Aim higher!

PJYelton

New User
I am a 3.0 player and I hear or see this advice a lot, especially when it comes to hitting topspin. Basically aim higher and give yourself more margin for error and net clearance but what they don't say is the best way to accomplish this. Does it mean to open the racket face up slightly more or does it mean to change the swing path slightly more upward? And if its to open the face, is that a slight twisting of the wrist, twisting of the whole forearm, or changing the grip?
 

Purestriker

Rookie
I am a 3.0 player and I hear or see this advice a lot, especially when it comes to hitting topspin. Basically aim higher and give yourself more margin for error and net clearance but what they don't say is the best way to accomplish this. Does it mean to open the racket face up slightly more or does it mean to change the swing path slightly more upward? And if its to open the face, is that a slight twisting of the wrist, twisting of the whole forearm, or changing the grip?
I would suggest getting a lesson from a teaching professional. That way you don't pick up any bad habits (ex. too much wrist = bad habit).
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
Racket face should be perpendicular to ground or very slightly closed at contact for topspin. So don't open up your racket face. That will produce slice. You need to hit the ball from below and have faster upward pull.
 

golden chicken

Hall of Fame
Racket face should be perpendicular to ground or very slightly closed at contact for topspin. So don't open up your racket face. That will produce slice. You need to hit the ball from below and have faster upward pull.
Racket face should be slightly closed relative to swing path. So if, to use an extreme example, your swing path is completely vertical, your racket face can be "open" but you will still generate topspin.

A great example of this is on the swinging volley. It is often struck with an open racket face and an exaggerated low to high swing path. But a close examination will reveal that the racket face is closed relative to the swing path.
 
I am a 3.0 player and I hear or see this advice a lot, especially when it comes to hitting topspin. Basically aim higher and give yourself more margin for error and net clearance but what they don't say is the best way to accomplish this. Does it mean to open the racket face up slightly more or does it mean to change the swing path slightly more upward? And if its to open the face, is that a slight twisting of the wrist, twisting of the whole forearm, or changing the grip?
How about for starters just adjusting the swing path and see where that leads you? That seems to be a lot less complicated than messing with the racquet face angle.
 

Joe Garfield

Semi-Pro
Aim with your shoulders, just like every other shot. If you load your back leg, drive forward and up, make forward contact and have a little racquet lag you naturally put the racquet on an upward swing plane without having to change anything. Then you're also putting the most power into the shot. If it's a high ball, your shoulders naturally level out, which is great because you don't need to aim as high. If it's a low shot your shoulders naturally open up.

You don't want to be aiming for height with wrist position (opening the racquet face) since that causes muscles to activate and you can't have a relaxed wrist. Adjust "low to high" swing plane to control how much spin you want.
 

PJYelton

New User
Ok thanks! And just to clarify, not necessarily looking for advice on topspin, just more the simplest recommended changes to make to vary the height on my ball. So basically if I hit a pure flat shot and someone said to aim higher, what should I change between my racket and/or my swing? That video from Ryan is exactly the issue I run into, recommendations to hit higher without saying the best way for a beginner like me to actually accomplish it other than just use more topspin. Seems like such a simple idea but there are so many ways I could change my swing to hit higher and I'm sure some are good and some are bad habits I don't want to incorporate.

I like the advice on the shoulders, will definitely try that out. And I was hoping it wasn't about changing racket face especially at the wrist since I have a hard enough time keeping relaxed there now, so happy to hear to not do that!
 

Dragy

Legend
So basically if I hit a pure flat shot and someone said to aim higher, what should I change between my racket and/or my swing?
If you hit a pure flat shot, first thing you should change is start shaping the ball with topspin. There’s literally zero place for pure flat shots in tennis - not just because they lack shape, but because of overall erratic nature (strings displace towards various, random directions instead of one same direction, hence launching balls randomly). Get at least moderate spin on all your shots.

