What's superior, the fast ball or the heavy ball?

Service Ace

Hall of Fame
I've recently switched from gut to hyrbid and at first the change was cumbersome but now I've gotten used to it and I love the added access to spin, especially on kick serves. I don't have a hitting partner because I've recently moved out to LA and can't find a partner for the life of me, so I've become a ball machine junky. That's why I ask.

I can see the difference between my gut balls and my hybrid ones (the hybrids have less pace but more often get stuck or go straight through the fence). I'm just curious, for people who have hit against both, which they have a harder time dealing with, as I want to know if I should stick with the heavier shots from hybrid or go back to the faster, harder shots of gut? I use a semi-western if that matters.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
It depends on the type of player you are. Shotmakers/winner hitters want a light fast ball while someone like me who prefers to bully the other player around prefers a heavier ball.

I would rather force an error than hit a winner. I would rather hit an unreturnable than an ace.

J
 

10ispro

Rookie
a heavy ball forces your opponent to do twice as much movement. When hit a heavy ball should travel at least 4-5 feet over the net, bounce deep enough in the court that on a typical size court, it would bounce at least 5 feet up on the back fence.

in order to effectively return a heavy ball, your opponent must either move forward to take it on the rise or move back and take it on the descend. either decision forces more movement than simply moving laterally to receive the ball which is the case with flatter balls.
 

Service Ace

Hall of Fame
See, I was worried about that. My shots typically only go a coupled of feet over the net tops and tend to hit the fence 3 or 4 feet up. I figured I would have to switch to western to make the most out of it (which isn't going to happen), but there is still certain allure to knowing how much the ball is spinning compared to how I it feels coming off of gut. Still, sounds like I'm more a player made out for gut.
 

WildVolley

Legend
If we're using the topspin definition of the heavy ball, I'd argue you should make it your goal to have it as your rally ball. The heavy topspin is going to mean you hit long far less often, and that's important.

I still think it is useful to be able to flatten a ball out some when you're in a good position on the court. But work on the heavy ball as a safe but aggressive rally shot.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
a heavy ball forces your opponent to do twice as much movement. When hit a heavy ball should travel at least 4-5 feet over the net, bounce deep enough in the court that on a typical size court, it would bounce at least 5 feet up on the back fence.
Ball weight isn't so much about trajectory. You can hit a light looping topspin ball that will clear the net by 5 feet and bounce up 5 feet on the back fence or a heavy bullet that clears the net by a foot.

It is the combination of pace and spin, trajectory has little to do with it.

J
 

wihamilton

Hall of Fame
I dunno if you can really answer this question... it depends on a number of factors. For example, on a clay court I'd rather hit a heavy ball, assuming that means lots of topspin. On a faster surface like grass I'd generally want more pace. Nadal's heavy groundies are why he thrives on clay but sometimes struggles on faster surfaces. Another important factor his how well your opponent deals w/either shot. Etc. Etc.
 

WildVolley

Legend
I dunno if you can really answer this question... it depends on a number of factors. For example, on a clay court I'd rather hit a heavy ball, assuming that means lots of topspin. On a faster surface like grass I'd generally want more pace. Nadal's heavy groundies are why he thrives on clay but sometimes struggles on faster surfaces. Another important factor his how well your opponent deals w/either shot. Etc. Etc.
What about the intermediate level player? In my limited experience, most intermediate players either dink to keep from hitting long or hit a high number of their hard shots out.

Having the ability to hit a heavy ball as a rally ball really helps an intermediate player advance in my opinion.
 

10ispro

Rookie
Ball weight isn't so much about trajectory. You can hit a light looping topspin ball that will clear the net by 5 feet and bounce up 5 feet on the back fence or a heavy bullet that clears the net by a foot.

It is the combination of pace and spin, trajectory has little to do with it.

J
actually in technical terms, a "heavy ball" is a ball with a trajectory of at least 4-5 feet over the net, with enough topspin and pace that when it lands it bounces at least 5 feet up on the back fence.
It should be hit with full racquet head speed as an aggressive shot to challenge your opponent with their movement and contact zone adjustment comfort.
http://www.tennisone.com/club/lessons/waters/progression5/heavy.php


but to answer the specific question--each shot has its place. when to hit each will be dictated by the situation, opponent, conditions etc...too many variables to say which is superior--b/c neither are superior yet both are superior--just depends on when and why its being hit.
 
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wihamilton

Hall of Fame
What about the intermediate level player? In my limited experience, most intermediate players either dink to keep from hitting long or hit a high number of their hard shots out.

Having the ability to hit a heavy ball as a rally ball really helps an intermediate player advance in my opinion.
Perhaps. You might be equating hitting a heavy ball with being consistent. If this is the case, I agree. Consistency, on any level, is paramount. But this is especially true at the intermediate level. The player who misses the least wins the overwhelming majority of the time.
 

seb85

Rookie
I'm with Jollyroger on this. I'm not so sure that the definition you're quoting is one that is accepted accross the board. Surely 'heavy' is how the ball feels when the opponent hits it?

I have no doubt that looping a ball 4-5 feet over the net with masses of topspin creates a heavy feeling ball, but i think there are other ways to achieve it.

