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View Full Version : Heavy-Topspin players: how to deal with them??


Galactus
09-21-2005, 12:44 PM
Tonight I played my first game against a younger guy at my local club.
I'm in my 30s, he's about 18-20.
This kid has so much topspin on his serve and forehand, it's 50-50 whether or not I get the ball back, the ball is kicking/spinning so much.

For myself, someone with hardly any experience on topspinners, how do you deal with them/return their serves/shots?

Any basic/beginner advice on how I can:
a) read such shots
b) return them

Rickson
09-21-2005, 12:48 PM
Tonight I played my first game against a younger guy at my local club.
I'm in my 30s, he's about 18-20.
This kid has so much topspin on his serve and forehand, it's 50-50 whether or not I get the ball back, the ball is kicking/spinning so much.

For myself, someone with hardly any experience on topspinners, how do you deal with them/return their serves/shots?

Any basic/beginner advice on how I can:
a) read such shots
b) return them
Reading topspin serves is not that difficult. Look for a toss that goes above his head more than to his right for a righty and vice versa. As for topspin forehands, look for a loopy takeback and see if he goes under the ball right before contact.

Geezer Guy
09-21-2005, 01:00 PM
Yup, agree with Rickson. Then, when you see the topspin coming, back up a bit. The ball will take a bigger bounce than you're used to. Wait for the ball to come down into your strike zone before you hit it. (Or, you can take the ball on the rise, but for "basic/beginner advise" I wouldn't suggest that.) If this kid loves to hit the big forehand, obviously you'll be sending most of your shots to his backhand.

mark1
09-21-2005, 01:14 PM
also wouldnt be a bad idea to mix in some low short slices and definately keep the ball low to his forehand as big hitting western grippers dont like low slice.

Galactus
09-21-2005, 01:18 PM
Thanks for your replies.
From the time I played against him, (all of 45mins), it seemed that all he had was the big baseline topspin forehand, but even when I did read them toward the end, it was very difficult to get over the ball for a return. I wass playing most of them shoulder-height (and I'm 6'3").

The serves werent so tricky to read - he hits them with a big slice (he's right-handed, as am I)...or a flat-bomb.

But, like I said, being of an 'improver' standard I've never actually played anyone with such a game - and it's quite tricky, however, I do relish the challenge of playing against guys better than I am...that's how we all improve, eh? ;)

Marius_Hancu
09-21-2005, 01:19 PM
you can find several good threads by searching with either
hard topspin
or
heavy topspin
Search in Titles Only
in this forum

POGO
09-21-2005, 01:19 PM
To play against someone with heavy topspin, hit on the rise and hit low balls below his strike zone, around the knee area and lower. Hit lots of low slices to his weaker wing.

Marius_Hancu
09-21-2005, 01:22 PM
Thanks for your replies.
From the time I played against him, (all of 45mins), it seemed that all he had was the big baseline topspin forehand, but even when I did read them toward the end, it was very difficult to get over the ball for a return. I wass playing most of them shoulder-height (and I'm

you waited too much, esp if you don't have an western grip.

take them more on the rise or go back and take them lower. don't swing too much, just meet the ball, use its energy.

livthemoment
09-21-2005, 01:44 PM
a key to playing a heavy topspin forehand(which I have) is to arrive early. Try to make it to the ball before it lands, because it will pick up pace wants it lands and the topspin propells the ball on the bounce. It is just different than someone who hits an eastern forehand.. you can get there after the bounce, and still be in position, the ball will come over the net flatter and faster. The heavy topspin from a semi to western forehand.. the ball can seem slow coming over the net, that is why you must get into position early.

cadfael_tex
09-21-2005, 03:35 PM
Ditto on the taking the ball earlier. Not easy to do but backing up will just play into his game. I'm a big proponent of taking the ball earlier any time (and following it in if possible). Might be something to work on with a ball machine or a willing practice partner.

nkhera1
09-21-2005, 05:47 PM
Ditto on the taking the ball earlier. Not easy to do but backing up will just play into his game. I'm a big proponent of taking the ball earlier any time (and following it in if possible). Might be something to work on with a ball machine or a willing practice partner.

