Hitting With Topspin
Mats Wilander is a good first example of how to put topspin on a tennis ball, because his groundstrokes were (relative to players like Agassi and Rafa) light on power and heavy on spin.
We’ll leave the loop aside for now – instead, note that in frame 6, Mats essentially gets his racket head below the ball, from where he then hits along an upward path from low to high.
If the racket face is open (like Edberg’s, earlier), what will happen to the ball if a player swings hard and fast upwards? Like Elvis, the ball will leave the building.
But what happens when the up-swung racket face is at right-angles to the ground, like Mats in 7 ?
The strings will peel up the back of the ball, putting topspin on it.
Open Racket Face: the speedier the low-to-high swing, the greater the distance the ball will travel.
Right-angles Racket Face: the speedier the low-to-high swing, the greater the topspin.
That, dear reader, is topspin in a nutshell and in this animated click-thru, Michael Chang delivers his own fusion of topspin elements.
And you’ll find topspin in/on every aggressive forehand on these digital pages (apart from Jimbo and Edberg’s).
‘But what happens if you hit over the ball?’
It will probably end up in the net.
Some players shape a stroke that feels (and often looks) like the racket is closed at contact, but only rarely is it so.
In fact, of the many (tens of) thousands of pro tennis tournament images I’ve shot, I reckon I’ve seen a mere handful of contacts with a closed racket face.
Certainly, I’ve seen too few to deal with it in the initial stages of groundstroke techniques.
Though I hope to do so at some point down the line.
Teasers & Testers
Did you know this player? It’s the redoubtable Thomas the Topspin Tank Engine, folks – former French Open Champion Thomas Muster.
Here, he’s forsaken the out-front part of Connect 3 and chosen to let the ball come through more – this isn’t a ‘late’ contact, but an active choice.
Is it technical, tactical or both?
Any idea why Thomas has chosen so?
‘He’s being naughty defying your Connect 3 principle?’
He’s not being naughty or defiant. Rather, he’s adapting his Connect 3 to a specific purpose.
The highlighted flight-path of the ball is a clue.
It’ll be a while before I get round to dealing with this as a stroke, but something to ponder.