Basically it isn't possible for the ball to get physically heavier so 'heaviness' must be dictated by how fast the ball is going when it hits the opponent's raquet compared to how fast the opponent was expecting it to be travelling, based on its in flight speed.

With this in mind, it is easy to see how a fast, low trajectory ball with masses of topspin could be the 'heaviest' shot possible.

Seb
 

10ispro

Rookie
I'm with Jollyroger on this. I'm not so sure that the definition you're quoting is one that is accepted accross the board. Surely 'heavy' is how the ball feels when the opponent hits it?

I have no doubt that looping a ball 4-5 feet over the net with masses of topspin creates a heavy feeling ball, but i think there are other ways to achieve it.

Basically it isn't possible for the ball to get physically heavier so 'heaviness' must be dictated by how fast the ball is going when it hits the opponent's raquet compared to how fast the opponent was expecting it to be travelling, based on its in flight speed.

With this in mind, it is easy to see how a fast, low trajectory ball with masses of topspin could be the 'heaviest' shot possible.

Seb

Nadal is the epitome of a heavy ball hitter, look at the trajectory of the majority of his shots and most frequently where his opponents are returning them from.
no where did I say that a heavy ball should be hit as a slow loopy shot, but a heavy ball is drastically different from a drive. a drive has a much lower trajectory than a loop ball, an angle ball and a heavy ball.
A Loop ball has less pace than a heavy ball.

B/c one of the perquisites of a heavy ball is alot of topspin, it must be hit with full acceleration, meaning the finish will typically be over the hip or around the waist. B/c of the swing path for the shot, net clearance becomes critical, and also the intent and purpose of a heavy ball makes net clearance majority priority.

a low trajectory ball driven hard will not be the same and have the same result and intent as a true heavy ball.

anyone can disagree for whatever reasons they want, but at least understand the correct terminology.
 

Bud

Bionic Poster
Heavy Ball - Definition Debate

Nadal is the epitome of a heavy ball hitter, look at the trajectory of the majority of his shots and most frequently where his opponents are returning them from.
no where did I say that a heavy ball should be hit as a slow loopy shot, but a heavy ball is drastically different from a drive. a drive has a much lower trajectory than a loop ball, an angle ball and a heavy ball.
A Loop ball has less pace than a heavy ball.

B/c one of the perquisites of a heavy ball is alot of topspin, it must be hit with full acceleration, meaning the finish will typically be over the hip or around the waist. B/c of the swing path for the shot, net clearance becomes critical, and also the intent and purpose of a heavy ball makes net clearance majority priority.

a low trajectory ball driven hard will not be the same and have the same result and intent as a true heavy ball.

anyone can disagree for whatever reasons they want, but at least understand the correct terminology.
After reading and researching this topic, lately... I agree with you.

The whole purpose of the 'heavy ball' is to deliver a ball that is deep within the court, has good pace, bounces high, and quickly races toward the rear fence after court contact.

A ball that is hit with heavy topspin and pace and clears the net by a smidgen will also feel heavy but won't be in a hitting zone (shoulder height) that is uncomfortable to the opponent.
 

mucat

Hall of Fame
On the other hand, Lindsay Davenport is also known to produce heavy ball.

Someone had tried to explain the feeling behind heavy ball. The reason is, with the combination of massive spin and pace, the ball just bounce off the court faster than expected, also the bounce trajectory might be unexpected too. So, it is very difficult to contact the ball at the sweetspot of the racket, hence the heavy ball.
 

Rickson

G.O.A.T.
A ball that comes at you with blazing speed is tougher to handle than a very spinny ball that's not so fast. Personally, I'd like a good helping of both spin and speed, but more in the speed department.
 

Service Ace

Hall of Fame
While my balls definitely have less speed, they aren't meatballs or anything. But the selling point for me is that I'm able to put them through the fence, something I haven't been able to do since switching from a 110 to a 95. I also disagree with trajectory having anything to do with it because some of the heaviest balls hit come from super slice forehands. They pick up so much pace off the ground and stay so low, they're virtually impossible to return.
 

mucat

Hall of Fame
While my balls definitely have less speed, they aren't meatballs or anything. But the selling point for me is that I'm able to put them through the fence, something I haven't been able to do since switching from a 110 to a 95. I also disagree with trajectory having anything to do with it because some of the heaviest balls hit come from super slice forehands. They pick up so much pace off the ground and stay so low, they're virtually impossible to return.
Got to love those heavy slices. It is painful to play against and it is funny to watch.
 

wihamilton

Hall of Fame
I think the Federer - Sampras match tonight goes to show that the surface is so important in determining whether you want to hit with heavy spin or flatten it out. Nadal would have gotten killed by either opponent because the court was ridiculously fast. It rewarded an attacking style / would punish his more conservative, "keep the ball in" style of play (yes, yes, somewhat of a simplification of Nadal's game, but I think it's safe to say he does not have the offensive firepower of the other two).

Now, if Nadal played either of these guys on clay it might be a different story :). At the risk of sounding redundant, neither shot is superior in a vacuum -- it's the situation that determines which is a better option.
 
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