When you say take the ball early do you mean hit it while it rises? I just want to clear this up for myself.

cadfael_tex
09-21-2005, 06:07 PM
Yes on the rise I what I meant. Think Agassi. Topspin eats away at its own arc and ends up with a higher bounce - pretty basic so far. The key in my thinking is catching it low - which means early and further towards the net. Another option is backing up and basically catching it on it way back down on the bounce but that can be a long way back and your giving away a heck of a lot of angle - making easier to be run from doubles line or more back to the other end. Not appealing to me. The last option is to take it high -shoulder length. It is difficult to play a shot up there consitently and with and power. My bet is on catching the ball early and keeping it low back to opponent. You have to really bend down to produce any spin on a guy with a loopy swing - something most people aren't good at and don't do well.

BreakPoint
09-21-2005, 06:53 PM
When I see my opponent about to hit a big topspin shot, I actually move in rather than back up. I either take the ball right off the bounce with a half-volley (a la Federer) or I take it in the air and hit a volley and then move in further. When I play against someone that hits a lot of topspin shots, I also serve and volley more and chip and charge more on the return. The point is to avoid getting into these baseline rallies that allow him to continue to use his strength in hitting these big topspin shots. Get to the net and put the easy volleys away since his topspin shots will be much higher when they cross the net, making for an easier volley. However, you do need to be quick on you feet and move into the net very quickly as those topspin shots will dip to your feet very quicky. As soon as he hits his shot, you need to run towards the net and get as close to the net as possible and hit down on the ball at as high of a point in the ball's arc as you can.

snoflewis
09-21-2005, 08:38 PM
well...chances are if he's got that big of a forehand, he's probably using western. I used to use western, until my friend only hit flat bombs and it killed me....so when you return try to hit as flat and as low as you possibly can. you will probably want to take it on the rise too...because by the time the ball comes down, your back is already against the back fence

ffrpg
09-21-2005, 08:49 PM
I'm big on hitting heavy-topspin shots. One of my friends always hits low slices to my forehand side. Nothing fustrates me more than low balls. Other than that, learn how to take the ball on the rise. If the person can hit heavy topspin shots that land deep, you're probably screw if you try to take the shot as the ball comes back down (it'll be hard to position yourself with the backfence in the way).

Eh... Didn't notice the same thing was said above.

SageOfDeath
09-22-2005, 08:08 PM
Slice and dice, unless they are robotic with their depth they might give you a short ball one in a while with what I assume is lots of topspin.

Heavy topspin + short ball = sitter. Unless your playing with extreme extreme topspin like nadal.

snoflewis
09-22-2005, 08:34 PM
also use my favorite shot combination....the dropshot + lob

TripleB
09-23-2005, 03:45 AM
Slice the ball to his weaker side....hard to topspin a ball that doesn't come up off the court.

TripleB

dickbarney
09-23-2005, 04:21 AM
There is reference to Agassi above. Agassi gets ready for the ball very early with a short backswing and hits the ball in front of him. This is good way to handle heavy topspin. You can react quickly to the kick of topspin with a short backswing. It is easier to track the ball when you keep it in front of you because there is no head movement. Many heavy topspiner take big swings at the ball and getting the ball back to them quickly can cause problems for them. Seems like all kids that I play are hitting heavy topspin and I find that most are frustrated with slices especially if you vary the slice.

Hedges
09-23-2005, 06:05 AM
If at the 4.5 or below level, you can try the following when playing the younger, extreme western grip opponent:

Materials needed:
o A heavy racket - to plow through those heavy balls (your tour 90 fits the bill!)
o A very mean slice
o A volley
o No fear!

NOTE: The above aren't really tools available at the beginner level...but neither are heavy topspin serves and groundies your opponent is hitting!

Tactic:

Use their spin rather than fighting it. Topspinning those heavy top-spin balls means you have to reverse the existing spin on the ball. That's not always easy.

Instead, use the existing heavy spin...slice it low especially on your backhand side.
If you catch it just right and hit low, sliding slices, he'll have a tough time picking the ball up using his extreme western grip.

I find that many younger, extreme western grip players refuse or don't know how to change grips on lower, sliders. On short-ish topspin balls, I approach with hard slice and let them try to pass me. You can go right down the middle or down the line. This can be extremely frustrating to a young basher...they just aren't used to this tactic these days. But...you've gotta do it early in the match before they get grooved...otherwise, they'll smoke it by you every time.

