Q. “What is the best way to teach young players how to hit topspin?"
From Joe S., St. Anthony, IN:
One of the most crucial parts of any shot is the grip. With young juniors, you should probably have them start with a semi-western forehand grip. The key is to start your swing about a foot beneath the point of contact (even lower for more topspin or higher for a flatter drive). The swing should be a loose, whip-like motion, and contact should be with a fully extended arm out in front of the body. Being loose will cause the wrist to lay back and open the racquet face up for a larger contact zone. The more racquet head speed, the more spin, but in swinging faster, you lose control.
Each player should find his or her own comfortable speed to perform the best. Hitting with an open stance will give more racquet head speed, but again, also a loss of accuracy and control. A neutral stance loses power and spin but gains control. Some pros hit with a stance, such as a 3/4 open to provide qualities of both. An over-the-head follow through (Nadal) will create loads of topspin; however, doing this shortens the contact zone even further. Probably a more consistent follow-through would finish near the waist of the non-racquet hand, making a windshield wiper motion.
From Mac G., Chicago, IL:
I am a 6-foot, 2-inch junior and have always had too much power in my shot, particularly my forehand. Therefore, I had a huge need to add as much topspin as possible to my shots. My coach started me out swinging differently. Instead of swinging my racquet from low to high, my coach told me to bring it straight across my stomach, while keeping my elbow close to my body. This forced me to flick my wrist on my shots.
Then, when I had gotten used to that, (which took several days,) my coach put me up next to a wall and told me to do my topspin shot into the wall. Obviously, I was not able to do this, so my coach guided my racquet (still in my hand) so that it was flat on the wall. He told me to now make a loop like a low to high swing while keeping my racquet on the wall. By combining the forward motion of the first position and the upward flick of the second, I was able to create a wonderful topspin shot.
From Jackie G., West Nyack, NY:
A simple way to teach topspin is to tell your young players that, at the end of the follow through, you want to see their nails. This is the method I use for my very young players, and they understand it readily. Topspin can be illustrated by using a bi-color tennis ball and showing the rotation.
From Kenny S., Highland Park, IL:
A low to high swing, where you show them how to contact the ball under the ball, then follow through forward and up as you whip across and up. A good way to start would be back court to back court and hitting topspin high over the net. Also the topspin lob.
Also, watch the pros and point out what topspin is and what underspin is. Also how to make a great driving approach shot, topspin, underspin or flat, and come and make some great volleys. It’s a shame the net game is so gone in pro tennis. We really need to make the top singles players play doubles, which the ITF and USTA have already started to do.
Keeping 50 balls in a row, hit down the middle, cross court on both sides, and high over the net to start to develop the topspin. Underspin is also a shot you should teach kids at a rather young age.
One more idea is feeding balls at the net. And really be vocal about how the swing is going – point out great topspin, or flat, or no hustle.