Flat forehand vs Topspin forehand

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by BCTennis, Apr 27, 2013.

  1. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    Hi all,
    I am a NTRP 4.5 junior player, and I am at a stage where I need to start develop a real weapon on the forehand wing. Right now, I have a topspin forehand, and I can rip the ball flat when its the right time. I am usually happy with this forehand, until a few days ago when I found out that I hit flat forehands really well (I'm talking Agassi or Cilic flat). So as a result, I started experimenting the flat forehand, and I absolutely love it. However, with the flat forehand, I struggle greatly trying to hit a good solid cross court shot. Whereas with topspin, I have great precision and good targeting.

    So for all the experienced players out there, I have a question:
    Is flat forehand still viable in today's spin dominated game? If so, what are the benefits of switching to a flat forehand. If not, why is the topspin better?

    Please share some of your advice with me.

    Thank you
     
    #1
  2. travlerajm

    travlerajm Hall of Fame

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    To get to the next level, it would be wise to keep practicing both forehands.

    For example, when you play outdoors on a windy day, you really need both. You need the topspin forehand when the wind is at your back (since the flat one will be tough to keep in play), but you'll need the flat one when you're hitting against the wind, because the topspin one won't penetrate enough and will die and be a weak sitter.

    At the same time, stay aware of what shots you are best at. Whatever your go-to style of shot is, that's the one you can rely on at the tight part of a match.

    One useful exercise is to rent a ball machine and keep track of your error percentage hitting different types of shots. You may find that the flat one is more error prone because there is less net clearance? Or you may find that the flat one is more reliable because you shank less? Maybe the most reliable shot lies in between? Find your most reliable trajectory and practice that one the most - that's the one that will ultimately become your best weapon.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2013
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  3. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    Why would anyone only have one way to hit a forehand?

    Any decent player should be able to hit graduations of spin from flat to heavy topspin with varying amounts of sidespin added and a usable slice forehand as a specialty shot.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2013
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  4. tommyfr

    tommyfr Rookie

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    Basic rule: When contact is lower than netcord, hit topsspin. When contact with incoming ball is higher than netcord, hit topspin or flat.
     
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  5. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    The spin on pro level forehands is not just topspin. There can be a large component of side spin too. The bounce of the ball can also get kind of crazy with all of the side spin, like a kick serve. I saw this big time at Indian Wells a few months ago. So spin is an important offensive component to pro quality shots. I think the heavy spin also makes the lack of spin on a flatter shot more effective because it's yet another way the ball can bounce that your opponent will have to deal with, and it will tend to happen fast.

    Of course the topspin helps you to hit bigger with more margin in all situations.

    Players that play with less spin can also be streaky. Some days it's just going to be hard to get those flat bombs to stay in.

    Ultimately the mix of flat and spin is up to you and the style you want to develop, but I'd be cautious about going almost all flat. On good days it might be great, but how many bad days are there going to be?
     
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  6. Topspin Shot

    Topspin Shot Legend

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  7. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    Hi,

    Great points! I Appreciate your comment.
    I hit both topspin and flat, but I would really like to focus on one to develop. I get your point, but I was wondering if forehands like Agassi's is still a threat nowadays versus the topspin hitters.

    I might just stick to having both as you pointed out some great advice.

    Thanks
     
    #7
  8. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    I am an advanced junior player who is able to hit both. I get your point, but I am wondering which one I should hit for most shots. I like driving through the ball flat and deep, but I do topspin equally well. Thus I have a dilemma as to which I should mainly build as my weapon.

    Thanks for your comment
     
    #8
  9. cgwhitey99

    cgwhitey99 New User

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    i think i may be echoing what people have already said but if you were going to look for a consistent yet dangerous forehand i would look to develop your topspin forehand more. for the simple fact that the margin for error (versus a flat forehand) is slightly larger. if you can learn to hit heavy topspin on the forehand consistently then that can cause a real problem, especially for juniors to have to deal with as the height of the ball is a huge factor. if you can hit variations of spin (side and top as stated in previous posts) it can force your opponent to misshit or misjudge the ball. thats when i'd go to the flat forehand to close the point out. or you could be like rafa......just topspin them to death!
     