Good luck!

cadfael_tex
09-23-2005, 06:24 AM
I sense a theme here!

equinox
09-23-2005, 08:14 AM
Don't let the ball bounce.

Slice and keep the ball low.

Get to the net and apply pressure.

Give him no chance to get grooved.

You're boss on court, don't let him dictate play.

You decide when and how the point ends.

MackSamuelHustovisics
09-23-2005, 01:11 PM
If at the 4.5 or below level, you can try the following when playing the younger, extreme western grip opponent:

Materials needed:
o A heavy racket - to plow through those heavy balls (your tour 90 fits the bill!)
o A very mean slice
o A volley
o No fear!
NOTE: The above aren't really tools available at the beginner level...but neither are heavy topspin serves and groundies your opponent is hitting!

Tactic:

Use their spin rather than fighting it. Topspinning those heavy top-spin balls means you have to reverse the existing spin on the ball. That's not always easy.

Instead, use the existing heavy spin...slice it low especially on your backhand side.
If you catch it just right and hit low, sliding slices, he'll have a tough time picking the ball up using his extreme western grip.

I find that many younger, extreme western grip players refuse or don't know how to change grips on lower, sliders. On short-ish topspin balls, I approach with hard slice and let them try to pass me. You can go right down the middle or down the line. This can be extremely frustrating to a young basher...they just aren't used to this tactic these days. But...you've gotta do it early in the match before they get grooved...otherwise, they'll smoke it by you every time.

Good luck!


LMAO....! Very funny the way you arrange your comments yet very good advice. Anyways, It's a good idea to be synchronized,tuned-in, into the zone, into the opponent's tendencies. Rhythm and timing are keys. Establish synchronize thinking, predicting, reflexes, and movements in a way that the opponent cannot zero in on. Be subtle. When you swing a shot to the oppon., start your takeback for your next shot ahead without rushing cuz afterall, you are prepare ahead to avoid catchup. This will help to enable the timing of a backswing to click in smoothly with the actually forward swing. No glitches and awkward pauses. Anticipate and you shouldn't be thinking too much about technicallities but rather the important strategies. It should be developed to be second nature. Prepare to get in position for the return and once you arrive in the area where the ball is going to land, as you see the ball sailing (or zipping!) over the net, start to pick up the beat/ rhthym of the pace of the ball. Sort of like music. You know when to expect a beat in advance even though it has not gotten to that point yet. So get in the groove. Ball still in the air, continue takeback insynch., time ball bounce, ball bounces, use the actual bouce as a que. Or you can just use whatever else as ques, ie: instead of ball bounce, using the beat before the bounce, whatever you want. (The point is to establish something that you can do consistently without having to consciously think about. There isn't a whole lot of time to have to do so much all at once. Make execution become a reflex. Muscle memory. Deadly weapon!)That's a good way to get the ball on the rise. It should seem effortless. Your shots/ movements/ correctional adjustments should be almost automatic once you have entered "THE ZONE". Enjoy your next game.

dakels
09-23-2005, 02:20 PM
Just because you have a western grip doesn't mean you are weak to low skidding shots and slices. Yes it's a bitmore difficult but you can certainly power through them. Early preparation is important. Bend low like a surfer and swing up through the ball. Another shot is to drop the racquet head low and sweep up and turn your wrist over the ball. The ball will curl over the net. Since slices and skidding shots are slower you should have plenty of time for balanced feet and drive forward through the ball. The biggest mistake westerners make with these low shots is they do not bend their knees and will snap at the ball with a dropped racquet head not properly lifting the ball up causing it to hit the net or sail long.

1) Bend the knees to get low and level.
2) Swing through the ball and not snap at it.
3) Turn that wrist up and over for added spin.
For added power and depth, learn to drive forward through the ball. Early prep is key!

Personally I use a full western and I usually like when people slice my forehand thinking they will be able to break me down. Since the shots are slower I have plenty of time for good footwork and balance and I can take the time to aim it where I want.


