Learning to hit backhand and forehand shots with topspin can be regarded as the foundation of advanced tennis. But it is possible to misunderstand it, which can lead to mishits and short balls.
Such mistakes generally happen when players still try to apply topspin to the ball in a conventional way.
The topspin application technique has to be modified at the advanced level, given the game’s faster tempo👌.
Therefore, it is crucial to upgrade your understanding of applying spin to the shots to ensure clean hits with good power and highly consistent shots.
Table of Contents
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1. What is Topspin in Tennis?
Players utilize Topspin quite frequently in modern tennis. When applied, the ball sails over the net and out of bounds but drops well within the play lines.
Topspin has transformed how tennis is played because it helps the player generate more power behind the shot with a proper topspin forehand.
Many legendary tennis players, including Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, frequently use vicious topspin forehand to win titles.
👉 In fact, they managed to win world championships by relying on their topspin.
There is immense versatility possible with hitting a topspin. Players can opt for an Eastern or Western grip, depending on their play style.
However, when practicing a topspin forehand, players use a Semi-Western grip, as it lets them apply a greater amount of spin to the ball with far less effort.
It would be best to remember that topspin could be added to a shot by hitting the tennis ball in a down-up movement, as it causes it to rotate towards the opponent.
Watch this video to learn more about tennis topspin😻.
2. How to Generate Topspin?
A topspin can be created with both backhand and forehand shots. It is generated by creating friction between the strings of the tennis racket and the ball.
👉 The topspin amount depends on the swing movement and the point where the ball hits the racket surface.
For instance, if the face of your racket is parallel to the net, you can hit the ball in a straight movement, and this won’t generate topspin at all. In order to create as much topspin as you can, it is essential to wipe across the ball surface with the strings. To do this:
- Imagine the ball as a clock. When it comes to you from the right side and standing with your racket on the left side, all you have to do is cut the ball using the racket from 6 to 12 o’clock😊.
- Approach the ball from below and swing the racket upwards in a subtle upward movement so that the ball is rotated forward.
- Ensure that you aren’t holding the racket face far too steep because it will cause the ball to fly too short, and it will land in the net.
Conversely, it’s important not to hold the racket too flat, as it will cause the ball to rise more than necessary.
If you have different framing shots, this indicates the ball is being hit too steeply or flatly. Pay attention to this, and if it happens, correct the shot angle where possible.
You can check if you have played a topspin backhand or forehand correctly by listening to the sound of your racket when you hit the ball.
If the sound is dull, this means the ball has been hit with very little or no topspin. Similarly, if the sound is higher, this indicates the ball had spun.
👉 For more tips, watch this video to understand how you can generate topspin.
A. Topspin vs. Slices
Most tennis players use topspin shots as their standard groundstroke because it forces their opponents to move backward.
Good topspin shots land in front of the line and bounces towards the opponent so that they find it challenging to generate enough power and footwork to cope with it.
Backspin is achieved when the player uses a slice shot technique. When playing a slice shot, the racket moves in a downward motion first and then slices the tennis ball from underneath. This technique will make it difficult for the opponent to return the shot with as much topspin.
👉 So, a slice shot is an effective defensive shot. Since most tennis players currently rely on the topspin forehand to dictate the match’s pace, the slice shot is generally chosen as a defensive shot used as a last-ditch effort.
On the other hand, topspin shorts are generally used to come towards the net and push the opponent back. This shot is best if you want to advance to the net quicker than your opponent😻.
A slice shot is used when you return a serve and immediately approach the net, which in the tennis world is called Chip and Charge, as it allows the player enough time to do so.
You move forward to the net and want to drive a low-bouncing ball into the corner of your opponent’s court, making it tough for the opponent to hit it back with a similar pace. A slice shot is also used when wanting to surprise the opponent with a drop shot.
👉 Here’s a video on when to hit Slice and when to hit Topspin.
B. How Can Topspin Improve Your Tennis Playing?
Topspin allows you a far better error margin because the shot spins the ball downwards and forward. So, it can be hit higher and deeper while still keeping it in play within the boundaries of the court.
👉 Given the ball’s high bounce, a topspin shot becomes effective against those with one-handed backhands since it is difficult to respond to higher balls with them.
If the topspin has been timed and angled properly, either crosscourt or down the line shot, it can prove to be an unreturnable winner and a strategic shot to catch the opponent off guard.
C. How to Generate More Topspin?
There are three ways of generating more topspin, which include the following:
D. The Swing Path
It is commonly believed topspin mainly relies on the player’s strength, which isn’t entirely correct. Your body’s swing is as important when hitting the ball as is the strength.
