The topspin forehand is one of the must have shots on the tennis court. Whether you do it with more or less intensity, one thing is certain, you’ve got to have the ability to generate top spin.
The topspin forehand is the primary shot in the modern game of tennis. It is being utilized at the professional level to dominate points off the baseline and is responsible for the drastic increase of tennis being a power game. Virtually every pro tennis player on tour uses a topspin forehand to control shots off the baseline.
One example of this professional player is Roger Federer. Federer’s remarkable topspin forehand gave him his first ever French Open title as he won his matches point by point with his dominating topspin forehand. In combination with his forehand approach shot, he earned many of his professional titles. Other professional players who use the topspin forehand as their main “go to” shot are Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.
Topspin Forehand Technique Overview
In modern tennis, the tennis topspin forehand is normally executed during a baseline rally and approach shots. You can also apply this technique in passing shots. For most professional players, the topspin forehand is their main shot of choice in today’s high paced game. A topspin forehand is the best of both worlds, because a player can hit the tennis ball with extreme power and top spin while still being able to keep the ball in play.
Proper technique for the top spin forehand starts with the semi-Western grip, as opposed to the Eastern or Western grips. An easy way to find the proper semi-Western grip is by placing your playing hand right on the strings, then sliding your hand down to grip it towards the end.
The body stance has to match with the grip. In this case, there is no way you should have a closed stance because you need more trunk rotation to allow your racket to go across you and to have trunk rotation. Instead, have a neutral stance or an open stance to be able to rotate.
Next, you need to make sure that your impact point is out in front. At one stage, the tip of the racket will go above your head and then it can drop below your left shoulder or some plays it will finish a little bit above the left shoulder. The racket should always have a rainbow shape in front of you.
Below is a step by step analysis on how to execute this tennis stroke in terms of its footwork, grip, stance, backswing, forward swing, contact and follow-through.
Topspin Forehand Footwork
Just like all the other tennis ground strokes, the tennis topspin forehand footwork starts with your feet facing the net. After the initial split step, they should be straightly aligned and spread from each other at your comfort. Other players spread their two feet at a wider distance than some other players. This will depend on how comfortable you are.
While you are holding your racket, keep moving and don’t let your heels touch the ground. You can practice good footwork by bouncing on your toes to keep them active and ready for movement once you return the ball.
An important point to note is always keep your eyes on the ball during and after the split step. Seconds before your opponent makes contact with the ball, increase the height of your split step and try to synchronize your split step motion with the incoming ball.
As your opponent hits the ball to your forehand side, your right foot (right handed players) should be very quick to initiate the shoulder turn. If your right foot is quick enough, you will be on time to hit the ball. In case the ball is too wide to your forehand side, then you have to be ready to run for the ball using the drop step or gravity step.
Here are some tips for you to use the correct footwork in executing the tennis topspin forehand and to recover yourself after the contact.
- When you are going to hit a ball that is placed widely, the best footwork to use is a drop step or gravity step with the right foot.
- When you are recovering after you return the ball, the crossover step is the best to use. This will allow you to observe the next move of your opponent since you are facing towards him or her.
- When you hit the ball in the sidelines, use the full shuffle step to recover to the center baseline.
- If you are forced to hit a ball in the far double’s corner and return a forehand cross-court ball, use cross steps or carioca steps then the last two steps can be shuffle steps as you arrive to the recovery spot (which will vary depending on your shot selection.) To be in the middle between the sideline and the center line is enough.
- In the same situation but instead of a cross-court, you hit the ball down the line, the recovery steps you have to do is the same (cross steps or carioca steps) but you need to use additional shuffle steps to recover to the proper position to cover your opponent’s next shot as a result of your down the line shot selection.
Topspin Forehand Grip
While there are acceptable variations to hit the forehand, the semi-Western forehand grip is the best tennis grip that enables players to produce a topspin forehand. The amount of top spin with this grip is greater than other more conservative tennis grips like the eastern forehand grip. This is because in the semi-western tennis grip, the ball is ideally hit at shoulder level. Therefore more brushing effect is made since the racket is dropped at first before the contact between the ball and the racket face.
