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kickingbird
03-15-2004, 10:43 PM
Hi everyone, I have a question about how it's meant to feel when you hit a heavily topspun ball.

Does it feel like you are only scraping the ball upwards? Or does it feel more solid, similar to when you hit a flat shot?

I guess what I want to ask is this: when you hit the heavily topspun ball (and I'm not talking moonballs, rather offensive heavily spun topspun balls), is there much forward motion on the swing. Because I tend to hit the ball out if I contact with a vertical racquet face, and swing up and out. That's why sometimes I close the racquet face a little and swing out and up as if to hit a flat shot-that way it feels like I am hitting a heavy ball, plus it has loads of topspin on it. But I don't think I'm supposed to do this...

So supposing that one must contact the ball with a square racquet face, is the swing supposed to be a windshield wiper style with minimum forward swing? I tried it and the ball does travel surprisingly fast, but I don't get that sensation that I am hitting a heavy ball.

Any advice is welcome!

Eric Matuszewski
03-16-2004, 04:57 AM
Dear Kickingbird,

What a great question! Discovering what "it feels like" is really what it's all about. Formally, this is known as kinesthetic sense. Unfortunatelly, translating words into kinesthetic sensations is an inefficient process. This could be done much better through the in person interaction with a teaching pro.

Having said this, I enjoy a challenge so lets give it a shot anyway.

Upward rubbing movements (altitude increasing vector) with the racket such as you describe, apply upward friction to the ball and thus cause it to spin (roll) forward. Hitting at a completely vertical vector is unlikely, so what about the horizontal force you exerted...

This force (more of a vector parallel to the court surface) causes it to be driven in the direction of the last trajectory of the racket. Incoming angles are important here as well (this is why it is generally harder to change direction on a ball and put it where you want it, and also why a closed racket face can still sometimes get a ball over the net).

Here comes the fun of tennis...
You get to decide how much drive and how much spin you want to put on a ball everytime you swing. You get to be somewhat of an artist or even a chef on a tennis court.

The chef says I want these cookies to be sweeter, you say I want more spin. The chef says I want more punch in my marinade and you say I want more forward drive on my crosscourt forehand.

So it becomes like mixing some of this with some of that.

Kids often ask me, Eric..."was that right" after they hit a shot ". Provided they aren't doing anything dangerous, I usually respond with another question.
I ask, "did the ball do what you wanted it to".

Look for confirmation of technique by the results you are getting (results are what the ball does after it leaves your racket).

If you are tying to develop pressuring ground strokes, use both techniques while running a partner side to side and try to determine which style pressures him more. The more pressuring style will cause him to be late more often or will be winners more often.

Best wishes,
Eric Matuszewski

Tim Tennis
03-16-2004, 05:45 AM
I can tell when I hit that heavy topspin shot really well when it feels like the ball compresses on the strings just a little bit longer and I can feel just a little bend in the racquet. That is when I know I generated a tremendous amount of racquet head speed and made contact in the sweet spot with the perfect blend of vertical and horizonital energy. To make the racquet give I know I powered through the contact zone The ball comes screaming off the racquet with lots of forward motion and all kinds of rotation on it. It's a great feeling.

You got to love the game.

Bungalo Bill
03-16-2004, 08:35 AM
kickingbird,

It depends on the type of upward brush you put on the ball. With more of a forward "going through" the ball motion the feeling of topspin will be muted by the force of the racquet going through the ball. However, you can be assured your creating topspin if you have a low to high swing. If you go up more steeply you will feel a "brushing" effect or a "soft" shot. In other words, you will feel more like the strings hit the ball rather then your racquet.

Be careful that you dont try and over do it thinking you can apply topspin as you hit it. It is the upward movement of the racquet that puts topspin on the ball. The ball is on the strings for such a very short time (milliseconds) that the sensation your feeling is after the ball has already left the strings. The brain and your nervous system can not pick up the sensation as the ball hits the strings quick enough - it is a delayed sensation.

