As a recreational tennis player I never thought of spinning the ball on purpose. After all, the tennis court is pretty big and the ball is pretty heavy, at least in comparison to table tennis and the ping pong ball, where the spin is part of every shot. I even like to watch table tennis rallies on Killer Spin involving major spinning from all angles.
But when it came to tennis I thought drop shots and backhand slices summed it up for putting spin on the ball. So, it wasn’t until I was 5 feet away from Tommy Haas and Alejandro Falla on court #11 at the US Open, that I actually saw the pros often brushing the ball on the outside rather than hitting through it. I wouldn’t have noticed that from farther distance.
2 years later I ran into a 4.5 guy, Ryan David, (go ahead and ping him, he’s completely tireless and will take on anybody) through Tennis Round, that played every forehand shot with major topspin. He had an extreme Rafa style almost horizontal grip. The ball would bounce and sprint off the court as soon as it touched the ground. Very hard to deal with (tough to anticipate, time and prepare for) and always somehow made it in the court at the last moment. For extra fun, it would often hit the lines, more so than other players. On the downside, he’d sometimes wish he would hit a flat and powerful forehand deep into the court.
Then my tennis coach, Just Bower of AV Tennis, brought up topspin shots as a defense tactic, making the point that higher balls deep into the court are more difficult to handle, especially on the backhand side.
The latest insight into using topspin when hitting with recreational tennis players came from Brent Abel, in a thoughtful interview by Ian Westermann of Essential Tennis. Brent’s take on topspin was that it’s great when used in moderation by rec players. It’s not practical to try and hit every ball with topspin, though it might look easy on TV.
Here’s the entire Brent Abel Essential Tennis podcast interview. Enjoy!