You may have heard some of these terms when watching tennis, playing tennis, or being around anybody talking about tennis: topspin, slice, underspin, flat. If you haven’t had a lot of experience using these types of spin, you may not be familiar with what each of these terms mean and when to use each type of spin. Today, we’re going to cover what each of these are:
First let’s start with the strike zone. A strike zone is the optimal area that a player will strike the ball in. This is slightly different for every player but in general this is the area just below the waist and above the knee. Players usually hit their best and strongest shots in this strike zone. When a player doesn’t hit in their strike zone, you’ll see them use different types of shots that are hit to save the point and get them out of trouble.
Flat (No spin or very minimal spin)
Most beginners start out hitting the ball with flat (or no spin) shots. Hitting the ball “flat” simply means that you are squaring the racquet up to the ball and driving forward through the shot, causing the ball to shoot forward with little rotation. A flat shot is also used when a player is in an advantageous position on the court and wants to drive the ball quickly across the net to hurt their opponent or to finish the point. There are other scenarios when a flat shot is used – some people simply prefer to hit the ball this way and it is their best shot.
The definition of topspin is: “a fast, forward spinning motion imparted to a ball when throwing or hitting it, often resulting in a curved path or a strong forward motion on rebounding off the ground”. If you hit a ball with topspin, it will bounce off the ground and shoot forward towards your opponent. The topspin makes the ball rapidly accelerate up off of the ground, quickly changing the trajectory of the ball and the strike zone in which your opponent can hit. This makes it more difficult for our opponent to make solid contact with the ball. This also allows you to swing very fast and hit the ball with a lot of power and pace and still maintain consistency since the ball is rapidly spinning forward which helps the ball drop or shoot down into the court.
Topspin is the most common and most important spin to learn as a tennis player. Since a tennis ball is fairly light, you can manipulate how the ball travels through the air more easily than with a heavy ball. Topspin allows you to move the ball around the court with more accuracy and efficiency than a shot hit without spin. If you watch any of the pros play, you will see this spin used on the majority of all groundstrokes!
Slice (Underspin or backspin)
The definition of slice or backspin is: “A spin that tends to retard, arrest, or reverse the linear motion of an object, especially of a ball”. What this really means is that the ball is spinning backwards after you hit it which makes the ball slow down through the air, allowing you to control the ball into a desired area of the court.
Hitting with slice allows you to keep the ball low, forcing your opponent to hit below their optimal strike zone. It also allows you to make a “save” shot on the run when you are in trouble and remain neutral in the rally. These slice shots are hit similar to the lob – with the racquet face open. But instead of lifting the ball high into the air, you drive through the ball or cut around the ball to control the shot into the area of the court where you want to hit it.
This basic breakdown just covers three of the various spins that are used in tennis. I hope this helps explains some terms that you may not have understood well. As always, we would love to hear from you – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @LaunchTennis.
Head Coach at Launch Tennis