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  10. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    The best way to approach this imo is based on where you are in the court.

    When at the baseline and behind, you should be working at least a solid topspin
    with a net clearance such that you NEVER hit into net (almost anyway :))
    but staying aggressive with your swing.
    When stepping inside the BL into the mid ct area, you can look to flatten it out a
    bit and be more attacking, along with using less net clearance.
    Take a look at using this info along with what Rkelly mentioned and that should
    help you get an idea of what you should intend to do.

    The idea is that from the BL and back, you should be grinding and working your
    opponent. Thinking you can hit winners from back there is a sucker strategy, as
    while it will work at times with weaker opponents, it will NEVER work well against
    a tough opponent...never. You have to have the discipline to learn to use the ct
    intelligently, even when a weaker opponent doesn't force you to. A good opponent
    always will force you to.

    I'm working with my 3rd child as he develops his game. I learned when bringing my
    1st son thru Jrs, to have them not finish too early against the weaker jrs, because it
    taught bad habits. Against the weaker players, you can just overwhelm them with
    pace, but after 2-3 rds of doing that you face another player in the semi's, who has
    no problem with pace and forces you to earn your points with more than power.
    By forcing yourself to hit 1-2 rally shots before attacking each point in all matches, it keeps
    you in better rhythm and habits for how to build points before you try to attack/finish.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2013
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  11. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Hardly anybody hits pure flat shots any more.
     
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  12. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    watch how the likes of janowicz, rosol, berdych, Fed play. flat fh as the major building block of your game is still viable at any level but you can't be a baseliner. if you can become a competent all court player with good anticipation, reflex, volleys, and approach shots, flat fh can work. as you believe having a main shot that defines your playing style is very important so good luck.

    but it better be a spectacular shot.
     
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  13. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    Hi,

    Great, great advice. I especially like the fact that you pointed out the real mistakes that juniors make. I understand the concepts a lot better now. Thanks!!
     
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  14. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    True, and thats why I think it would be unique and a nice twist.
     
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  15. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    All great points. Only reason Rafa beats people with topspin is because he is lefty... Nadal even spins his attacking approach shots... To be honest I dont like it...:)

    But yes I get your point, thanks for the advice
     
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  16. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    Hi rkelly,

    Thank you for the great detailed explanation. You completely read my playing style. On a good day, I can wreck the top player in my league, but on a bad day, I lose confidence and my forehand plummets. My inconsistency with the forehand is what caused me to seriously think about developing a "real" forehand. I originally wanted pure spin or pure flat, but after reading your comment, I saw the benefit of a hybrid forehand.

    By the way, my attacking inside out forehand has side spin that curls out the ad court, which you kind of talked about:)

    Thank you
     
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  17. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    I like finishing at the net and charging up the court. I lack the amazing endurance and grinding power that other top juniors have, but in terms of explosiveness, I am pretty solid. This has led me to develop a net charging game, but i am also competent at the baseline.
     
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  18. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    sounds like a flat fh could fit your style. continue to refine your game patterns to be more versatile against all sorts of opponents. I have dedicated a fair amount of time to improve a flat fh. if you need any help let the board know. I would be glad to discuss things on flat fh. which grip do you use?
     
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  19. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    I use a semi western grip, and I have considered switching to a eastern. But I am a short person so I find the eastern too hard for me. With semi western, I hit similarly to the likes of Cilic or Tomic (not as unorthodox as him, but on the same track) Could you tell me how to hit a neutral flat forehand crosscourt? Its one thing I struggle with.

    Thanks
     
    #19
  20. Radicalized

    Radicalized Semi-Pro

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    You should be able to produce variations in angle, arc, and spin. You can choose to hit whatever, based on whether you are in an offensive or defensive position, based on the position of the opponent, based on the opponent's strengths and weaknesses, and what you may do to end or construct a point.

