Overemphasis on Topspin?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by marcl65, Mar 28, 2006.

  1. marcl65

    marcl65 Semi-Pro

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    I thought someone here (Marius?) once posted an article about the overemphasis instructors are placing on topspin but I couldn't find it. As you can imagine, searching for "topspin" will generate about 10,000 threads. Anyway, that's all I seem to hear nowadays: topspin, topspin, topspin. I've read articles that downplay just about everything else: slice (backspin), sidespin, flat, et al but not topspin. It's like there is *no* other shot to make.

    I use an eastern forehand grip, which is not the best grip for generating topspin and used to hit primarily flat shots. But the more I play the more I'm constantly being told, "try this (SW) grip, you'll get more topspin." Well, since I've been trying to get more topspin I'm hitting worse. And I notice that the players I hit with, who like to constantly hit with topspin, hit into the net...a lot.

    This week is my first time working solo with a pro to get some help on my game and the last thing I want to do is spend an hour working on topspin when I have a myriad of other problems I need help on. Should I just accept that topspin is an indespensible part of today's game i.e. you can't play today without it?

    P.S. If whomever posted that link can repost it here, I'd be much obliged.
     
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  2. AndyP

    AndyP New User

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    All I know is top spin allows you to be more consistent, because you can hit a shot 4 feet over the net and it will still drop in. If you do that with a flat shot it will go out.
     
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  3. lucky leprechaun

    lucky leprechaun Semi-Pro

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    Everybody hits topspin, near flat people like connors I don't think is a good model to copy against today's racquets and style. But if you're talking about western grip topspin that doesn't have to be for everybody. If you're a physically weaker player and can't generate much a swing, you'd just be asking for it hitting weak topspin sitters that lands short. Better to develop a flatter penetrating game in that case.
     
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  4. nkhera1

    nkhera1 Rookie

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    Doesn't Federer use a lot of topspin?
     
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  5. matchpoint

    matchpoint Rookie

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    Topspin is a more superior stroke, it allows you to be able to hit the ball harder and not worry about the ball sailing long compared to flat and underspin. It is also an offensive shot in the sense that the ball kicks high, this is very effective if it is directed to a receivers backhand because high balls on the backhand side are very hard to return.

    You can still play recreational tennis without it but I have never seen a pro not hit a topspin.
     
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  6. donnyz89

    donnyz89 Hall of Fame

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    top spin is the new thing. I really cant imagine playing without it. it allows much more room for error, more depth, more height. easier to direct the ball. sure, you might give up some penetration, but I can live with out it.
     
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  7. Rickson

    Rickson G.O.A.T.

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    Topspin is definitely overrated. I mix in some topspin on the forehand side, but when I want to crush a ball, I hit flat bombs because a loopy topspin shot just doesn't have a lot of pace. Topspin is nice if you want to get good net clearance, but it's definitely not the best kind of shot to use when you want winners.
     
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  8. donnyz89

    donnyz89 Hall of Fame

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    I agree with not using topspin when hitting a winner. however, when out of position, it can keep you in the point. when hitting an approach shot, it jumps up more and gives you more time to go to the net. in a normal rally, it gives you more net clearance like I previously stated. so its definitly a shot everyone should be able to hit and hit well. people can live without a flat bomb, but without top spin in today's fast paced game, you will be in a lot of pain.
     
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  9. GeorgeLucas

    GeorgeLucas Banned

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    I think that topspin is an essential part of just about anyone's game of tennis. Because most shots aren't perfectly placed for winners (some low, too high, etc...) we need to have enough topspin to keep the ball in play yet not deliver a sitter. Topspin can also be used on no-pace shots. Instead of generating tons of pace, try a super-topspin shot. It throws oppenents off alot... Practice topspin. It's worth it.
     
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  10. Slazenger

    Slazenger Professional

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    There's a difference between loopy, almost moonballs shots and heavy topspin with pace shots.
    If you've played against a western gripper who gets A LOT of action on the ball you'll know what I mean. They can generate some nasty balls that can bounce shoulder high and jump at you with great velocity. Makes it difficult to control the ball.

    If you can hit flat shots consistently go for it.
    The reality, however, is that topspin allows for more consistency while hitting harder.
    A mishit flat shot is more likely to sail than a mishit topspin shot.
    Not to mention it's easier to develop a groove off flat shots.
     
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  11. thejackal

    thejackal Hall of Fame

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    Let's put it this way, unless when you play indoors, no one has ever lost a point by hitting the ball too high over the net.
     