Then as the player swings in upward motion, the racket will go from a low position and hit up to the ball at shoulder level. This will mean that the ball is hit from further beneath the ball, creating more top spin. This shows that the grip itself won’t really affect the amount of top spin created but the point of contact. The higher the point of contact the more top spin is produced.
This forehand grip is used in many professional players such as Andy Roddick, Marat Safin, and Venus Williams. This versatile tennis grip is ideal if you choose to drive a flatter ball and at the same time want to be able to produce top spin.
Topspin Forehand Preparation
When you are in the ready position (you are waiting for the ball and ready to hit it) you should have your racket always ready by supporting your racket with your left hand (right handed player) by resting your left hand on the throat of the racket (part of the racket between the main handle and the base of the racket head).
Once your opponent makes contact with the ball (ball touches the racket face,) immediately bring your racket to your side and at the same time coil the upper part of your body. Remember that at this stage both hands are holding the racket. This position should be maintained until you turn your body sideways. This position will allow you to have a good rotation of your upper body hence providing your stroke power even if you are only executing a short backswing. In this case, you also have a very good control of your racket.
If you are right handed player, It can be helpful to visualize that your elbow is pointing to your back (back fence) and your racket is angled at 45 degrees with the sky with your racket face facing the ground. At the same time your weight should be concentrated on your right foot.
Topspin Forehand Swing and Contact Point
In a tennis topspin forehand, you do not need to take a large backswing but rather you can execute a compact backswing. One such variation allows you to form a C-loop in the air as you do the backswing. After forming a C-loop, you then drop the racket in such a manner that the racket is positioned under the ball.
At this stage, your hips and your body is already uncoiling as you start swinging your racket. To maintain your balance, move your left arm across your body. The weight of your body then is transferred to your left foot. Keep your eyes locked to the ball.
Contact between the racket face and the ball normally happens in the front side of your body and at shoulder height. This is the ideal situation or the ideal point of contact when you are using a semi-western tennis grip. The point of contact may vary depending what grip you are using. The point of contact can be at waistline level with an eastern tennis grip as well
To create the topspin forehand, the head of the racket should be positioned first under the ball before the contact. Positioning the racket head under the ball creates the brushing effect between the ball and the racket face hence producing the powerful topspin tennis forehand.
Flicking the Wrist
When it comes to pressure moments or when the ball gets slightly behind him, you will see Rafael Nadal doing a flick of wrist. But when he gives himself more time, he normally strikes it in front.
When flicking the wrist, the racket should finish nearly above your opposite shoulder. It massively increases the ability to spin the ball, but is very demanding physically because your wrist will have to do the majority of the work.
Most of us aren’t built like Nadal with a strong physique and resistant wrist. Players like Nadal, Murray and even Novak Djokovic will utilize this technique sometimes due to the speed of the ball, if they were caught slightly late on the shot or just because they want to increase the amount of top spin.
Topspin Forehand Follow-Through and Recovery
The Tennis topspin forehand should finish with your elbow in front. The elbow should be pointing towards the ball you just hit. The racket should be on your left shoulder if you were successful in producing enough top spin in you forehand.
The follow through can be in your left elbow or it can be in your left hip.
Immediately after the follow through, you have to be ready for the next ball by doing a split step. This will give your body the proper balance. If possible, move back quickly to the center baseline.
Below is a clip of Marko Djokovic (you probably know his brother better) taken from when he stopped by my tennis academy. He and his brother, Novak Djokovic, share several similarities, in the way they attack the ball, the way they react and move towards the ball, and their footwork.
Pay attention to the way he split steps, moves in to attack the ball inside the court and the way he recovers as he moves across the baseline.
Topspin Forehand Drill
Below is a video of a drill that we usually do at the academy to help improve the top spin. You start by holding the throat of the racket on the heart and standing on the service line. Then what you try to do is to make sure that you generate that top spin keeping the rally going with your partner or with your pupil.
The goal is to create a lot of rotation, a lot of top spin with an open stance or neutral stance. The rules are quite simple, you are not allowed to turn the tip of the racket towards your partner and you can only hit forehands.
To transform the drill into a little game, you have to get the ball over the net three times and then you go for a point. It is always good to have a bit of fun while working to improve the top spin on your forehand.