Recognizing Spin

After losing to Mr. Parker 2 and 1

The “easy shot” to return is the regular bounce, mid-court, to your forehand.  But what about when you get one of those “funky” bounces because of the spin put on the ball?

Be Aware

It is surprising to me how some players are unaware of the spin on the ball as it comes over the net towards them; and then are not prepared when the ball is not where they thought it would be.  There are two keys for me: first, is the trajectory of your opponent’s racquet when they strike the ball and the second is the sound the ball makes coming off their strings.

To be successful in handling the next shot, I believe you need to stay on the balls of your feet and be ready to move to where the spin takes the ball.

Some Examples

  • Jimmy Parker’s underhanded serve – an effective surprise weapon of this multiple gold ball winner not only comes over the net very short in the box, but it usually has significant side spin on the ball.  So you have to not only run in, but sideways as well.

  • Willy Hoffmann’s underspin backhand – if you have played any serious ping pong/table tennis, you know the impact your opponent’s spin can have on your racquet face.  The same holds true vs. an opponent like Willy when he dramatically undercuts the ball and you are trying to volley it back.  You have to take into account the effect the spin will have on your racquet face.

  • Miss-Hit Backspin – Perhaps the most difficult one to spot is your opponent’s miss hit which lands in the short court; but when you set up to hit it, the backspin brings it a foot or two closer to the net.

Warn Your Partner?

This is a question to which I do not know the best answer… if you are playing doubles and the miss hit, with big backspin is coming to your partner, should you yell to them “Watch the spin!” or will that end up being more distracting than the spin itself?

What do you think of that and handling spin in general?

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9 thoughts on “Recognizing Spin

  1. Only if you are as nutty as I would you be inclined to study up on this subject via this cool, free software. Have taken most of this stuff out on the practice court and have proven, to my own satisfaction, at least, that it holds up in the real world.

    BTW, when the tennis ball kicks sideways – as with droppers and kick serves – it’s not due to the “side” spin – around the “y” axis – but rather due to the spin around the “z” axis – the one around which a football pass spins. Rod Cross has labeled it “gyrospin”, after first having called it “spiral spin”. One of his books, along with co-author Crawford Lindsey, _Technical Tennis_ covers all this. Tiny little book, but explains all you’d want to know about why tennis balls act the way they do.

    … and how can i talk about spin without mentioning Kevin Bryant, The King of Spin!? (i am not sure i can figure out that Tennis Warehouse tool) thanks, george

  2. If watching the ball coming off the racquet (I know, a concept I don’t do as regularly as I would like), one can see the ball has spin. Getting in a position earlier to hit it allows me to react more quickly, i.e. moving my feet to adjust to the awkward “off” bounce of the ball. When I don’t set up earlier I’m lunging at the ball.

    Howie, “watching the ball”? What a weird concept! thanks, george

  3. When exploring the topic of spin there is a definite need from an historic perspective to recognize the immortal practitioner of the art of tennis ball gyration the legendary Homer Shoop!
    An amazing talent, Mr. Shoop by his personal appearance gave no tell that might reveal the devious pleasure that he took in torturing his opponents and with the help of his regular doubles partner Gardner Mulloy he won some matches and had a lot of fun!

    Terry, i confess to not being familiar with Mr. Shoop. george

  4. The master of the spin is Mansour Bahrami, an Iranian – French professional tennis player. I have seen him return hard serves with an undercut spin that after passing over the net, returned to his own side of the court. Even if one is coming to net after the serve, it is impossible to get to the ball in time.

    I loved watching him and his tricks! Saw him live in Naples. thanks, george

  5. george, you got 3 games off of Jimmy Parker….that’s awesome!….and I back Howie’s astute (as usual) observation, “keep your eye on the ball”!

    Scoot, and i played as well as i could play! thanks, george

  6. The only way to figure the tool out is to play with it. Forget the different racquets. Just compare the flight paths of the red ball versus the yellow ball when one parameter is changed. It’s fun!

    The big takeaways include the fact that both swing path and racquet face angle affect the trajectory, but *tiny* changes in the racquet face angle have outsized effects on the trajectory.

    Another is that the spin on the incoming ball has a surprisingly large effect on the outgoing trajectory. Can’t tell you how many guys have looked at their strings in astonishment after having driven an incoming shot that has a “more than usual” amount of underspin on it into the bottom of the net. 🙂

    Kevin, and i am one of them! thanks, george

  7. Oh, and that underhand serve thing reminds me! Have had the pleasure of playing against Lornie Kuhl a couple of times recently. He hit the *backhand* version of that serve against me once. I recognized it almost immediately and took off for it, but it landed *so* short, and kicked *so* hard sideways that I didn’t come *close to getting to it. 🙂 One of the coolest shots I’ve ever seen on a tennis court.

  8. Spin is one of the most versatile weapons you can bring to the tennis court. With new racquet technology and the emphasis on power, spin helps you control the ball, dictate the pace of play and add variety to your shots.
    I believe that a player should strive to practice various strokes using spin. One of the biggest advantages of spin shots is that they can force your opponents to hit shots they don’t like. Whether applying spin to serves, ground strokes, volleys, approach shots, lobs, or drop shots, it enables a player to attack and defend against certain players. The value of spin is to change pace and cause the opponent to error. Underspin (slice )especially, can buy a player more time to get into the net. Training oneself to pick up cues of your opponent’s racquet and body movement will help with your anticipation of spin and will get you to the ball faster. You can get more spin by using:
    1) A larger-head racquet
    2) An open string pattern
    3) Lower string tensions
    4) A thin-gauge string
    5) String savers
    In conclusion, as a player ages, he/she must face the fact that tennis becomes more of a mental chess game where you win with your wits, spin, lobs and dink placements.

    Glenn, good points from the “spinner’s” perspective. thanks, george

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