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  12. joe sch

    joe sch Hall of Fame

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    Not true. High trajectories will be destroyed by advanced players. Ofcourse any ball high enought to overhead will be put away. Other high trajectories are invitations to be volley at midcourt. Topspin gives retrievers more time to hit replies, especially with higher trajectories. Flat blasts are the best way to hit winners. The eastern grip with good stroking mechanics and proper footwork is an awesome combination in tennnis !
     
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  13. nViATi

    nViATi Hall of Fame

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    #13
  14. bcaz

    bcaz Professional

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    Topspin is a good thing, but addictive. It doesn't hurt to have a variety of shots and spins. BTW, you can produce plenty of topspin with eastern grips. My preferred forehand grip is semi-western, but if you can hit top well with eastern it can help you with transition shots and volleys. Pete Sampras is the best example.
     
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  15. mucat

    mucat Hall of Fame

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    you want to hit the ball DEEP, regardless of spin. If you are hitting relatively flat, reliable and deep, there is nothing wrong. Usually, you want to have just enough amount of topspin in your normal groundstrokes to keep the ball in and DEEP, a little low to high action will do.

    I use eastern grip too, but I have heard and over-heard people comment how heavy my FH is. However, I am not delusional to think my eastern grip topspin is as heavy as a full-western, but it is pretty compareable to SW tospin. So heavy topspin is possible with eastern grip.

    Using any grip, if you can hit the ball DEEP with pace (did I mention DEEP?), it is always good. If a SW or western grip user hit the ball shallow and bounce high? It will get murder by a flatten out shot. If a SW or western grip user like to hit high topspin shot? A good volleyer will destroy them.

    I am not saying those are bad grips, I am just saying every grip has pros and cons, and eastern grip is not bad also.
     
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  16. AngeloDS

    AngeloDS Hall of Fame

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    You really only see flat shots in Womens tennis especially in higher levels like Division I Womens Tennis. But in mens tennis you really don't see anyone hitting a true flat ball. Federer and Agassi while they look like they hit flat they do generate a lot of RPMs.

    Topspin is nice because it leaves a huge margin for error and allows you to do so much more in terms of angles, speed & pace, depth and other things. While slices don't have the same variety in terms of placement. Although, slices and underspin or sidespin are underrated. A lot of people don't use it, and it's a good thing to use. But it leaves you open if you don't do it correctly.

    If you slice incorrectly it will sit up and you will watch a ball fly past you. Technically you need to have the stroke correct and have incredible footwork; pretty much not be lazy.
     
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  17. paulfreda

    paulfreda Hall of Fame

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    I agree topspin is overrated.
    While a few can be successful playing just a flat game (which requires more accuracy), topspin to some degree is necessary for sure. But the modern game is raising the bar all the time and I doubt you can be top 20 without really good pace and placement in addtion to a solid foundation of consistency. This means hitting a flatter heavier ball like for example Blake or Ferrer and of course Roger.
     
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  18. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    It's only overrated... if

    Top spin is only overrated if your a very good player. Once you can hit with good topsin, flatten the ball out for winners and hit effective biting slices then you can say it's overrated.

    But if your with that huge group of 2.5 - 3.5 players a heavy topspin forehand would really improve your game (at least against the so called 3.5s) I have played.

    For whatever reason I tend to "naturally" shift towards a flatter eastern forehand and it's not that effective. I hit with some top spin but I can't load up on my forehand just pound every ball back using all my strength.

    That to me is what makes it so impressive at the pro level. When you watching those guys that's what so amazing. With almost all their swings they are smacking the crap out of the ball.

    I have to hold back to prevent the ball from sailing long. i would love to learn how to hit the heavy topspin forehand as I am a really big guy and I think I could hit some super heavy balls.

    Pete
     
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  19. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    Yeah, I'm with you here - at least to a certain extent.

    With todays racquets, topspin is extremely important to hit hard and keep it in. If you think pros aren't using topspin, and a lot of it, check again. Are good players using the slice and trying to tlatten out the ball, sure but they also are using a lot of topspin - just watch. Sometimes TV coverage is such that because of the angle of the camera (generally being up high) we just can't pick up the topspin on the ball. I would like to see the camera's lowered (some anyway) so the viewers could see it.
     
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  20. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    I am entirely in agreement with you. It's the basic stroke used on the tour. That's what I mean when I said is what is impressive is how guys just POUND the ball and keep it in. It's topsin that lets you do that.

    If your lucky enough to get to sit right near some pros you can see this pretty easily..

