Dealing with fast, low balls

I play against a couple of athletic guys with a great sense for the ball who do not follow the conventional wisdom of spinny, 6 feet above the net rallies.

Instead, they play fast balls, with some spin and barely flying over the net.

I usually find myself having to catch and hit back the balls coming below my hip or right above my knees. I find it harder to impart top spin on these.

My question/request for advice is:

- any tips on how to deal with these net skimming balls?

- any tips on how to make it for my opponent to hit those in the first place?
 

MoxMonkey

Rookie
I hit with a guy that hits hard and flat. Being that I hit with him fairly often I've gotten used to it.

For myself initially it showed how poor my preparation was in dealing with the heat.

Do you know that drill where you audibly say "forehand" or "backhand" as soon as you pick up where the ball is heading and what stroke you want to use? I practiced several times doing that drill(I still do it). That helped me a ton with the faster paced shots. It got me turning/preparing/tracking my shot sooner, and that allowed me to be in a position to put a good stroke on it way more often than before.

The fastballs slow down quite a bit when I put myself in a position to hit them.
 

socallefty

Legend
- Take back very early so that you have enough time to counter the fast balls.
- Bend your knee to start your swing lower.
- Take a step forward if possible with bent knee to contact the ball earlier and get your body weight forward.
- Exaggerate your follow through and finish high.

I find it easier to hit topspin off flatter or low-spin balls than heavy spin balls as I don’t have to counter-act the ball’s spin first before putting my own spin on it. I can change angles easier on flat balls too as long as I prepare early and have enough time to put a good swing on it.
 

FuzzyYellowBalls

Professional
Drop feed yourself 75 balls at knee heights.
Raise and lower after those 75.
Practice makes better.
My backhand can produce the low flat ball (I'm not the athletic type, but played since I was 5 years old, anyway...), the highest difficulty shot if you already have trouble with these balls is to try and swing at them, drop feeding won't simulate a hard fast ball going into you or toward you, it will be too easy to hit a drop feed and you can't rerun that simulation in a match against your skid ballers. At best you could get a ball machine going hard and fast from way behind the baseline and practice......blocking the ball back.

- Take back very early so that you have enough time to counter the fast balls.
- Bend your knee to start your swing lower.
- Take a step forward if possible with bent knee to contact the ball earlier and get your body weight forward.
- Exaggerate your follow through and finish high.

I find it easier to hit topspin off flatter or low-spin balls than heavy spin balls as I don’t have to counter-act the ball’s spin first before putting my own spin on it. I can change angles easier on flat balls too as long as I prepare early and have enough time to put a good swing on it.
I would counter by saying don't try to swing at them, swipe, slice , block it back.

The following advice works extremely well against one kind of flatballer, the kind that waits for the ball to fall...fall.....fall.....then swooshes in before it hits the court a second time, if they aren't that type you might need to think about it some more, but usually that's what I've seen.

The strat is hit the ball where it bounces near their feet, make them hit the ball on the rise because a skimballer has a very small margin of error and also if you can hit a ball that is near the baseline kicking up at them it helps. In a perfect world I would follow that kind of ball into the net and drop shot volley their low skidder.

You can also hit with sidespin, but still deep into the court slices if they already barely skim the net make them adjust.

If you have the skill you can also half volley and follow it in.
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
I play a guy who is the Jimmy Connors of our club. If he gets five revolutions from baseline to baseline, that's a heavy topspin shot for him. He also skims the net so closely that you can't believe he can continue to play with such small margins but he does, again and again and again, and often hits some incredibly sharp angles with his shots as well. When this guy is on, he's competitive with the best 60 year age groupers, but when he's off, he can litter the stats sheet with unforced errors.

Because he hits with such velocity and minimal spin, the ball trajectory is really flat so the ball comes off the court more like an underspin shot than a normal groundstroke. So other than being a foot or so further behind the baseline, that's how I think about hitting his shots and it works well. I don't have much of an issue putting significant topspin on the shots if they are at or above mid-shin level. Below that and I just take some speed off the shot to give more margin for error.

As for preventing him from hitting those shots, chest high or higher shots will usually get me a more tradition underspin shot, even off the forehand. Because he uses a straightforward eastern on both forehand and backhand, he has a tougher time coming over a high ball do he tends to hit either straight through it or with a slight downward trajectory, but both with less ball speed than if I put the ball in his slot, which is from knee to rib-cage height, with medium pace on the ball. The other thing I try to do is to put him deeper in the court with something high-bouncing, then come back at him with something shorter and off to the side. His lack of topspin capability means he can't hit these as hard so I have a decent chance of putting him on the defense with my next shot, but if I sit that short shot up, you give him a chance to hit a safe ball that I can't reach.

Both the high bouncing shots and hitting deep then short are really both attempts to get him out of rhythm, since low-margin-of-error players like that rely more than normal on feeling on time and in rhythm. Anything you can do to disrupt that will help.
 

MoxMonkey

Rookie
This morning I hit with another guy thats hitting these slight underspin flat hard shots.

When he connects with the ball around shoulder height, he often swings in a way that could described as a hard slap, the kind of swing I've seen women and kids do at higher balls that aren't too high paced.

