There are primarily six major factors that will provide you with the information you need to anticipate on every shot.
1) Intrinsic Awareness: Assessing the quality of your shot
This involves recognizing on impact (and slightly thereafter) the quality—or lack thereof—of your shot and the potential ramifications of this. This is an early form of anticipation. For example, imagine you’re serving. You toss the ball up and just hit it perfectly. Intrinsically you can feel the power, and as you track the ball, you see that it is going exactly where you aimed. You can immediately start deducing that you should get a weak reply at best. Conversely, if you hit your shot poorly on the frame and see your shot floating towards the middle of the court, you can expect that your opponent is going to attack. This is an early stage of anticipation, and from this point on, you can continue to glean and evaluate information from the next categories of anticipation. Being aware of the quality of your shot and its effect on your opponent is a critical component to excellent anticipation.
2) Tracking or Perceptual Anticipation: Assessing the type and quality of your opponent’s shot
By being aware of the type of shot (its direction, speed, spin, angle, height, trajectory, and depth) and the quality of the shot, you can anticipate where and how the ball is going to bounce. Obviously, this type of anticipation occurs after your opponent has hit the ball. The ability to glean this information from your opponent’s oncoming shot is a tennis-specific form of tracking or perceptual anticipation. Variables such as extreme heat or cold, wind, court surface, etc. can affect the ball’s trajectory. As such, they need to be taken into consideration and integrated by the player as they anticipate the shot.
3) Situational-Tactical Anticipation: Analyzing your opponent’s patterns, tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses
This involves knowing the patterns and tendencies of your opponent, as well as his strengths and weaknesses. Based on that information, your ability to anticipate what your opponent may or may not do improves tremendously. Scouting your opponents, practicing together, or having experience playing them in previous matches can all help you develop this type of anticipation.
4) Situational-Geometric Anticipation: Analyzing your opponent’s court position
This involves perceiving and understanding the ramifications of your opponent’s geometric court position and the type of shot they can hit. For example, if your opponent has moved back well behind the baseline, you logically can conclude that they will not be hitting a low line drive from that position. They most likely will hit the ball with a high net clearance to put the ball deep. The ability to read an opponent’s intention based on their position on the court lends valuable information for anticipating a shot. This form of anticipation takes place before ball impact. It is a constant process of perception, decision making, and executing the tactical response. The more experienced the player, the more skilled he or she will be at this process.
5) Technical or Movement Anticipation: Taking cues from your opponent’s stroke
This is about your ability to pick up cues from your opponent’s technique. Take note of the type of grip he is using, his balance, the swing path of his racquet, his footwork (or lack thereof), his body stance, his ball toss, and the like. Each of these aspects of your opponent’s stroke production will give you clues as to what type of shot he is preparing to hit.
6) Analysis of Environmental Factors and Conditions
This involves assessing environmental factors that impact your play and that of your opponent. Observe environmental conditions such as weather (wind, sun, extreme heat), altitude, court surface (clay, hard court, indoors, grass), and court pace (fast vs. slow) and adjust your play accordingly.