    So what I meant was for the guys who can hit a topspin kind of like a pro it might be overrated - since nearly all the pros can do so. Then being able to flatten it out and mix it up can help more. Since at high levels that variation can put you over the top. But the huge emphasis on top spin that you see from teaching pros and in magazines and such is a very good idea for the majority of players (2.5 - 3.5) guys, IMHO.

    A heavy topspin forehand gives someone a way to kind of "tap in" to their power even on a normal rally ball. A guy like Roddick is going to blow most mortals off the court. As a decent size guy he is able to put alot of his power into every single ball he hits.

    However Federer's ability to mix it up more gives him the edge in those pro matchups. I think Federer is much better at flattening out forehand winners then Andy is..

    Pete
     
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  21. kevhen

    kevhen Hall of Fame

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    If you play on grass then flat is better than topspin but on a slower surface then topspin is very effective. I also slice when approaching net and slice when on defense. It's cool to be able to control a variety of shots using different spins on both sides. Don't fall for the "topspin is all you need" mentality.
     
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  22. Caswell

    Caswell Semi-Pro

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    I have to agree that depth is more important.

    If hitting with topspin lets you hit out on the ball and drive it deep, great. If you're hitting a shot with moderate pace that lands on the service line, all that's going to happen is a big hitter is going to step into the baseline to cut off the angles, take the ball on the rise, and hit down on it.

    I hit a hard eastern forehand, and nothing suits me better than someone hitting a loopy topspin forehand that kicks up at me from the service line.
     
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  23. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I get a little early to the club before my matches, and watch the pros teaching juniors in the academy. The emphasis on top spin is unbelievable. All use W grip. There is only one mantra: high and deep with topspin. When I was a kid (I never played, just watched), control meant keeping the ball no more than 2 or 3 feet above the net. Anything more was derided as "badminton" or a sarcastic "this is such HIGH-LEVEL play". Today, it is about topspin with 6 to 10 feet net clearance. I look at the grips of these kids and the way they hit the ball "with the wrong side" of the racquet and I worry about their health in the future - most will not become pros or even get college scholarships, but wrist injury will hamper any kind of work you do.
     
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  24. vkartikv

    vkartikv Hall of Fame

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    Besides all the points that have been pointed out, I think it also encourages the youth of today to stay back. The continental grip is almost extinct except on the serve and hardly any kids I see out in the High school courts or even at my univ. are willing to approach the net. Even the ones that do are turned off by the quality of the shot they receive - loopy, topspinny shots that are not easy to put away...
     
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  25. marcl65

    marcl65 Semi-Pro

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    Okay, I read a lot about the advantages of topspin:
    Greater margin for error over the net
    Ability to hit harder without going out

    What about it's disadvantages?
    Easier for opponents to read because of the added height over the net?
    Can sit up if not hit correctly?
    Harder on the wrist?

    One of the things that's really impressive is the topspin that just barely clears the net before dipping into the court. These are impossible (for me) to get to and return. But I would imagine that these are even more difficult to pull off than a flat shot.


    How about the advantages for using the flat stroke (besides just mixing it up)?
    Easier on the wrist?
    Harder?
    Faster?
     
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  26. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    What you never heard of Bjorn Borg? Topspin works well on grass. It's not like their are some 'flat hitters" out there who dominate at Wimbeldon. Roger hits with a ton of topspin. Sure he mixes it up but his basic game is pretty topspin oriented.

    I play this guy who nowadays I can usually beat. He is a much better athlete then me and like 10 years younger. But he has big flat first serve he usually can't get in. And he has a huge flat forehand that is very hard to return when he hits it in. If he actually learned to use some topspin he would be a much better player.

    Pete
     
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  27. papa

    papa Hall of Fame

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    "wrong side of the racquet"??????? What are you talking about here?

    "6 to 10 feet" - I little excessive, don't you think?

    I really don't think the way they hit the ball will effect "their health in the future" if they hit the ball properly. There is nothing wrong with using the western grips are far as I'm concerned.
     
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  28. mislav

    mislav Semi-Pro

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    I was lucky enough to have my first coach teach me flat shots and old school game. The next one put all emphasis on top spin and (then) modern game. That's why I've always played with a variety of shots, grips, stances and whatnot. I like it that way - it gives a lot of beauty and diversity to my game. Also creates a lot of problems to some higher rated but one dimensional players I play against.

    Eighties and nineties were all about the newly discovered heavy top spin stroke advantage. I think it was at that time that title of this thread made sense.