When you get an advice to aim higher, approach it as two-step task. First - make the ball go higher. Once achieved, figure out how to bring it back down with spin. Don’t get stuck in mechanical visualization of what’s happening with the stringbed: you already know how to put topspin on the ball, don’t you? Put topspin on the ball while sending it high over the net, adjust until you get desired shape.
If you absolutely cannot, shank, send it way long - focus particularly on coming from below, as previously advised.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
Racket face should be slightly closed relative to swing path. So if, to use an extreme example, your swing path is completely vertical, your racket face can be "open" but you will still generate topspin.
I don't agree with the second sentence (I think it will lead to hitting the ball backwards) but leaving that aside, tell me about the first.

I have seen many claims on this forum about the racket face being perpendicular or slightly closed relative to the ground on all shots, yet I feel that I am able to hit shots with relative shallow swing path (a little more inclined than horizontal). If the racket faced is slightly closed relative to the swing path, would the ball not go straight down?

I have also seen claims that you can only choose ball impact point in the horizontal direction (inside vs outside vs square) but never above or below equator - it is always below equator, so there is nothing like "going over the ball."

Need some technical expert like @ChaelAZ or @SystemicAnomaly to chime in about "Racket face should be slightly closed - wrt swing path or absolutely wrt ground?"
 

Power Player

Talk Tennis Guru
I am a 3.0 player and I hear or see this advice a lot, especially when it comes to hitting topspin. Basically aim higher and give yourself more margin for error and net clearance but what they don't say is the best way to accomplish this. Does it mean to open the racket face up slightly more or does it mean to change the swing path slightly more upward? And if its to open the face, is that a slight twisting of the wrist, twisting of the whole forearm, or changing the grip?
It means to get under the ball more.

Which means, to drop the racquet head under the ball more, not open up the racquet face.
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
I don't agree with the second sentence (I think it will lead to hitting the ball backwards) but leaving that aside, tell me about the first.

I have seen many claims on this forum about the racket face being perpendicular or slightly closed relative to the ground on all shots, yet I feel that I am able to hit shots with relative shallow swing path (a little more inclined than horizontal). If the racket faced is slightly closed relative to the swing path, would the ball not go straight down?

I have also seen claims that you can only choose ball impact point in the horizontal direction (inside vs outside vs square) but never above or below equator - it is always below equator, so there is nothing like "going over the ball."

Need some technical expert like @ChaelAZ or @SystemicAnomaly to chime in about "Racket face should be slightly closed - wrt swing path or absolutely wrt ground?"
I am no expert, but in my observation racquet face can be flat or slightly closed and pocketing with strings grip can make spin and pace at least as well either way. You are talking milliseconds of dwell time so the idea of a "brushing" of the ball that rolls it for spin doesn't physically seem like a thing, or as big of thing as most people think.

Now, one of the biggest things I have noticed in my own swing and watching others at the rec level is opening the racquet face up at contact, or from trying to get under the ball. But again, I have seen slow mo pro footage where they do exactly that, with the racquet face flat, but the bottom edge coming forward on contact. However you can still see the pocketing and strings grab the ball for those few milliseconds and project it forward with spin, albeit at a higher launch angle.

Obviously if you have a low contact point on the string bed, and you also open the racquet face, the ball is going to launch up more and probably long or you get that funky shank topspin that you say was planned and call a high arching lob. If you close the racquet face thinking too much about angle and the ball contacts the string bed towards the top it will go down and clip the tape or dump in the net.

Basically it seems there is an acceptable amount of variance of the racquet face DEPENDING on swing path and the contact point on the string bed.

Don't know if that really addresses the topic as is being discussed.
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
I am a 3.0 player and I hear or see this advice a lot, especially when it comes to hitting topspin. Basically aim higher and give yourself more margin for error and net clearance but what they don't say is the best way to accomplish this. Does it mean to open the racket face up slightly more or does it mean to change the swing path slightly more upward? And if its to open the face, is that a slight twisting of the wrist, twisting of the whole forearm, or changing the grip?