As for the original topic, playing against a heavy topspinner takes alot of experience. Learning to take the ball early and getting used to the quick speed up to the racquet is something you have to get used to. One thing that is very important to to make sure you take your swing. Don't choke and chop at the ball. The best thing you can do against these shots is take your normal swing, slow it down slightly (dont try to overpower) and take the ball smoothly on the rise and aim with your shoulders.

Rickson
09-23-2005, 03:11 PM
I was practicing with a guy who used deep, penetrating slices. I would send him heavy topspin and he would return with a biting slice. My return after his slice would be flat hits because the balls were too low to get a good topspin return. Send the heavy topspin guys low balls and they'll flatten their shots out because if they don't, they'll hit right into the net. Nothing frustrates topspinners more than low balls.

cadfael_tex
09-23-2005, 03:18 PM
Dakels, what you say is true but in my brief time back in the game I haven't seen a lot of good preparation or footwook. if you can hit you're normal stroke moving up the ball, more to ya. But, slice can be produced with less preparation and backswing so it can be good depending on your opponent.

dakels
09-23-2005, 03:41 PM
I wasnt trying to argue that slicing a topspin shot back is not the way to go, just saying that you can hit your normal strokes through a heavy shot. It just requires a solid swing through. I definitely wouldnt advise always slicing heavy topspin balls though. Most people cannot do it that well and even on a pro level, a hard driving slice which does not sit up often tends to be a low % shot due to it's limited tight range over the net. It is definitely easier to hit though and often why players will resort to it when under pressure, but when given time, a player comfortable with dealing with topspin will set up and return a solid topspin or flat shot return. It also depends on the side, forehand or backhand. Most players do not slice a forehand except on rare exceptions, backhand on the other hand slices are much more common and often easier to pull off then full swing. Some players do nothing but slices on their backhand, even pros.

Cadfael_tex: Try to maintain your swing on those heavy topspin shots. Slow your swing speed down but retain your full (hopefully long) swing. Yes it requires good prep but you will work up to it. It may help you get back in form faster as well. I am trying to get back in form after a long break as well and managing my strokes has been very important. I have been inconsistant against heavy high kick topspin players who catch me late, but I know I am not going to get back in form without pushing to regain confidence instead of retreating to my slice. By retreating I mean that I want to hit topsin back and resort to a slice because I am late or unprepared. I would rather hit my slice when I want, not becuse I am forced to.

It takes time but its worth having the diversity of being able to control the point and not have a certain type of shot bully you around.

MackSamuelHustovisics
09-23-2005, 04:34 PM
Just because you have a western grip doesn't mean you are weak to low skidding shots and slices. Yes it's a bitmore difficult but you can certainly power through them. Early preparation is important. Bend low like a surfer and swing up through the ball. Another shot is to drop the racquet head low and sweep up and turn your wrist over the ball. The ball will curl over the net. Since slices and skidding shots are slower you should have plenty of time for balanced feet and drive forward through the ball. The biggest mistake westerners make with these low shots is they do not bend their knees and will snap at the ball with a dropped racquet head not properly lifting the ball up causing it to hit the net or sail long.

1) Bend the knees to get low and level.
2) Swing through the ball and not snap at it.
3) Turn that wrist up and over for added spin.
For added power and depth, learn to drive forward through the ball. Early prep is key!

Personally I use a full western and I usually like when people slice my forehand thinking they will be able to break me down. Since the shots are slower I have plenty of time for good footwork and balance and I can take the time to aim it where I want.


As for the original topic, playing against a heavy topspinner takes alot of experience. Learning to take the ball early and getting used to the quick speed up to the racquet is something you have to get used to. One thing that is very important to to make sure you take your swing. Don't choke and chop at the ball. The best thing you can do against these shots is take your normal swing, slow it down slightly (dont try to overpower) and take the ball smoothly on the rise and aim with your shoulders.


Very true. By swinging the racq. in a vertical or close vert. upwards and through the ball helps to get those low position shots as well with the west./ semi grips. Definitely keep your body low and balance to aid in control and reach.