    Nowadays the flat shots got re-incorporated into the game. We use the variety of shots and tennis has never been stronger.
     
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  29. texcoug

    texcoug Rookie

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    But if he added ts, the shots wouldn't be as effective. No question -- a flat bomb serve or fh is more difficult to handle, but I'll keep my spin and more consistency. I SELDOM even try a flat first serve anymore -- the risk/rewards just are not that great.
     
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  30. texcoug

    texcoug Rookie

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    How about this -- the greatest tennis player of all time? Pete Sampras, a flat baller.

    And, for those that say that Fed is a heavy ts player, I disagree. Nadal fits that description. Fed uses a mixture of shots -- all types -- and seems to be equally good at all of them.
     
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  31. Achillesg

    Achillesg New User

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    I get to see pros play on TV only. They all use topspin. Locally, I see several good Div. 1 NCAA teams. When the freshmen come in hitting (relatively) flat shots, they lose a lot. The coach works with them to get them to learn to hit deep with heavy topspin off of both wings and they start winning a lot more.

    Lansdorp says too much topspin in the junior ranks, and he may be right. I wouldn't start my kid off with a full Western grip. But I'm also not starting him off with a full Eastern grip.

    The women's game is a different animal. The shot is not the controlled violence of the men's shot. Topspin is not as important to the women because they can't hit as much of it.
     
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  32. Slazenger

    Slazenger Professional

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    How tall are you?
     
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  33. Slazenger

    Slazenger Professional

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    Why do people say Pete is/was a flat baller? Because he hit with and eastern FH grip?
    Pete hit with topspin people. Even on the backhand side and his BH grip was almost continental. Now as with any good player he could flatten his balls, but his rally ball wasn't flat out flat.
     
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  34. texcoug

    texcoug Rookie

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    5'10.
     
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  35. mislav

    mislav Semi-Pro

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    Back in the early eighties, eastern FH was a way to go for heavy top spin. At least that's what they taught me back then. I find it to be perfect for playing both spinned and flat balls - although, my grip is somewhere halfway between eastern and SW.

    I guess a lot of new players think how full western is the only way to go for a top spin...
     
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  36. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Sorry, misleading term. I meant the wrist action. Was thinking of something else - same face on both FH and BH, something like that.

    6 to 10 ft is what I heard them say. The ball bounces over the head of the kids and that is exactly what the pro is looking for.

    You are sure W grip does not put extra burden on the wrist? I am not talking big guys playing, more about small boys and girls.
     
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  37. Slazenger

    Slazenger Professional

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    The guy must have just been throwing out numbers. 6-10ft over the net is overhead or at least swinging volley territory.

    You don't have to hit the ball 6 ft over the net to get it to kick over a young kids head.
    I play a girl who is 5'4" and when I'm being mean I hit topspin shots that bounce just above her shoulder and these balls clear the net by at most 2 ft.
     
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  38. Andres

    Andres G.O.A.T.

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    Tell me about it. I'm "coaching" a 21 years old girl, who's excellent at ping pong, and has an enormous potential to become a great tennis player.

    Sometimes, I like to mess up with her reflexes at returning of serve. We tried to do interesting things, and have fun, not get bored.

    I tried a massive topspin serve... it has no real pace... it may be around 50 mph, but the kicking was so extreme than it bounced totally over her head, and she coulnd't do anything about it. And we got it on video, I'll post it tomorrow. It was hilarious :)
     
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  39. Pomeranian

    Pomeranian Semi-Pro

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    I believe there is too much emphasis on topspin. Unless you can generate a very heavy topspin, keep the ball deep, and consistant hit over the net well, then it's just a tool. I only know a few people who uses an extreme western grip very effectively. There is a difference between height and topspin, something people don't always get.

    There are some people who can hit a relatively low height over the net, and make the ball bounce up wildly. Unless you are one of those players and it's part of your game, attempting that much topspin isn't needed. Just keep it deep, and effective. I can't hit like those westerners very well but I can adjust how much topspin I need, in a defensive position or an offensive opportunity. To hit with that much topspin and still keep it in and deep, I would have to give the ball good height. I can hit great topspin lobs if I get time to set up.

    For those people who can't hit with so much topspin, don't worry about it. Overrated, attempting to hit with that much and falling short in topspin may just end up being easy sitters to your opponents. I use it as a tool to keep it in, so I can hit hard. You do need variety though, topspin is definately needed. Flat and loopy and everything in between. But extreme Nadal crazy zany topspin isn't needed.
     