Many players think they can do extra things with their wrists because they think the sensation they are feeling is at the exact moment they are contacting the ball - it is not. The central nervous system and your muscle response are way way way too slow to add anything extra.

Low to high imparts topspin, how steeply your racquet goes up determines the amount of spin vs. forward speed. It also will influence a soft or muted feel.

kickingbird
03-17-2004, 01:29 AM
Eric, Bill, and Tim- thanks for the great replies!

With your advice in mind, I tried experimenting different types of strokes. And I think I discovered 'The Swing' that produces heavy topspin with pace. Best of all I get that satisfying feeling.

Can anyone comment on this 'new' technique of mine? Basically what I do during the swing is this: just tuck the elbow in, and keep it close to the body during the swing. During the takeback and followthrough, I let the elbow stray away from the body because it feels more natural, but when it comes to the 'main swing', I say to myself: 'Swing forward and upwards as hard as you want, but keep the elbow close to the body!'. So the swing kind of becomes like wiping a window with a cloth after a regular backswing. But as Eric said, of course a completely vertical is usually not practical. But if I consciously think of this motion, I always seem to get a very good shot in. The shot has pace, plenty of topspin, clears the net well, and most importantly, I feel as if I'm hitting it hard.

My only concern is: is there anything wrong with this type of swing, where the elbow does not extend forward much? Am I more prone to injury with this type of swing?

In my opinion, the forearm almost fully extends at the elbow only on a flat shot. So when hitting topspin, there is about a 90 degree angle formed between forearm and upper arm.

Also, Tim, have I seen you somewhere before? About.com perhaps? And Bill I do have a question for you regarding how the amount of topspin is determined but we'll leave that till next time.
Thanks again, everyone!

Anonymous
03-17-2004, 02:52 AM
If you're not choking in a cloud of ball fuzz, you're not hitting topspin.,

Bungalo Bill
03-17-2004, 12:58 PM
Eric, Bill, and Tim- thanks for the great replies!

With your advice in mind, I tried experimenting different types of strokes. And I think I discovered 'The Swing' that produces heavy topspin with pace. Best of all I get that satisfying feeling.

Can anyone comment on this 'new' technique of mine? Basically what I do during the swing is this: just tuck the elbow in, and keep it close to the body during the swing. During the takeback and followthrough, I let the elbow stray away from the body because it feels more natural, but when it comes to the 'main swing', I say to myself: 'Swing forward and upwards as hard as you want, but keep the elbow close to the body!'. So the swing kind of becomes like wiping a window with a cloth after a regular backswing. But as Eric said, of course a completely vertical is usually not practical. But if I consciously think of this motion, I always seem to get a very good shot in. The shot has pace, plenty of topspin, clears the net well, and most importantly, I feel as if I'm hitting it hard.

My only concern is: is there anything wrong with this type of swing, where the elbow does not extend forward much? Am I more prone to injury with this type of swing?

In my opinion, the forearm almost fully extends at the elbow only on a flat shot. So when hitting topspin, there is about a 90 degree angle formed between forearm and upper arm.

Also, Tim, have I seen you somewhere before? About.com perhaps? And Bill I do have a question for you regarding how the amount of topspin is determined but we'll leave that till next time.
Thanks again, everyone!

Let me see if I can explain this:

Lets take for example Roddicks forehand. Pretend that there are two lines that extend from the center of the net out towards each side fence in a 45 degree angle along this line. You want to line your body up on this angle and hit the ball when it comes in to the 45 degree angle zone. This is what is known as hitting out in front. This is the most optimal place to hit the ball either crosscourt or down-the-line.

When you take your racquet back (loop or straight back), take it back so that at the end of the backswing and before the forward swing begins your arm is lined up with the shoulder and is pretty much straight and extended towards the back fence with butt cap lining up to the ball (obviously there can be variations to this) ready to be pulled forward.

