Brain game: Roger Federer’s genius explained | Daniel Glaser

By: Daniel Glaser | Brain game: Roger Federer’s genius explained | Daniel Glaser | Neuroscience | The Guardian

Daniel Glaser reveals the neuroscience behind Roger Federer’s remakable return serve

Roger Federer’s eighth Wimbledon title surely places him as one of the greatest athletes in any sport, but from a neuroscientific point of view his achievement in tennis is especially interesting. He may not have the fastest serve in the game but it’s his return that is really remarkable.

A tennis ball travelling at 130mph (not unusual these days) goes from the server’s racket to the far end of the court before even the fastest human can plan and execute a response. The photodetectors in the eye have to process the light that hits the retina, allowing the signal to travel up the optic nerve, at which point you can work out what to do. Then the impulse travels back down the nerves to the muscles, ready for action – by which time the point is over.

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