The combination to me is all of what you think, swing path, racquet face, contact point, and ultimately how that effect the ball trajectory so you can aim up. I was watching this 4.0/4.5 match play yesterday and this is a good example of net clearance and margin of safety, though I think in some instances this amount of safety also reduces some offensive opportunities, so worth considering where the trade off is. I know for me, I need to learn from this kind of video more.

Note the swing path.

 

srimes

Rookie
Ok thanks! And just to clarify, not necessarily looking for advice on topspin, just more the simplest recommended changes to make to vary the height on my ball. So basically if I hit a pure flat shot and someone said to aim higher, what should I change between my racket and/or my swing? That video from Ryan is exactly the issue I run into, recommendations to hit higher without saying the best way for a beginner like me to actually accomplish it other than just use more topspin. Seems like such a simple idea but there are so many ways I could change my swing to hit higher and I'm sure some are good and some are bad habits I don't want to incorporate.

I like the advice on the shoulders, will definitely try that out. And I was hoping it wasn't about changing racket face especially at the wrist since I have a hard enough time keeping relaxed there now, so happy to hear to not do that!
Wow your simple question really highlights the limitations of this message board! I don't envy your task of wading through the contradictory responses.

The simple answer is that you have to control swing path and racket angle to make the ball do what you want. If you change one and not the other it will be a different type of shot (the spin will be different).
Swing path is primarily how I adjust aim for a given amount of spin, with no conscious thought going to racket face angle. To practice aiming higher, swing more low-to-high, and adjust racket angle until the result looks correct (similar spin as when hitting lower). Keep practicing that shot to get the feel for it.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
I am no expert, but in my observation racquet face can be flat or slightly closed and pocketing with strings grip can make spin and pace at least as well either way. You are talking milliseconds of dwell time so the idea of a "brushing" of the ball that rolls it for spin doesn't physically seem like a thing, or as big of thing as most people think.

Now, one of the biggest things I have noticed in my own swing and watching others at the rec level is opening the racquet face up at contact, or from trying to get under the ball. But again, I have seen slow mo pro footage where they do exactly that, with the racquet face flat, but the bottom edge coming forward on contact. However you can still see the pocketing and strings grab the ball for those few milliseconds and project it forward with spin, albeit at a higher launch angle.

Obviously if you have a low contact point on the string bed, and you also open the racquet face, the ball is going to launch up more and probably long or you get that funky shank topspin that you say was planned and call a high arching lob. If you close the racquet face thinking too much about angle and the ball contacts the string bed towards the top it will go down and clip the tape or dump in the net.

Basically it seems there is an acceptable amount of variance of the racquet face DEPENDING on swing path and the contact point on the string bed.

Don't know if that really addresses the topic as is being discussed.
No it doesn't. Question was very specific: racket face perpendicular or slightly closed at contact for topspin wrt GROUND OR RACKET SWING PATH?
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.
Ok thanks! And just to clarify, not necessarily looking for advice on topspin, just more the simplest recommended changes to make to vary the height on my ball. So basically if I hit a pure flat shot and someone said to aim higher, what should I change between my racket and/or my swing? That video from Ryan is exactly the issue I run into, recommendations to hit higher without saying the best way for a beginner like me to actually accomplish it other than just use more topspin. Seems like such a simple idea but there are so many ways I could change my swing to hit higher and I'm sure some are good and some are bad habits I don't want to incorporate.

I like the advice on the shoulders, will definitely try that out. And I was hoping it wasn't about changing racket face especially at the wrist since I have a hard enough time keeping relaxed there now, so happy to hear to not do that!
Although I'm not watching you hit a ball, I'd say try to approach it in terms of adjusting your swing. There's always a little voodoo going on with this issue because we're already using angular contact to hit a topspin shot. Angular contact means we're swinging somewhat across the path of the ball instead of more straight through it. The idea of trying to hit it higher can trick us into scooping under the ball to hit it more upward - that's a case of adjusting the racquet face too much instead of leaving it as is and tweaking the swing.

