Tennis' Visual Demands

Play your best with help from Advanced Vision Therapy Center in Boise Idaho


Tennis players, like most athletes, are constantly looking for new ways to enhance sports performance and gain a competitive edge. For decades tennis players have employed the help of coaches and trainers to improve footwork, speed, strength, strategies and technique. Today, however, increasing numbers of athletes are including sports vision training as part of their overall training program to maximize performance and take their game to the next level. 



A high functioning visual system is important to play your best, Advanced Vision Therapy Center, Boise Idaho


Playing any sport at the competitive level, or for athletes who want to reach their personal best, requires that we consider performance of the visual system and the efficiency of the vision skills specific to the particular sport. As an example, tennis players often times are told to “watch the ball”. This refers to seeing the ball as it leaves the opponent's racquet and then watching the ball for speed, direction and spin. For some players this may be easier said than done. The visual skills required to excel in the game of tennis are quite complex; and include visual perceptual skills, visual search, and visual information processing. Vision skills affect response time, hand-eye body coordination, balance, spatial orientation and anticipation.


Athletes require specialized vision care, and benefit from including an eye doctor specifically trained in sports vision as a member of their support team. To insure that you are working with an eye doctor who can meet the needs of a competitive athlete, be sure to ask where the doctor completed residency and the sub-specialty of that residency. This will allow you to easily identify an eye doctor who has the education, knowledge and experience to work with athletes.


An eye doctor trained in sports vision can perform an in-depth sports vision assessment. A sports vision assessment tests and evaluates a number of vision skills essential to sports performance. Vision skills such as:

  • Contrast sensitivity: Important for outdoor games near dusk, or before night lighting is turned on

  • Depth perception: Necessary for accurate ball placement, and assists in judging the speed of the opponent's shot.

  • Eye dominance: Not as critical in tennis as in baseball hitting, rifle shooting or archery. However, studies of professional tennis players indicate they generally prefer strokes that correspond to their dominant eye.

  • Eye tracking: Quick, accurate eye tracking (saccades) movements are critical to accurately monitor the changing locations and movements of the opponent and the ball; as well as judging relationship to the boundary lines, net, etc.

  • Fixation ability: The ability to shift fixation from one point to another accurately and quickly. For example, shift focus quickly from the ball to a point on the opponent's court.

  • Focusing: The ability to quickly shift focus from near to far or to intermediate as targets rapidly move throughout the game.

  • Glare recovery: An important ability, especially for tennis players. Many matches are outdoors and often times in bright sunlight conditions. If indoors the same glare issues occur under bright, overhead lighting. Shots may “get lost” in the glare momentarily as the player must quickly recover for the return shot.

  • Peripheral vision: The ability to maintain awareness of boundary lines, or general awareness of space such as picking up shots while running backwards while looking over the shoulder. Peripheral vision is especially important when playing doubles. Players must maintain awareness of both the partner and the rackets to avoid collision.

  • Spatial localization: Sometimes referred to as one's position in space. In tennis the player is hitting the ball in relationship to stationary targets such as the boundary lines or the net. The player is moving laterally, transversely, vertically or in a combination of these movements and must maintain spatial localization in order to accurately return shots.

  • Speed of recognition: The ability to see the ball as it comes off the opponent's racket, and detect the speed and spin on the ball quickly to make the proper return shot. On average tennis shots travel at a speed of 120 to 150 mph. That means the player has just under half a second to correctly prepare for the return shot and swing the racquet to make the return.

  • Visual acuity: It is important to evaluate both the static and the dynamic visual acuity for all athletes. This is especially important for tennis players. Tennis is a game of motion – the ball is in motion, the player is in motion, and the opponent is in motion.

  • Visual perceptual skills: The ability to effectively search in order to locate a specific object among many others. For example, locating the ball against a background of the crowd.

  • Visual search: The process of visual search is based on oculomotor function. This includes pursuit eye movements, saccadic eye movements and fixation.


Sports vision training is used to enhance the athlete's performance. It is important to note that there is no ambiguity in the scientific world with regard to the effectiveness of training visual function. However, the results of a sports vision training program can vary significantly depending upon the training and expertise of the eye doctor, the therapist and the duration of the program.


A sports vision training program is one-on-one training, and completely customized based on the results of the initial sports vision assessment. Not only are the training activities selected to yield specific results, but the duration of the training program is specific to the individual athlete's performance goals.


Recent studies indicate significant improvement in precision of play following sports vision training. Sports vision training enhances and improves game skills, including:

  • Contrast analysis

  • Depth perception

  • Movement time

  • Reaction time

  • Visual detection time

  • Visual search ability


Athletes from Boise and surrounding areas rely on Idaho's only residency trained, sports vision eye doctor - Ryan C. Johnson OD, FAAO. If you are an athlete aspiring to improve your game, why wait? Call 208.377.8899 to schedule a sports vision assessment with Dr. Ryan Johnson and explore the option of sports vision training.  


Check out our other blogs in this series: Baseball's Visual DemandsSoccer's Visual Demands, Golf's Visual DemandsHockey's Visual Demands


Get better eye tracking skills at Advanced Vision Therapy Center in Boise, Idaho

Posted by avtadmin at 9/29/2016 12:53:00 AM
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Advanced Vision Therapy Center is Idaho’s premier clinic for Vision Therapy, Neuro-Optometric Vision Rehabilitation and Sports Vision Training. We offer vision assessments and customized treatment for both children and adults that are tailored to the specific vision condition of each individual.

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