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boojay
05-13-2007, 08:19 PM
As I begin playing better and better players, I'm noticing this is much more prominent in said opponents' strokes.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the heavy ball, it looks just like a regular rally stroke as it leaves your opponent's racquet, crosses the net, and bounces, however, right after bouncing, the ball jumps out at you much faster than you had anticipated, forcing you to rush your swing and when you make contact, the ball seems to push you back.

I'm not certain, but I'm convinced it must be excessive spin that's causing this "heaviness", however, the ball doesn't rise particularly higher than usual, it just comes at you faster than you think it should, which is why I hesitate to say excessive topspin (that explanation makes no sense to me either, so obviously, I don't know the answer).

I guess my question is a two-parter:

How do I hit a heavy ball, and equally as important, how do I COUNTER a heavy ball?

I realize racquet preparation is one of the most important aspects in returning a heavy ball. For brief moments, when I added a delay to my forward swing, I believe that worked quite well, but I've lost that feeling and wonder if that's the answer to returning heavy balls.

sapient007
05-13-2007, 08:28 PM
sweet spot is your friend. contact time is also important.


on a side note, if it's not spin, then it must be one of these FHs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nsq-YNihNwY

sabi
05-13-2007, 08:37 PM
Hopefully others will chime in as there has been some cogent discussions on this topic.

I cannot recount the various rational explanations of heavy balls. Some have described them as balls rising to your shoulder level. That is certainly one type. Others have talked about spin heavy balls no matter where they rise to. I think a combination of factors can lead to different types of balls that feel heavy.

My best reponse to you is the heavier the racquet the more momentum will let you over the incoming ball. And the harder your return shot. When I play with the k90, balls that used to feel heavy no longer feel heavy. And my opponents describe the ball coming at them as a heavy ball, although that ball often comes from a slower, more controlled stroke and without heavy (intended) spin. The other thing easier to change than going to a heavier racquet is to lower your string tension or move over to a more comfortable string like gut. A string that will catch the ball for a little longer and repell the ball a little better. This is why Alu is so loved. Cause it grabs a ball, stops its spin and recoils back to return the ball with good effect. Tigher string patterns, in my experience, are less effective at handing heavy balls, especially low to the ground ones, like you're facing.

And before you do anything to strings, try moving in on the ball, taking it farther out in front of you and perhaps generally slowing down your swing. think of looping the ball back, to give yourself time in the point until you get the less heavy ball you want for the setup or put away.

boojay
05-13-2007, 09:46 PM
firstly, prince of tennis = wicked awesome

secondly, in response to sabi:

that's really interesting. I haven't heard of that explanation before (i.e. heaviness due to the racquet/strings). Two reasons why I doubted my own speculation that heaviness was due to spin was because a) a heavy topspin ball rises like crazy and as you pointed out, a rising ball isn't a prerequisite for "heaviness" and b) there are people who can hit heavy balls without imparting that much spin.

According to your theory though, if I were to give a light racquet to someone who I know can hit a heavy ball, his shots should be less heavy, correct?

I'll test that out.

chipsbuzz
05-13-2007, 10:02 PM
I know I may not have sufficient background or expertise but it sounds like so far we're just brainstorming ideas.

I think that for whether or not there is spin on the ball, the heaviness may have more to do with how much time it takes for the ball to get from one side of the court to another. If it gets from point A to point B faster, then it is a heavier ball. For those who have crazy spins on the ball, usually they have faster racquet head speed which would push the ball into the other court faster. Also, since flat shooters have less of a low-to-high motion, angle is cut therefore making speed from point A to point B quicker.

Well, that's just my thoughts as to how the ball gets heavy.

As for countering...I'm guessing take the shot a step back? Or step into the shot as it rises.

Anyone feel free to correct me if my thoughts are wrong

boojay
05-13-2007, 10:38 PM
If it gets from point A to point B faster, then it is a heavier ball.

I kinda agree with that, but let me expand on your point.

Let's compare the regular ball to the heavy ball and denote its path with points A, B, and C, with point B being the bounce. Everything from point A up to point B is essentially identical between a regular ball and a heavier ball. It's from point B to point C where a heavier ball seems to travel faster. The trajectory from B to C for both balls also essentially remains the same, but the ball seems to jump out at you faster than expected with a heavier ball.

How do you explain the seeming increase in speed from points B to C with a heavy ball?

chipsbuzz
05-13-2007, 11:31 PM
I think the seeming increase between B and C is non-existant and only determined by the flight from A to B. The reason I say this is because the mind can only take into account so many things at once (especially when this game depends on a lot of muscle memory). The heavy ball is only sort of an illusion (and I used the word illusion lightly) because in all actuality, the brain (or person) can only process the flight of the ball and how to get the ball back over in a such a short amount of time. Since the brain usually can't calculate given angles and opponent's racquet head speed in the split seconds, the body isn't as prepared or in proper position required which makes the heavy-ness of the ball.
You also got to take into consideration that the speed of the ball is mostly determined after the bounce; a person's eyes appropriates speed relative to distance. Meaning typically, a person won't realize the difference of a hit till after the ball bounces.