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  40. forehander

    forehander New User

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    Seresh, I knew exactly what you meant by "the wrong side of the racket". Some radical grips get so "Western" that it almost looks like they could turn the racket over and hit more easily with the other side without changing their grip! I've noticed this especially with the girls. I do a little action photography and sometimes have to look twice at my pictures to determine which side of the racket is actually going to hit the ball.
     
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  41. glass

    glass Rookie

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    Jimmy didn't need it
     
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  42. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Well..

    I think we should distinguish between extreme topspin grips and guys who hit with topspin. I think if you got a chance to hit with most of the pros (or just satetllite players) you would think they all hit a pretty heavy ball - that is it has good pace and good to great topspin on their regular rally ball. As pros they can mix up the amount of spin/pace ratio.

    Now I have seen a few of guys who use an extreme Western grip but lack enough strength to make it work for them. That's what Lansdorp is talking about with juniors, IMHO. These guys hit a slower ball that lacks pace but has good spin. Some guys DO have enough power to make it work at the pro level though like the Spainards and Courier.

    Anyway this "problem" IMHO is like the so called "problem" with people who exercise too much. It gets alot more publiciity then it deserves. I think if you play more mediocre players you run into plenty of guys who could benefit from alot more topsin then you do guys who suffer from it. I don't think its overemphasized - just ask Oscar Wegner.

    I do think juniors who want to excel on hard courts would be better served not using extreme grips though. That's an entirely different issue though.

    Pete
     
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  43. marcl65

    marcl65 Semi-Pro

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    I guess what got me is that a lot of the people I play with tell me to change my grip from Eastern to SW-W to get more/better topspin. Yes, I can hit topspin using the Eastern but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s easier with the SW and I get more spin with the SW.

    But I like the Eastern grip for its versatility – as I understand it, SW-W are “specialty” grips and aren’t well suited to generating a flat or slice return or retrieving low balls - and I’ve got enough going through my head during play where I don’t want to add, “Okay, now switch to the Eastern/SW/Western/Hawaiian grip” a split second before I have to hit the ball. Sure, when I’m practicing with a ball machine, it’s easy. I just stand there with the SW grip and swing away. But when I’m in the middle of a game and where I’m reaching for a low ball, then running up for a volley…well, for me, it becomes a little more complicated. Plus, IIRC, the swing dynamics when using the different grips are a bit different – you have to meet the ball earlier or later depending on what grip you use. Again, that’s why I like the Eastern – versatile.

    So my question wasn’t really if topspin is really needed, but rather, do we really need a single-minded focus on it to the point where we change our grip or way of hitting to get the most topspin - to the detriment of other types of shots (i.e. slice, flat, etc).
     
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  44. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    I switched from an Eastern back to a semi-western (actually, in my teens I had a western) and my forehand is way better now. The biggest benefit, by far!, is that when I'm feeling tense, I can swing harder with top spin instead of choking up. My eastern forehand was deadly when I was "on." Not feeling pressure, perfect timing, happy to be alive, my eastern forehand was great. The other 95% of the time it was okay but against good players it could break down. In tight situations I wasn't completely confident with it. Now, I admit that part of that was psychological, but I don't necessarily make a big distinction between mind and body in tennis. In practice I could hit flat forehands all day but that doesn't really mean anything. Instead of a sports psychologist I just switched to a semi-western and I had the best year of my college career.
     
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  45. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    You have expressed perfectly in words what I could not.

    I have also seen junior girls use it the most.

    And while I don't take professional pictures, I have often looked at forehand stills of Roddick or Nadal, and wondered which side of the racquet was hitting the ball - in the early days, I thought they had missed the ball and it was behind them!

    I was once demonstrating to a non-tennis friend what grips are. When I showed him the Western, he said "Ouch"!

    I find myself using a slight semi western for topspin.
     
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  46. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Yeah. I can't seem to make this switch 100%. I know it's holding me back some and I hate it. I just seem to 'gravitate" back towards the eastern grip. I guess old habits die hard.
     
    #46
  47. rocket

    rocket Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    May 23, 2005
    Messages:
    1,538
    I guess since with the western grip, the elbow stays closer to the body, that makes it easier for girls to find power that way. Just look at the way women carry heavy shopping bags: elbows in, forearms out & horizontal, the bags dangling on those forearms...
     
    #47
  48. Slazenger

    Slazenger Professional

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,074
    People see pics of someone hitting with a western and think ouch or wrong side because they are associating a more eastern swing path with the western grip.
     
    #48

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