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  1. #1

    Flat and low verses topspin and looping.

    Can someone help me out here? I started playing tennis again after a lapse of a few years and have been back into it for about six months now. I attend a couple of courses and have a private lesson every week. I have been encouraged to play (and just about mastered) a topspin forehand and backhand where the ball travels high and deep and I hit it just inside the baseline nine times out of ten. I also have a fairly decent backhand slice and have been told I am of intermediate standard. So far so good. Now when I play people who also play with topspin I have a good competetive game and win regularly. But when I play anyone who hits the ball low and fast and flat I get my ass kicked every time. I either can't get to the ball in time or scoop it up or hit it with slice but every time my opponent then jumps on it and puts it away. I have tried different strategies like hitting the ball high and deep to their backhand with limited success but nothing really works.
    My question is - if this is so effective on me, wouldn't it be better for me to play that way as well and hit the ball low and flat all the time and save the topspin for the odd shot where it would be useful?
    My coach says to stick with the topspin. Any advice gratefully accepted.

  2. #2
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    welcome to the forum mal-j

    i believe everyone who has played tennis for some time will run into their nemesis at some point. players who hit low and flat normally don't make it far in the pros. Robin
    Soderling would be one exception along with several other even taller hitters like Del Potro and John Isner. with that in mind, i think it's fair to say that if this player is any shorter than 6 feet, eventually your safe, topspin shots will overcome his risky low clearance ones. a flat hitter loves high balls. remember how Del Potro was nailing Nadal's high bouncers with the precision and flatness of a laser? so if i were you, i would hit with a little less topspin. keep the low to high, but adjust your swing and movement to hit through the ball more. a flat hitter doesnt like long rallies. if you can go out there with a Nadal-like attitude, they will break down before you. lastly, try bending at the knees a little more and staying crouched to some degree throughout the shot.

    there are serveral tennis coaches as well as a former ATP pro on this forum that will likely give you a more experienced response. wish you luck

  3. #3
    Thanks for the advice. I will play with a little less topspin next time. Knowing myself though - and only being human - the first bit of success while hitting the ball flatter and I will probably end up going flatter and flatter and doing it all the time thinking that this is the way to go. Then I will try it against someone who hits with a lot of topspin and if it works against them I will be converted. I know you mean to hit it with just a bit less topspin but when you see balls come back that fast and low you end up thinking "why don't I do that?" I have tried the crouching thing but most of the time they come back that fast, and at an angle going away from me, that I am lucky if I can get behind the ball in the first place. I end up hitting most of them on the run. Unfortunately as well thiere isn't just one player who plays like this, there are two or three I come up against regularly and I haven't been able to take more than two games in a a set off any of them.
    I know it goes against the advice of more experienced players and coaches but when this happens to me I am sorely tempted to give up trying to follow what I should be doing and start banging flat balls down the court. Maybe I should give it a go and get it out of my system.

  4. #4
    I have same issue with a regular hitting partner/teammate. Although we are about same level against other players, his flat game beats my topspin game enough so that our scores are usually around 6-4 in his favor. Lately, I have slowly worked on hitting some flatter balls back to him. But, I know that my topspin game troubles enough other opponents that I have no plans to stop hitting 70% of my shots with topspin. I think it is helping me round out my skills by practicing all shots, i.e; topspin, slice, flat.

  5. #5
    Well I went out and tried the flat strokes in a match yesterday. First thing I noticed - it's not that easy to hit flat when you have been hitting with heavy topspin for so long. Also the semi-western grip isn't ideally suited. Ended up hitting the ball with a bit less topspin (as advised) and a bit lower over the net and kept it deep by hitting it harder. Had some success doing this but still lost although I played a lot better with most of the games going to deuce. Anyway after the match we had a knock up for about fifteen minutes and I tried to hit even flatter and changed my grip to an eastern. This got even more speed and as expected took a bit of getting used to to keep it in. But I have to say that it lead to some interesting rallies and it felt good belting away at the ball. Don't know if I am a convert but I enjoyed giving it a go. Probably best to have it as another string to my bow (obviously I need to practice it a hell of a lot more yet) but it would be useful to be able to hit both ways.
    Also I don't know if this is the best way to combat low and fast flat-hitters but if it makes for an interesting game I am up for it.
    If anyone else has any thoughts or advice please let me know and I will try it out.