The arm and wrist are the two primary body parts that play a crucial role when generating topspin. So, to get the most out of a spin, the muscles must be loose because, with tense muscles, it will be very challenging to hit hard😊.
Additionally, loose muscles allow a more fluid swing movement, allowing the ball to be hit with more power and spin.
E. The Suitable Contact Point
Generally, an effective contact point is when the ball has the most extended contact with the tennis racket strings.
Therefore, the player should look for the lengthiest distance between the racket frame, located centrally between the sweet spot and the string bed area.👉 It’s imperative to hit the ball in this exact region.
F. The Right Equipment
To get the maximum result from the topspin shot, the player must ensure they are using the right equipment, such as the string pattern of the racket, or the strings’ tension, diameter, or material should be on point.
👉 Here’s a video on a comparison between tennis topspin and drive.
G. What is the Magnus Effect?
The Magnus Effect is a physical phenomenon where the tennis ball is deflected in a particular direction when it rotates in the air. The ball’s direction depends entirely on the rotation style or type😊.
The topspin ball deflects downwards, whereas a slice or backspin ball will stay in the air longer. When compared to a routine shot, a ball with topspin has a relatively steeper trajectory, and the ball ends up in your opponent’s court, so fewer of your shots will turn out of bounds.
👉 Additionally, there will be a better error margin over the net, and the ball won’t have to be played as close over the net.
However, it can be set higher much more easily, which fewer balls will be hit into the net. Learn more about the Magnus Effect in this video.
H. Why Topspin Works Only on Slow Incoming Balls?
To apply the topspin to a backhand or forehand, the racket must be moved upwards vertically, brushing the ball on its backside.
This movement creates friction between the ball and the strings forces the ball to rotate and dip toward the end of its flight, allowing the player to hit with maximum power and keep the ball within the baselines😻.
👉 It’s necessary to use the arm, forearm, and wrist to move the racket upward and impart topspin on the ball, which requires slower and nicer balls.
Many coaches teach only to strike such balls while learning to add spin to your backhands and forehands.
After several repetitions, you realize topspin can be applied to the ball with a certain arm, wrist, or forearm movement as well. So, you keep doing it this way.
The technique changes slightly when you start playing with high-level opponents who play much faster. So, you find yourself struggling to cleanly hit the ball in the sweet spot to apply topspin.
That’s because you keep trying to create topspin by engaging your arm, wrist, and forearm and move the racket up too steeply to brush the ball on the backside.
The problem occurs because the opponent has hit the ball pretty fast, and it’s almost flying in one direction while the racket is going perpendicular to that direction.
This makes it difficult to determine the exact moment when the ball comes into contact with the racket’s sweet spot.
It is difficult to hit a clean shot to generate lots of topspin on a fast-paced ball because it results in many mishits.
The ball hits off the sweet spot, resulting in a short and slow ball that the opponent finds easier to attack. It is natural to feel confused since you have been told to hit with more topspin so far and not hit too many poor shots using the same technique.
So, what’s the solution?😊 You need to learn to make spin happen on its own, rather than forcing it to happen or do the topspin.
👉 Here’s a video sharing a little-known secret on generating topspin naturally.
I. How to Hit a Topspin Forehand
Topspin is probably the best forehand technique needed to improve your groundstroke game. There are a number of useful tips that will help with mastering the technique:
j. Select the right grip:
Groundstrokes can be hit with technically any grip. However, certain grips are more beneficial in this regard than others.
For example, Western and Semi-Western grips are better choices to hit with topspin. If opting for an Eastern grip, it won’t be easy to generate enough topspin.
But professionals like Roger Federer often create spin using an Eastern grip, so it’s not such a bad choice. However, it would be very naive to assume that every player can match the skill level of Federer, right? 👍
So, the racket should be kept closed just slightly to provide the right trajectory. Ensure that the racket face is slightly closed because it will help to hit with more power without hitting the ball over the fence.
Ideally, the racket face should be kept at a 45-degree angle to add enough spin for a great tennis forehand.
k. Brush up on the ball's backside:
The racket’s head must dip below the ball to get the right angle, and the swing path should ideally travel from low to high. Additionally, the racket should be in a forward swing motion if intending to get the right amount of topspin.
l. Always hit the ball in front of your body:
Hitting the ball too early or too late will cause the loss of control of the ball. Therefore, it’s advisable to rely on footwork to set yourself up in an open or neutral stance if you want to meet the ball in front of the body and get yourself in the right positioning, as well as add spin.