I hope that makes sense, mostly just explaining things to myself logically in a step-by-step manner.

Frank Silbermann
05-14-2007, 04:34 AM
Don Budge, Jack Kramer and Ken Rosewall were all said to hit a very heavy ball. None of them used much topspin. I've read (in an "old school" book) that a heavy ball is one that hits your racket harder than you expect.

My theory as that these players all used rackets that were heavier than average, so it didn't look like they were swinging very hard, but they hit hard nonetheless. That would be contrasted with light-racket players such as Illie Nastase and John Newcomb, who could hit their forehands very had, but when they did you could see it coming because of lightning-fast big swing.

Serve em Up
05-14-2007, 04:56 AM
I played with a guy last week that hit a real good slice BH. It was deep with good pace. We were playing on hardcourt. Anyway, this ball seem to accelerate and skid off the court after it bounced. Really threw off my timing. After it bounced, I swear the thing looked like a knuckle ball in baseball. It would just stop spinning completely.

The ball felt very heavy to hit. I don't know if this is what OP was describing as a heavy ball or not. Because my timing was thrown off I could'nt really make solid contact. I framed some and hit most off center. Very frustrating.

I had a lot of trouble hiitting with this guy. My solution was I let up on the pace and hit higher topspin shots. He had trouble getting his slice to work on the high balls. Most sailed long.

Brian_C
05-14-2007, 05:39 AM
I kinda agree with that, but let me expand on your point.

Let's compare the regular ball to the heavy ball and denote its path with points A, B, and C, with point B being the bounce. Everything from point A up to point B is essentially identical between a regular ball and a heavier ball. It's from point B to point C where a heavier ball seems to travel faster. The trajectory from B to C for both balls also essentially remains the same, but the ball seems to jump out at you faster than expected with a heavier ball.

How do you explain the seeming increase in speed from points B to C with a heavy ball?

That is actually a good theory, and if you put that theory into play the way of getting a hard ball would consist in the following, like a topspin that hits the ball down and up a heavier ball
would consist in more of a right to left stroke but you would have to hit it like a topspin try to just guide the ball along the strings, its kind of hard to explain so heres a pic. I have tried this swing and it seems that the ball does seem to travel faster after the bounce,than if i hit it with a normal swing and it doesn't bounce as high as if where hitting topspin.Tho this is just a therory. Though since i haven't tried it with a person on the other side i wouldn't be able to tell you if it was actually heavy.
http://img518.imageshack.us/img518/6635/heavyur7.png

35ft6
05-14-2007, 06:16 AM
This has been discussed a lot. I think most people agreed that a heavy ball was one that had a good combination of spin and pace. For instance, Sampras is said to have had an incredibly heavy serve. A Sampras 125 mph serve and a Venus Williams 125mph serve are going to feel very different. Hers is a fastball, whereas the Sampras 125mph serve is a curverball.

But then somebody brought up Lindsay Davenport, who is said to hit a very heavy ball, but isn't a spin master.

It's kind of mysterious. I've felt heavy shots from flat hitters, super spinny hitters, and players in between. I've felt heavy slice backhands.

I think it's the deceptiveness of it. Like somebody mentioned already, heavier than you expect. Once you get used to it, the heaviness is gone, but some people have really good technique, and the heaviness of their shot is unexpected. I remember after Guga won the French for the first time, a commentator said that Michael Chang said Guga had the heaviest groundies he'd ever felt. I wonder if they were really heavier than Becker or Safin's groundies, or if Guga looks like he's a stick man and the weight is so unexpected coming from a guy so lanky that if he did a backflip he'd kick Jesus in the mouth.

skiracer55
05-14-2007, 09:56 AM
...which were, respectively, how do you hit a heavy ball, and how do you counter one. Here's what I think:

- Everybody knows what it feels like when you hit a heavy ball, or what it feels like when you have to counter one, but it's a little hard to figure out how to hit one. There's an article out there somewhere on the internet that says Sampras had a heavy ball because he got more rotation on it than anybody else...so spin is probably at least part of it. I think the other part is what we call in other sports (such as baseball) "getting your weight behind the ball." Tennis is not an arm sport, it's a leg sport. Or, more properly, it's a trunk/legs sport. Watch Nadal, and it's obvious where his heavy ball comes from. So go do that kind of thing and watch your ball get heavier.

- Second, there's a billion ways to counteract a heavy ball, but the best way I know of is to do early recognition, early prep, and hit it on the way up before it has a chance to do damage. The other way of finessing a heavy ball is to give it the opposite spin. So if somebody hits a heavy topspin ball to my backhand and I can't think of anything more creative, I'll slice it back cross court. Similarly, if somebody slices to me, I'm gonna go with topspin to get a solid racket on the ball...sound good?

- Third, don't let your opponent hit a heavy ball. For example, a lot of heavy ball hitters love to pound the ball through the court, and if you oblige them by hitting back through the court with pace, you'll be their friend for life. Instead, try some short, soft angles. If they can handle that stuff, then it's on to plan C, whatever that is...my take would be, go to net, because I think a heavy ball is easier to volley than to hit off the ground...