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View Full Version : Myth of "Heavy" Shot Explained - Part 3


jonolau
05-12-2006, 12:15 AM
**Article from www.tennisplayer.net by John Yandell (please contact John directly if you need more clarification and acknowledgements)**

Men's Topspin Backhands

Player: Type No. of Backhand RPM Range: Avg RPM:
Sergi Bruguera 2H 6 1667-3000rpm 2382rpm
Tomas Muster 1H 6 1500-3333rpm 2264rpm
Pete Sampras 1H 8 1875-2830rpm 2204rpm
Mark Philippousis 1H 3 1667-2419rpm 2029rpm
Andre Agassi 2H 14 790-2500rpm 1754rpm
Jim Courier 2H 4 1000-2143rpm 1606rpm
Petr Korda 1H 9 833-2727rpm 1553rpm
Michael Chang 2H 11 1154-2055rpm 1437rpm
Todd Martin 2H 1 1304rpm 1304rpm
Marcelo Rios 2H 2 833-1765rpm 1299rpm
Tim Henman 1H 1 1250rpm 1250rpm

Like Agassi, Hingis had balanced spins on both sides, but lower total rates than most other women.

Women's Backhands

Many women also showed substantial decreases in the amount of topspin hit on the backhand, compared to the forehand. Venus Williams hit the most spin of the women studied, at 1429rpm, but this was also significantly less, about a third less spin, than on her forehand. Anna Kournikova was even more extreme. Her backhands averaged 999rpm, about 60% less spin than her forehand at 1713rpm.

On the women's side, however, there were more players with equal spin rates on both sides. Lindsay Davenport averaged 1332rpm on the backhand, versus 1346rpm on the forehand. Monica Seles was only slightly higher on the backhand at 1321rpm compared to her forehand at 1215rpm. Martina Hingis backhand averaged 1147rpm, which exactly equalled her forehand statistical average.

Women's Topspin Backhands

Player: Type No. of Backhand RPM Range: Avg RPM:
Venus Williams 2H 8 1000-1875rpm 1429rpm
Lindsay Davenport 2H 5 882-1875rpm 1332rpm
Monica Seles 2H 9 938-2143rpm 1321rpm
Mary Pierce 2H 4 938-1875rpm 1316rpm
Arantxa Sanchez-V. 2H 2 938-1500rpm 1219rpm
Martina Hingis 2H 15 600-1667rpm 1147rpm
Anna Kournikova 2H 8 535-1500rpm 999rpm
Mary Jo Fernandez 2H 10 375-1304rpm 790rpm


The spin rates on underspin backhands were generally higher than the topspin versions.
Underspin Backhands

Most of the top players we filmed, both men and women, drove the ball with topspin on their backhands whenever possible. However, players employed slice or underspin in various situations, for defense, or for approach shots to keep the ball low when going to the net.

Physicist Howard Brody has pointed out that generating slice requires only about half the racket head speed compared to hitting topspin, because the player is not required to change the direction in which the ball is spinning. The oncoming ball bounces off the court with topspin, spinning from top to bottom as it comes toward the player. When a player returns the ball with a slice shot the direction in which the ball spins around the axis of rotation is maintained. The direction of the shot changes, but the ball continues to spin from top to bottom, from the player's perspective as it moves away from the player.

For this reason, it was not surprising to find that in general players hit their slice backhands with more outgoing spin than their topspin backhands. The topspin range for the men's players was 1250rpm to 2382rpm, while the slice shots for 10 different players averaged from 2127rpm to 3244rpm.

On the men's side, Jim Courier for example, hit 2 slice shots that averaged 3244rpm, more than twice the spin of his 2-handed topspin, which averaged 1606rpm. Michael Chang was a similar case. We measured 3 Chang slice backhands that averaged 2813rpm, again roughly twice the spin as on his two-handed topspin shot.

Men's Underspin Backhands

Player: No. of Backhand RPM Range: Avg RPM:
Jim Courier 2 3000-3488rpm 3244rpm
Michael Chang 3 2586-3125rpm 2813rpm
Todd Martin 2 2500-3000rpm 2750rpm
Andre Agassi 1 2727rpm 2727rpm
Sergi Bruguera 1 2726rpm 2726rpm
Mark Philippousis 3 2143-3333rpm 2659rpm
Tim Henman 6 1579-3000rpm 2398rpm
Tomas Muster 2 1875-2830rpm 2353rpm
Petr Korda 7 2143-2500rpm 2320rpm
Pete Sampras 3 1500-2500rpm 2127rpm

On the women's side we were able to record fewer examples, but the results were consistent with the men's. Possibly because of the reduced racket head speed required, the women seemed capable of generating as much slice as the men players. Jana Novotna, known for her one-handed slice backhand, recorded the highest underspin rate of any player, with two hits that averaged 3375rpm. 3 other slice backhands recorded by 3 different players averaged 2298rpm. This was more than a third more spin than the topspin backhands hit by Venus Williams, who led the women with an average of 1429rpm when she hit with topspin.

