Since most moves in tennis are only a few yards, it seems like raw acceleration should be the determining factor in getting to the ball. But, of far greater importance, is anticipation and the ability to change directions without losing balance. Anticipation means knowing early where your opponent is likely to hit and being ready to respond to that.
The first prerequisite for superior court coverage is to know where your IRP (Ideal Recovery Position) is for every opponent and every situation. The IRP is not just a geometric function of where you hit the ball, it also depends on your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.
Secondly, you must time your strokes, not your body. This means you must arrive behind the bounce before the ball does. If you arrive late, your momentum will take you beyond contact and affect your recovery. Many players hit well, but their movement back is slower than than their movement to the ball. It should be the same speed. Recovery is in fact part of your swing. Your stroke is not completed until you’re in position for the next shot.
Thirdly, you must anticipate your opponent’s shots by keeping your eyes glued on them. Become sensitive to small cues which give away the direction of the next shot.
Continue to recover while keeping your eyes fixed on your opponent’s body language before making a final decision about where they are going to hit. You will reach a moment in the decision process where you must pause for a split second. This is the instant in which one more step toward recovery will leave you vulnerable to being wrong-footed. It is important that you not be running at the instant of decision. Slow down like a butterfly before exploding again like a bee. Your split step, or “flow split” and bounce out of the ready position can be done quickly , once the timing has been mastered.