    You hit what all of this dictates. Shot selection is more than specific categories. There are many shades to bemuse, befuddle, and destroy your opponent.


    Your issue hitting a good cross-court shot may be due simply to bad body position. For example, when you try to hit one, examine the relationship of your arm angle to the midpoint of your body and your stance. Adjust as necessary. It is difficult to play armchair coach, but start with determining if you are in the correct anatomical position to hit a shot with enough force to make a flat shot a "weapon." Compare to your standard shot for your swing type.
     
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  21. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    as a general rule for a flatter shot, prepare the racquet farther out to the right side of your torso, open up the stance more than neutral, contact at a higher point (closer to shoulder), and swing flatter. I'd consider Djokovic fh to be good to copy. how do you struggle with a neutral flat CC fh? what's the problem?
     
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  22. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    You're welcome.

    The thing I didn't really talk about in my post was that the basic form of your forehand should be the same whether you hit it flatter or with more spin. You still have the unit turn, pat the dog, rip up and across. You can control the amount of up and across which is where the top and side spin come from.

    With regards to side spin, it's more than a special thing that players put on the ball for certain shots. When I was at Indian Wells, and when I hit with better players, balls often have a side spin component. Sometimes the balls kick back the other way when they bounce. I was standing behind Nadal at Indian Wells (fan access there is incredible) watching him hit and not surprisingly his balls were bouncing and kicking all over the place. I was actually close enough to pretend that I was on the court. All of the spin makes it hard to know where to set-up because the ball can kick enough in an unexpected way (at least to me) that it pulls the ball out of your ideal strike zone. You can still hit it, but you don't quite get the rip on it you want. Once you serve up that weaker ball, you're in trouble. Obviously Nadal's hitting partner could anticipate the bounces better than I could, but it still had an effect.

    Same when I watched Fed and Haas play (again I was right behind them - couldn't be any closer and not be on the court). Both of those guys are hitting a ton of spin on just about every shot along with all of the pace. There were very few "rip it flat" balls.
     
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  23. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    I am able to hit offensive flat forehands crosscourt with good control, but if I want to buy myself time and hit a neutral shot, i often hit it short.
     
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  24. boramiNYC

    boramiNYC Hall of Fame

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    compared to offensive shot is the stance any different? like a little more closed for example?
     
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  25. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    I will check that when I get on the court. Im not sure
     
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  26. comeback

    comeback Hall of Fame

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    When i hit a topspin forehand i bend my elbow back, pet the dog and WW finish . When hitting a flat forehand i do not bend it. Just straight takeback ala Connors/McEnroe and follow thru straight around
     
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  27. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Yeah, regardless of grip ( I use strong SW), if you simplify your backswing and make it more direct like Soderling or Everts), your shot goes flatter and faster more often.
    The big loopy preswing just adds to topspin and less pace.
    BUT, consider.... for match tennis, a loopy height controlled CC forehand is the best, because it dips low after passing the net, opening more court for you to ANGLE, and it's really tough to volley that ball. A fast hit CC is usually a loser against a good net player, while against a backcourt player...he's covering your CC shots already.
     
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  28. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

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    True about the cc forehand. I find spin dippers cc very effective, while ripping past a good volleyer doesnt work.
     
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  29. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    flat is more about trajectory than spin these days.
     
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  30. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    yes, even "flat" hitters like sharapova hit with like 1500 RPM of Topspin or so.
     
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  31. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Yea, I don't think I ever try to hit a flat ball. Just variations of spin and trajectory.
     
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  32. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Yes, I googled Agassi who was considered a great "flat" hitter. If memory is correct, his average FH RPM was a bit over 1,800. Berdych is a more recent "flat" hitter and his FH RPM was a bit over 2,000. With advanced skills, great athleticism, modern rackets and strings; almost all the pros have high RPM on FH.
     
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  33. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    Great post, which is the norm for you...
     