  6. #6
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    I read somewhere that on the pro level, changing grip slightly to hit the shot with more authority is not uncommon. Plus it's a good way to mix up your shots. If somebody doesn't know what grip/style of game you have employed, they will spend the entire match predicting the bounce with less accuracy.

    Anyway, I hope that Coach or Tennis Angel (both tennis coaches) can give you more insight.

  7. #7
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    Experience trumps low and flat hitters as well as loopy high ball hitters...
    The cure (repost) is variety. You can choose to loop a flat hitter, but you gotta hit deep and high every time. You can choose to flatten out your shots, but you're playing into his game. You can choose extreme slice, like TommyHaas uses against other 7.0's, but you gotta be able to back it up with good retrieval skills and some passing shots. You can choose to forgoe his hard flat shots, by hitting short CC's and drop shots, but you better back it up with a preplanned lob over his backhand side or deep CC lobs.
    Plenty of answers, but you need to know them and how to implement them....and that comes from match experience.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeD View Post
    Experience trumps low and flat hitters as well as loopy high ball hitters...
    The cure (repost) is variety. You can choose to loop a flat hitter, but you gotta hit deep and high every time. You can choose to flatten out your shots, but you're playing into his game. You can choose extreme slice, like TommyHaas uses against other 7.0's, but you gotta be able to back it up with good retrieval skills and some passing shots. You can choose to forgoe his hard flat shots, by hitting short CC's and drop shots, but you better back it up with a preplanned lob over his backhand side or deep CC lobs.
    Plenty of answers, but you need to know them and how to implement them....and that comes from match experience.
    what a great answer. dont be afraid to mix in some moonballs either.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by mal-j View Post
    Can someone help me out here? I started playing tennis again after a lapse of a few years and have been back into it for about six months now. I attend a couple of courses and have a private lesson every week. I have been encouraged to play (and just about mastered) a topspin forehand and backhand where the ball travels high and deep and I hit it just inside the baseline nine times out of ten. I also have a fairly decent backhand slice and have been told I am of intermediate standard. So far so good. Now when I play people who also play with topspin I have a good competetive game and win regularly. But when I play anyone who hits the ball low and fast and flat I get my ass kicked every time. I either can't get to the ball in time or scoop it up or hit it with slice but every time my opponent then jumps on it and puts it away. I have tried different strategies like hitting the ball high and deep to their backhand with limited success but nothing really works.
    My question is - if this is so effective on me, wouldn't it be better for me to play that way as well and hit the ball low and flat all the time and save the topspin for the odd shot where it would be useful?
    My coach says to stick with the topspin. Any advice gratefully accepted.
    I'll take a stab at this. A buddy of mine plays nothing but sliced shots off of both sides. They are not slow paced slices that float short; they are hard, deep, penetrating sliced balls that only come off the ground at about knee level. He makes very few unforced errors. I have never beaten the guy. My game is moderate topspin with good depth. Anyway, my game does not work against him because his shots don't come up high enough for me to put any effective topspin on my shots. So I have had to learn to play like he does. I use slices off both sides. I use side spin off both sides. I hit flat deep balls. I chop, hack and dink. Stay down on the ball. (I.e. deeper knee bend to get closer to the ball.) If I can lure him to the net, then I can usually pass him with a moderate topspin shot or a lob. He has good speed but no confidence with volleys or overheads. If I can get to the net (which is tough), then I force him to try and pass me with a low sliced ball. That's not a high percentage shot for him. Bottom line is, sometimes your game just isn't going to work against untraditional shot players. You have to learn to adapt their techniques to your game and turn their strategies against them. They only know how to play one way. Now you know how to play two ways. Your way and their way and eventually you will own them.

