THE TOPSPIN – Tipbit #4
Right now is the perfect time to plan for 2024, so you can make big leaps forward in your pickleball game by this time next year. I’ve been attending both the beginners’ and advanced sessions over the holidays and many of you members need help with the most basic stroke in pickleball. . . . . . . The Topspin.
Of the various spins (backspin, sidespin, underspin, etc.), perhaps topspin is the most useful. It has more uses than the other options. It can be used in more situations (drives, lobs, dinks, returns, serves, etc.) throughout each point. Its proper and timely use can have rewarding results for you members.
As I’ve said in other tipbits, clinics and verbal advice given at Greenwood, topspin added to the ball causes the ball to rotate in a forward motion at a significantly faster rate than normal. The effect of this spin will cause the ball to drop or dip down faster than a ball without any spin. Furthermore, when the ball bounces, it will jump forward and higher than normal. All this action will push your opponents deeper into their back court, allow you greater clearance over the net, give you the ability to hit with more pace and with the ball dipping as it crosses the net it makes a much tougher volley for your opponent’s at the NVZ line.
These are important points to remember, the dipping or dropping trajectory and the higher bounce. Both the player hitting with topspin, as well as the player who needs to react to the ball hit with topspin must consider each of these factors.
Learning topspin requires practice, as I have emphasized to many members. Remember the stroke is hit with the paddle moving from low to high and keeping the front edge of your paddle’s face leading up (see below image) and through the stroke. Watch closely the path of your paddle and occasionally freeze at the end of your stroke path to see if you’re leading with the front edge of your paddle on both the forehand and backhand.
Personally I rotate my hand on the handle from a continental grip to a forehand eastern grip and backhand eastern grip on both my topspin drives. But, for you beginners I recommend staying with the continental grip (see below pic). Don’t forget your basics and drop your paddle’s head tip down toward the court at a 45 degree angle as you prepare for your shot, bend your knees to help get down and under the ball and then follow all the way through around your shoulder leading with the front edge of your paddle. When finished your elbow should be facing your opponents (forehand only)!
You can add even more whip or speed by holding the paddle’s grip (hand) further down on the handle, even to the point of having the butt end of the handle in the meat of your palm. Remember what the Greek philosopher, Archimedes, said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
As you become more proficient with the topspin you can consider additional paddle-head speed (not recommended for beginners) by laying your wrist back in an “L” form and then snapping your wrist on contact. Again remember to start with the paddle back low, begin your forward motion with your arm, but now lay your wrist back (darn, my wrist is fused) with the butt of your handle facing your opponent. Then, just before contact with the ball, snap your wrist forward as your arm brings the paddle upward and forward through the ball. This wrist snap adds speed to the paddle head imparting significantly more pace and spin to the ball (see below image). While this suggestion, done properly, does create more spin and pace, it's not easy to control direction. You must factor this risk into your stroke.
C’ ya on the Greenwood courts, President Lueck