But when a horse of a man does the same shot it's got a lot heat to it, and tends to skid somewhat. That skidding made it difficult to time/track and put a good stroke on it.

I bet if it was outside the ball would bit into the ground, lost some pace, and kicked up a little, making it more 'normal'. But on that fast indoor court it was a challenge. I hope I hit with him again soon, I'd like more exposure to that.
 

WildVolley

Legend
Against flatter hitting players you can either 1) prepare earlier or 2) shorten your backswing for the timing, or 3) do both these things. These balls are more difficult to hit topspin on so you have to get lower which is going to put some strain on your legs. Think about how some WTA players drop down to get below the ball.

If you're late, using a block or slice shot is the best way to stay in the point. Try to stay calm and get decent contact on the ball.

You need to experiment with changing spin and net clearance to see what sort of shot your opponent has difficulty with. I play one flat hitting player who hits hard balls that skid across the hard courts. If I hit heavy topspin balls with decent pace, I find he becomes inconsistent with shoulder high balls. While he blasts some winners, they're more than offset by balls into the net or long.

Of course, some flat hitting players love the high ball and some love lower impact, so you've got to be aware of the percentages you're seeing as you play.
 

RobS

Rookie
Keep the ball deep and out of the middle of the court. The flat hitter has options from the middle of the court. From the corners, anything but cross court becomes low percentage for the flat hitter. The low net clearance ball will also land shorter in court. If you read it properly, that gives you the opportunity to step in, take away their time and redirect. The flat baller is supplying the pace so you can shorten up you swing but don't fall into the temptation to block it back unless you are on the defensive. Shorten the take back but complete your forward swing to put some spin and shape on the ball so you can control it. The flat baller will eventually give away points if you limit their higher percentage options.
 

Slicerman

Semi-Pro
You need to keep your balance lower to the ground to handle those type of shots. Be prepared to bend your knees lower than usual.

Tactically, try hitting back a ball with more lift, and see how they handle a high ball. Also try hitting some low flat balls as well and see how they handle low balls.

I think against a flat hitter you might need to maintain more crosscourt exchanges. It's super risky to change direction against a low flat ball.
 

MyFearHand

Rookie
Get lower and keep a wide base. On higher balls you can get away with being more upright, but when the ball is coming low and hard you need to be well balanced and engaging your larger muscles in order to get the ball up and over the net.
 

srimes

Rookie
Above knee height is no problem for hitting topspin, unless you have an extreme grip.
Flat balls are easier to hit cleanly as there's minimal vertical action going on.
It's typically easiest to return like-for-like: hit hard and low off hard and low shots, high spin off of high spin.

Frankly, it sounds like you're pretty new to tennis. It takes time to adjust whenever you get exposed to a type of ball you aren't used to seeing. The best way to get used to it is experience. Play them as much as you can and get a feel for it.
 

HuusHould

Professional
I tried practicing this against the wall by standing back (say the equivalent of a couple of feet behind the baseline) and hitting the ball really hard into the wall below net height (say halfway up the net), then responding on the second bounce. This simulates a fast paced low trajectory shot. This helped my timing against old school conti grip fh players that rush me with flat raking drives.

As far as making it difficult for them to hit in the first place, if you can work on an elevated loopy response to this type of shot or possibly a heavily sliced one. Anything lacking pace or out of the strike zone (generally above is preferable), should make it difficult for them. But its important that you also develop your ability to go toe to toe with them and use the pace they're giving to you against them. That's another way to discourage it.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
I play against a couple of athletic guys with a great sense for the ball who do not follow the conventional wisdom of spinny, 6 feet above the net rallies.

Instead, they play fast balls, with some spin and barely flying over the net.

I usually find myself having to catch and hit back the balls coming below my hip or right above my knees. I find it harder to impart top spin on these.
Every ball I face from my opponents is like that. I live in the world of low bounces (sea level, heavy cool air).

1) Get low
2) Learn to slice
3) keep the ball low for them as well.
4) hit more CC to encourage them to try that low flat stuff over the high part of the net for a winner.
 

Devil_dog

Hall of Fame
I stay low, take a shorter backswing and hit thru the ball. Whenever I try to slice the low, flat balls I typically end up popping up the shot which gives my opponent another opportunity to take a big cut at me.
 

Steady Eddy

Legend
I'm curious as to the type of court you were playing on. When I started most of the hard courts were cement. They never got resurfaced, either. So they became very smooth and the ball would slide a bit, and stay low. I didn't like playing on them.

More and more they got replaced by asphalt courts, where they give it a rough texture so the ball doesn't slide so much. So it's not just how someone hits, the court has a big effect too.
 

ubercat

Professional
New to tennis!

Nup. @MoxMonkey described it perfectly. Fast and skidding. There's plenty of these x squash players around. Very grateful to the detailed posters here I will try and apply some of this stuff.

I've got a couple of them in my comp that I have mighty battles with and just about always lose. And I've been playing tennis for 30 years.

The problem I have with them is that they just about always get depth and pace or it goes really short. The obvious play is take the net but I don't have that play. I don't have good eyesight play at night under lights and my net game was always non-existent anyway.
 
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