To avoid the idea of opening the racquet face to send the ball higher over the net, I sometimes try to think about relying on the friction of your strings dragging upward across the ball at contact to lift it a bit higher. That's just the image that works for me. The easy route to make that happen could be to set your racquet - finish your backswing - at a slightly lower elevation relative to the ball and then use your normal release and follow through. From there, it will have to be a little more of an upward sweep to get the strings up through the ball.

One caution with this idea: Don't focus on just altering the action of your arm for this. Change your body's positioning so that it's "set" a little lower relative to the ball. Nobody wants to put up with the drudgery that comes to mind when we hear the cue to "bend your knees", but you can make enough of that happen with your setup by focusing on something else. Get your hips below the ball as you set up. Try using this thought for your strokes and see if it coaxes you more toward getting yourself down where you can naturally sweep up through the ball for a better flight path.

Simply altering your swing path this way could click for you without any other adjustments, but you might also need to advance your contact point just a little further out in front of you to keep your topspin happening and avoid the scoopy-ness I mentioned above. This is a typical adjustment that players need to make as they adopt stronger grip positions with the racquet face less open, but they're usually also sweeping more upward through the ball when doing that - similar to what we're talking about here.
 

antony

Semi-Pro
I personally think it’s bad advice. This is how I see it. Aim where you want to send the ball, and just start doing that. Don’t aim higher without also thinking of where exactly you want the ball to land on the court. I think aiming higher, unless I’m trying to lob or something, is inefficient mental focus when I could be focusing on the holistic strike. My top spin comes not from aiming higher but from how much pace I want to hit the ball with to how deep I want it, and depending on the first two variables, top spin will be increased basically if I need the ball to descend more.
 
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Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
I don't ever think of "aim" as in height over the net. I think of Aim as in direction. Height over the net is adjusted by swing path and racket face angle more or less organically as it's always very dependent on your string tensions at the time you are playing. Especially if you have an open string pattern. Depth is adjusted through power generation as well as swing path.
 

zaph

Professional
The best advice I can give to a low level player is watch the ball, the vast majority don't watch the ball onto the racket and that is why they miss. It is also why they struggle against pushers and junkballers. They think they are looking at the ball but in reality they look away before making contact. They get away with this against players with predictable strokes but it doesn't work if the ball behaves in an usual way beause they make contact in the wrong place.

Watch the ball onto the racket and keep your head down (don't look up until the stroke is completed) and you will find your shot tolerance will shoot up.
 

eah123

Rookie
Making changes to your stroke is a matter of adjustment. Hitting higher over the net is something I need to constantly remind my junior girl (age 11). Goal is 4-10 feet over the net if hitting from the baseline, 1-4 feet over the net for the front half of no-mans land to the net.

When I say "hit higher", when it is done correctly, the racquet path is more vertical. No change to racquet face on contact.

If balls start sailing long but height over the net is good, I just say "more top spin". She adjusts by swinging faster (more racquet head speed). No change to racquet face on contact.

With the goal of a "high and heavy" top spin forehand, keep the racquet face constant, and only adjust racquet path and racquet head speed to achieve the correct height and depth.
 

RyanRF

Professional
Very generally I would say use swing path to get height over the net because this will also generate topspin.

However without seeing your current swing it's hard to say. I'd recommend a few lessons just to get you started on the correct path.
 

Joe Garfield

Semi-Pro
I think suggesting changes to someone's stroke without ever seeing their footwork or body position is wrong. Maybe the OP has shifted too far forward before contact, which brings the ball down. Maybe they're not in an athletic stance, offering no chance for their hips to drive the ball up. Maybe ball is too far forward at contact and they're lunging/reaching for it.
 
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