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  34. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    the Problem is the swingspeed due to the modern Rackets and swing technique.

    pros swing their groundies at 60-70 mph and if you swing the racket at that Speed you can't Keep the ball in without at least a decent amount of spin. it is not so much about the spin itself but about pulling the ball back into the ground before it flies Long.
     
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  35. TCF

    TCF Hall of Fame

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    Exactly. We use a swing speed radar so the juniors can quantify their swing speeds. If they hit 60 mph, they are ripping it. (swing speeds of even 50 mph are very good for younger juniors).

    And the spin comes naturally. Even girls who hit very hard and pretty flat adjust. Common sense tells them that if their hard, flat shots are going long, add some more topspin.
     
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  36. justRick

    justRick New User

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    As I see it, the range of spin is, slice/flat/topspin/extreme-topspin. In my book, a flat ball is easy to predict, judge, and hit. With a slice, you need to avoid hitting into the net, with topspin, the opposite is true. This is especially true with the serve. I rarely hit a flat ball. I try to alternate between slice and topspin because it's harder on my opponent.
     
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  37. TnsGuru

    TnsGuru Rookie

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    When you think of the flat, hard hitters of this generation like Cilic for example, when he is "on" he is unbeatable like when he won at the U.S Open in 2014. But look at his consistency over the last couple years. Streaks of good play from time to time but you don't know which Cilic will be playing on any given day because hard hitters tend to live/die by their power alone.

    IMO, I believe this guy doesn't have a plan B when his flat ball isn't working. Djokovic/Murray on the contrary, are capable of hitting a bigger and flatter balls when necessary and is usually set up with a solid rally ball first and foremost.

    Sounds like you have the variety and the capability to hit flat when needed but a well placed/solid rally ball will help (Agassi backhand for example). Don't rely on hitting through your opponents with flat shots because some guys like to use your power against you. I hear more complaints from players who play against topspin players vs flat hitters.
     
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  38. Attila_the_gorilla

    Attila_the_gorilla Hall of Fame

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    It also depends on the surface. Slow courts don't give good value for taking risks in terms of pace and depth.
    But on quicker and lower bouncing courts, you can get great value out of pace if you're having a good day.
    Even your racket can determine what kind of shots work better for you.
     
    #38
  39. Babolad

    Babolad New User

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    I think variety of the forehand is largely overlooked. An advanced player should be able to adapt their forehand in any way, flat, topspin and everything in between. If you always hit the same way, then your opponent will always know what to expect. If you use varying degrees of spin, pace, height, depth, you can really throw off your opponent's rhythm. Also you need to adjust your forehand accordingly to the bounce and situation. The same exact stroke isn't going to work against every type of ball.
     
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  40. xFullCourtTenniSx

    xFullCourtTenniSx Hall of Fame

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    Topspin is for playing the point (moving the guy around and not missing). Flat(ter) is for change ups and ending points. Agassi flat isn't actually that flat, it's just the trajectory is aggressive rather than safe. Having a forehand weapon isn't so much about how hard you can hit it, but how well you can use it. But it helps to be able RELIABLY to end points (favorably) with it from more areas of the court than the other guy. Try just aiming lower over the net and hitting the same topspin shot, but hitting through the ball more than lifting it. Basically, you just use the topspin for control.

    The end goal is to have an aggressive forehand, a rally forehand, and a defensive forehand. (Flat-ish about 1-2 feet over the net, topspin drive about 2-3 feet over the net, heavy topspin 3-5 feet over the net.)
     
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  41. Crocodile

    Crocodile Professional

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    Unless you play most of your tennis on low bouncing fast playing grass or synthetic grass I would spend more time perfecting your topspin shot because what you want to do is to hit a ball that will rise up at your opponents shoulder. This nullifies their ability to hurt you with their return and puts you in control of the point. You can still flaten out forehand in situations where you want to take time away from your opponent, but to be honest in most rallying situations (particularly in the men's game but also women's now) your opponents will find flat balls hit at their waist height very comfortable to attack.
     
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