Because your arm is extended on the backswing, your going to pull the butt cap from the shoulder forward. The elbow will begin contracting as it gets close to the body and then passes in front of it. As the elbow is coming forward the angle your arm will bend and the degrees it bends will depend on your grip. If you have a Western grip it will pretty much be at a 90 degree angle as it is next to the body before it begins extending out again. the more Eastern you go the less the more open or less degrees is needed.

Your shoulders will be rotating somewhat as the elbow comes close to your body and then as the elbow passes the body the shoulders take over and really excelerate to meet the ball in front of the body for contact. The shoulder rotation is needed to bring the racquet face square into the ball.

The non-dominant arm (this is important) will also stay within the body and will not fling outside of it. This helps maintain body control and balance.

This is the sequence of the modern forehand. It is the shoulder that pulls the butt cap forward as the elbow contracts and passes close to the body and then in front of it BEFORE contact is made that really provides stability in the stroke. How fast you can rotate and execute the contraction stagealong with your balance is what produces the power.

Strong shoulder muscles will help you create unbelievable power. So you need to build them up.

The reason why you want your elbow close to the body and then in front of the body is for stability of the forearm and racquet face. This will help you make a clean contact with the ball. It will also keep the racquet path line longer with the ball for clean contact. You want to try and keep the racquet face for about 4-6 inches in a straight predictable line for clean hits consistently. Otherwise, if your racquet face is only in the contact area for 1-2 inches you increase your chances for error greatly.

If you have an email address, I have a model quicktime video that replicates the Roddick forehand that we can analyze together - just email me at usptapro@cox.net.

kickingbird
03-18-2004, 12:27 AM
Thanks again Bill, I read through your post a couple of times and I can say that I follow every instruction that you mentioned except this:

"When you take your racquet back (loop or straight back), take it back so that at the end of the backswing and before the forward swing begins your arm is lined up with the shoulder and is pretty much straight"

I noticed that when I take back, I tend to keep my arm unextended. There is a 90 degree or so angle between my forearm and upper arm. Last year I used to extend it so that it was almost straight, but this made timing more difficult although it did seem to provide me with extra leverage. I made this change to the shorter backswing when I read that a 'shorter backswing contributes to better control and power'. What are your thoughts on this?

Also, I did not completely understand your first paragraph, where you talk about the 45 degree hitting zone. If you don't mind, could you please elaborate on it? The concept sounds very new to me.

kickingbird
03-18-2004, 12:31 AM
And I do have an email address but unfortunately I don't think my computer supports Quicktime. Well from what I know, I think that's the case. The last time I tried to watch a movie in Quicktime it didn't work, so I'm assuming I can't paly it. Sorry, as you may have noticed by now I'm not very computer-literate!

Bungalo Bill
03-18-2004, 11:08 AM
you need to down load the quicktime player that is free on the internet to play quicktime movies. just search for quicktime player it is free of charge.

Bungalo Bill
03-18-2004, 11:10 AM
Thanks again Bill, I read through your post a couple of times and I can say that I follow every instruction that you mentioned except this:

"When you take your racquet back (loop or straight back), take it back so that at the end of the backswing and before the forward swing begins your arm is lined up with the shoulder and is pretty much straight"

I noticed that when I take back, I tend to keep my arm unextended. There is a 90 degree or so angle between my forearm and upper arm. Last year I used to extend it so that it was almost straight, but this made timing more difficult although it did seem to provide me with extra leverage. I made this change to the shorter backswing when I read that a 'shorter backswing contributes to better control and power'. What are your thoughts on this?

Also, I did not completely understand your first paragraph, where you talk about the 45 degree hitting zone. If you don't mind, could you please elaborate on it? The concept sounds very new to me.

If it works for you great. I was making my comment if someone was dissatisfied with their forehand and was willing to make a change.

I will explain the 45 degree angle at a later time. It is a bit hard to explain on this board without some visualization