besides that, a good reaction time allows you to make tactically better decisions.

Luckily there are several ways to improve your reaction time, one of which is playing tennis in general.

(Click here to learn more about the different physical demands for tennis)

Brian Henderson

I am what you might call a true tennis fanatic. When I am not on the tennis court teaching or playing myself, I am probably writing an informative article about tennis. My goal is to get as many people as possible excited and informed about tennis.
March 1, 2022
Published: March 1, 2022