Women's Underspin Backhands

Player: No. of Backhand RPM Range: Avg RPM:
Jana Novotna 2 3000-3750rpm 3375rpm
Irena Spirlea 1 2727rpm 2727rpm
Monica Seles 1 (2H) 2500rpm 2500rpm
Mary Jo Fernandez 1 1667rpm 1667rpm


Sampras had the highest combination of speed and spin--around 120mph and over 2500rpm.
The Men's Serve

Even more than the groundstrokes, the serve is often described in terms of spin as being hit "flat" or with "topspin" or "slice". Our study shows that the only meaningful use of these terms is a relative one. There is no such thing as a "flat serve" in tennis. On the first serve, most players that we studied generated more spin than on either of their groundstrokes, and the second serve yielded the highest spin rates in the game.

The lowest average spin rates on the first serve were 1600-1700rpm. Michael Chang, for example, hit 7 first serves with an average speed of 112mph and and an average spin rate of 1677rpm. 8 of the 10 men studied averaged well spin of well over 2000rpm on their first serves.

Pete Sampras, known for having one of the best serves in pro tennis, hit 11 first serves with an average radar gun velocity of 120mph and and an average spin rate of 2699rpm, easily the highest combination of ball spin and ball speed tested.

Men's First Serve


Player: No. of Serves: Avg MPH: RPM Range: Avg RPM:
Marcelo Rios 2 92mph 3000-3333rpm 3167rpm
Jim Courier 6 108mph 2500-4054rpm 2842rpm
Todd Martin 7 98mph 1667-3947rpm 2798rpm
Tomas Muster 8 105mph 1667-4284rpm 2754rpm
Pete Sampras 11 120mph 2100-4260rpm 2699rpm
Petr Korda 7 101mph 1579-3750rpm 2688rpm
Andre Agassi 9 102mph 1200-4284rpm 2449rpm
Mark Philippousis 3 123mph 1765-2830rpm 2198rpm
Michael Chang 7 112mph 1000-3750rpm 1677rpm
Tim Henman 2 120mph 1429-1667rpm 1548rpm

The Combination of Speed and Spin

We determined from our ball speed study that on a serve hit at 120mph, it takes roughly 2/3's of a second for the ball to travel from the server's racket to the racket of the returner. This means that a typical Sampras serve turned over about 30 times in the fraction of a second it takes to travel across the length of the court!

Sampras's ability to generate both velocity and spin on his first serve may explain his ability to serve with such great consistency and effectiveness, particularly under pressure. (See the Sampras Serve series. Click Here.)

Petr Korda and Tomas Muster, for example, generated averaged roughly the same amount of spin as Sampras on their first serves, ie, 2600 to 2700rpm, but each averaged speeds of only slightly more than 100mph. In our data, Michael Chang's personal highest first serve velocity was 122mph, but the spin rate on this serve was only 1071rpm, well less than half of the spin Sampras achieved on serves of similar speed. Andre Agassi's fastest recorded serve was 121mph and this serve came the closest to flat of any serve studied spinning at less than 300rpms.



Spin on the Second Serve

The fastest spinning shot in pro tennis was the second serve. Average spin rates on the second serves among the men all exceeded even the average spin rate of Sergi Bruguera's forehand (3351rpm), ranging from a low of 3370rpm for Todd Martin to a high of 4650rpm for Andre Agassi.

Sampras Second Serve

Sampras's average second serve spin rate (4623rpm) was nearly identical to Agassi's. However, he achieved more than 10mph in additional second serve velocity, averaging 85mph, compared to Agassi's 74mph. As with his first serve, Sampras's ability to generate both spin and speed on the second serve is a probable key in understanding his overall serving effectiveness.

Men's Second Serve

Player: No. of Serves: Avg MPH: RPM Range: Avg RPM:
Andre Agassi 9 74mph 4054-4998rpm 4650rpm
Tim Henman 2 85mph 4284-4998rpm 4641rpm
Pete Sampras 4 85mph 3900-5357rpm 4623rpm
Tomas Muster 2 71mph 3750-4998rpm 4374rpm
Mark Philippousis 4 99mph 2830-4546rpm 4018rpm
Petr Korda 3 88mph 3750-4284rpm 4017rpm
Michael Chang 10 77mph 3125-4284rpm 3928rpm
Jim Courier 4 91mph 3571-4167rpm 3810rpm
Todd Martin 10 89mph 3000-4284rpm 3370rpm

** End of Part 3 **