M. Pronate the wrist:
After reaching the point of contact with the ball, it is important to pronate the wrist and move it in a motion similar to the windshield wiper to brush up and over the ball. This technique will add maximum spin to the ball😊.
One of the more common mistakes beginner tennis players usually make is insufficient follow-through.
It’s necessary to maintain the swing apex while reaching the contact point with the ball and adequately following through. It should end either on the shoulder or by the hip. What matters most is committing to the swing path with the correct motion and speed👌.
The idea is that the ball should have enough topspin to dip back into the court.
👉 Watch this video to learn more about the mistakes to avoid in topspin forehand.
O. What are the Benefits of Shots with Topspin?
👉 It is immensely advantageous to play with topspin.
Firstly, it is harder for opponents to return the ball with as much aggression because the ball has a forward rotation. Hence, it will bounce off higher in the opponent’s court and push them behind the baseline.
This entire movement will create new free space in the opponent’s court, where the next shot should be placed. Moreover, the opponent will not be able to attack in the rally😊.
Secondly, with the topspin shot, far fewer mistakes than usual will be made.
Players often think they already make a lot of mistakes when trying to play with topspin. This is primarily because of adopting the wrong technique.
If the correct technique is adopted, the error rate can be dramatically reduced, as explained by the Magnus Effect.
P. How Can You Make Spin Happen?
There are two distinct stages when paying close attention to a backhand or forehand swing path from the side.
👉 When swinging the arm naturally by the side of the body, it travels horizontally while being closer to the body and transitions to a more vertical swing when it moves away from it. The arm is attached to the body via the shoulder, which is why the arm acts as a pendulum and swings around the shoulder as it is the arm’s anchor point.
So, hitting the ball closer to the body will make it flatter since the racket moves more horizontally.
👉 On the other hand, hitting the ball in the front will create more topspin since the racket will move more vertically. That’s the key to hitting groundstrokes with more topspin.
Furthermore, the swing path will make the ball spin as the racket will travel upwards by itself due to the inertia and because the arm swings in a circular way naturally😊.
Hence, you can make the spin happen simply by swinging and letting the racket hit the ball when it bounces up and in front of you.
But, if you are receiving a fastball, you need to find the right part of the swing path, which will be horizontal. This method will make hitting the ball in the sweet spot easier and maintain the upward movement necessary to make the spin happen😻.
Remember that the forearm and wrist don’t need to do any intense work because the swing path will create topspin effortlessly.
Although it won’t be extreme topspin, the ball will spin fast enough, while you will control it well and play consistently. 👉 This video explains how to make topspin happen.
Q. Doing the Topspin Versus Making It Happen
Almost all adult recreational players try to execute a topspin the same way they learned before. They learned to hit a topspin by moving the racket vertically upwards on the ball’s backside and brushing it.
👉 However, players often forget that the initial learning process was merely an exaggerated version of the real technique to help them understand how to apply topspin to the ball.
As they proceed ahead in the sport, they get to play faster and still manage to do all their topspin movements just the way they learned them.
They have no idea how to apply less topspin on faster incoming balls or make spin happen simply by swinging the racket naturally and hitting the ball when it is in the front😻.
You can apply extreme topspin only when you receive a slow ball because that’s when you will be able to hit the sweet spot regularly despite swinging the incoming ball up very steeply. But when you receive faster balls, swing at a shallower swing path, which will naturally let the spin happen.
R. Why is Variation in Tennis So Important?
Finesse must be implemented into your shots when competing against high-level tennis players. It will throw off the opponent, and they will be forced to change their game plan rapidly.
Remember that nuanced shots can deceive your opponent effectively, as they will subsequently approach the ball incorrectly, increasing the likelihood that they won’t return the shot.
👉 Using the proper backspin or topspin techniques in a competitive match will help keep your opponents on their toes. It will make it difficult for them to adjust to your varying techniques throughout the match.
👉 To conclude, for those who want to become a professional and competitive tennis player, learning to master every shot and know exactly where to use which shot is imperative.
When looking at some of the top-level players in the world, they know how to use slice shots and topspin to their advantage😻.
For instance, Rafael Nadal knows very well that he can beat a player like Roger Federer with his extreme topspin on the forehand.
With the topspin, he can force Federer or any opponent to be pushed too far backward or hit the ball way too early.
Similarly, Federer can do the same with his impeccable backhand slice. He can easily disrupt the opponent’s rhythm with the slice in almost every rally.
So, the bottom line is that no single shot or technique will help you win matches. It’s crucial to master every possible shot and learn to apply it at the right time to turn the match in your favor😊.
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Review by Marc Peppin – Won 40+ International Titles – Canadian #1