  10. #10
    Thanks for all the advice. I will be trying these out, although I'll need to practice some of them first, and try mixing it up more. I will hit some flat strokes but I am definitely not a convert. I can control the ball a lot better with spin but also hit it with some pace. I also think it's at least fifty percent psychological with some of these players. You go up against someone you have never beaten before and you start thinking about it too much and convincing yourself you are not going to win before you even hit the ball.
    I'll get there.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by mal-j View Post
    Thanks for all the advice. I will be trying these out, although I'll need to practice some of them first, and try mixing it up more. I will hit some flat strokes but I am definitely not a convert. I can control the ball a lot better with spin but also hit it with some pace. I also think it's at least fifty percent psychological with some of these players. You go up against someone you have never beaten before and you start thinking about it too much and convincing yourself you are not going to win before you even hit the ball. I'll get there.
    +1 maybe even 90%

  12. #12
    I wouldn't abandon the topspin; it is your best weapon ultimately. There's really no such thing as a flat ball, just a flatter ball. A flat low ball looks great going hard and fast just over the net, but it is not reliable and is more apt to fly out. Remember this and bait your oppoonent with additional topspin and depth. As others have suggested, be versatile in your shotmaking, but keep attacking with your bread and butter topspin. I disagree about staying down on the ball. It's good to bend your knees initially to build force and momentum, but then lift up on your stroke. Notice that all the pros do this; they don't stay down! Also, I would disagree about hitting through the ball more; instead approach the ball slowly then pull across hard and fast, finishing over your shoulder. This will strengthen your topspin shot. Go for depth and consistency first, then power as you practice. Here's a fantastic drill: string a rope from post to post at least 3 feet over the net. Practice rallying over the rope without missing and keeping the ball deep in the court. Whatever you do, keep the ball going way up over the rope landing inbounds. Then hit harder and harder. You will be amazed how hard and deep you can hit and still keep the ball in if you use the rapid pulling across motion (like a windshield wiper. You will build confidence and hit with more and more power. Your opponent will struggle to hit his low "flat" shot off your high rpm balls. Once in a while when you get the perfect feed, blast a flatter ball back, but be sure to finish over your shoulder completely or that "flat" ball will fly out. A flat hitter has one weapon and likes to intimidate from the baseline with it. Prevent him from hitting that shot where he feels comfortable - outplay him with variety and command of deep penetrating topspin.
    Last edited by Tennis Angel; 10-20-2009 at 01:52 AM.
    How good can your game get? You too can play like the Pros with The Wegner Method.
    Discuss The Wegner Method here at TW in the MTM forum or visit www.tennisteacher.com for more info.

  13. #13
    This is all great advice. I have been playing more aggressively and assertively since asking originally and yesterday I finally beat one of the flat hitters I hadn’t beaten before. Funny thing was that even when my shots weren’t 100% or I miss hit I still managed to win most of the points – like sometimes when your luck is in everything seems to go right. I tried some of the advice from earlier replies out and mixed it up with drop shots and hard deep shots and sliced some low balls that came to my backhand with some success. One other thing I found worked was when I was running to get to a low ball I was able to half volley it back deep (but not high enough for them to smash) and then get back into position and then when this was returned back to me a bit higher and softer I was able to put in a good approach shot and come to the net. Running after balls that before I would just watch whizz past and thought I would never get paid off as well. The ones I got to were a bonus and even if I missed I found it kept me focussed and keen to get the next one. Anyway I won 6-4 6-2 and had the guy shouting at himself most of the second set. (I don’t know if it is psychological – like, just talking about a problem helps – but my game has definitely improved.)

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by mal-j View Post
    This is all great advice. I have been playing more aggressively and assertively since asking originally and yesterday I finally beat one of the flat hitters I hadn’t beaten before. Funny thing was that even when my shots weren’t 100% or I miss hit I still managed to win most of the points – like sometimes when your luck is in everything seems to go right. I tried some of the advice from earlier replies out and mixed it up with drop shots and hard deep shots and sliced some low balls that came to my backhand with some success. One other thing I found worked was when I was running to get to a low ball I was able to half volley it back deep (but not high enough for them to smash) and then get back into position and then when this was returned back to me a bit higher and softer I was able to put in a good approach shot and come to the net. Running after balls that before I would just watch whizz past and thought I would never get paid off as well. The ones I got to were a bonus and even if I missed I found it kept me focussed and keen to get the next one. Anyway I won 6-4 6-2 and had the guy shouting at himself most of the second set. (I don’t know if it is psychological – like, just talking about a problem helps – but my game has definitely improved.)
    That's great man! The point is: you had the desire to win and kept looking for an answer. Don't worry whether it was psychological or better form, just stay in the "winning perseverance" mode. Keep us updated on what happens in the future.. this is almost as fun as playing.

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