MackSamuelHustovisics
09-23-2005, 04:39 PM
Also, for westerners/semis, no matter what stance (open, close, semi-open, etc.), on the forward swing make sure your hips trunks, shoulders and elbow rotate ahead of the racquets to get the snap. Your wrist shouldn't snap to generate added power but rather snap in a way to supinate in order to position the racq. face for ball contact and immediately at or just after contact, pronate to aid in a smooth follow-through.

cadfael_tex
09-23-2005, 04:45 PM
Dakels. I thinking we're both saying the same thing from opposite ends. I'm not saying that you should always slice either. If you can hit a 'normal' shot then do it, I was just saying that if you are taken back or as in the original post pinned by a 'better' opponent then slice will at least get you back into the point. Of course, as I say this, my footwork is so poor coming back I haven't had much opportunity to bring back my heavier topspin shots and have been reverting to the very flat traditional strokes I learned way back when.

dakels
09-23-2005, 07:32 PM
cadfael_tex: Agreed I was just clarifying my point.

I am getting my form back as well and my footwork is really sloppy. One thing I work on is staying on my toes and overdoing my footwork a bit to get off my heels. A good footwork drill is also to have a friend toss balls to you while at net. I do this with my students to help their footwork. Have someone toss balls in either direction randomly making you step and reach for every ball. Helps get you back on your toes and get your lateral movement back. You also probably know this but taking those little steps before your last plant and hit always make a big difference. I see alot of people break down in this area where they end up taking big lazy leaps at a shot and not do the small final steps to prep.

Of course good prep allowing a driving topspin doesn't come from just footwork, its also ball prediction, anticipation, and solid mechanics driving through a ball. Things which will come back to you of course as you shake that rust. Still, it all starts with your feet. I hope you don't revert though to flat shots you don't want to hit. Stick with it, maybe get someone to feed you some baskets to help work it out again.

MackSamuelHustovisics
09-23-2005, 08:36 PM
cadfael_tex: Agreed I was just clarifying my point.

I am getting my form back as well and my footwork is really sloppy. One thing I work on is staying on my toes and overdoing my footwork a bit to get off my heels. A good footwork drill is also to have a friend toss balls to you while at net. I do this with my students to help their footwork. Have someone toss balls in either direction randomly making you step and reach for every ball. Helps get you back on your toes and get your lateral movement back. You also probably know this but taking those little steps before your last plant and hit always make a big difference. I see alot of people break down in this area where they end up taking big lazy leaps at a shot and not do the small final steps to prep.

Of course good prep allowing a driving topspin doesn't come from just footwork, its also ball prediction, anticipation, and solid mechanics driving through a ball. Things which will come back to you of course as you shake that rust. Still, it all starts with your feet. I hope you don't revert though to flat shots you don't want to hit. Stick with it, maybe get someone to feed you some baskets to help work it out again.

Yes, feetwork is important as with the other factors. I think it should be on the top of the list, as far as physical movements to develop into becoming second nature for a player. People do over-think footwork sometimes and forget the other mechanics. Good way to get in a habit of working on footwork development without getting in the way of over-thinking is, when you are about to swing, make sure your toes are pointing towards the ball as comfortably as you're able to. This will ensure proper balance and that you're not stepping across/out of the perpendicular ball to contact point plane. If you catch yourself with toes point away then you know that your step(s) and cross step(s), that got you in that position, are off.

ie: The swing path that enables maximum usage of the ball's kinetic energy falls in the 180 degree horizontal plane, directly into the ball. Obviously, that's not always the ideal path since on certain shots, you want to redirect the ball into a different target area and sometimes when you are chasing a ball, you can't line up since you're reaching out. So the more acute the angle to that 180 degree path, the more energy.

callitout
09-24-2005, 06:58 AM
Very well said already. Level matters a lot here. If you are 4.5 or better agree wtih taking time away from your opponent, hitting on rise coming to net etc. If you are 4.0 or below and you do that youll make more errors than you create. At 4.0 or lower chances are he's hoping youll make an error rather than attempting to work his way in to finish the point. So focus more on chipping back and lobbing him or passing him.

mxchickmagnet68
09-24-2005, 07:58 AM
I am a western griping heavy top-spin hitter and I actually prefer the low balls. I can get very low and stand up as I hit to create that much more topsipn. Its the above the shoulder balls I can't handle. I would say work his backhand, up high espically. Also western gripers tend to be chasers more than attackers. I find balls that are hit directly to me are harder to hit than when i'm on the run.