Sunday, 17 May 2015


My earliest memories of tennis were of Swede Bjorn Borg and the way in which he cleared the net by a huge margin with the amount of spin he generated off both sides. He could flatten the ball out on the passing shot or he would sometimes go with a high pass which made his opponent stretch both wide and high. Borg was a genius.
Kent Carlsson in the mid eighties took topspin to another level, arguably considerably more than Borg, fascinating to watch. The 1987 French Open quarter final against Yannick Noah, the '83 French Champion was a classic match of two contrasting styles. I still have not seen too many players hit the ball with more loop, perhaps Rafa being the only exception.
The loop in tennis has somewhat given way to the harder and flatter style of today but the clay court season tends to bring the 'loopers' back. You cannot hit every ball flat and hard in a best of five sets match on clay as you would need to be outrageously fit to do so.
The thing I like most about a looped ball is that it makes life uncomfortable for the opponent with it's high bounce. Players like Novak don't seem to mind it because they have impeccable timing and can take a high looping ball early and flatten it out, as could Swede Robin Soderling. The last man to beat Rafa in Paris could flatten Nadal's looped shots out with a minimum of fuss, his timing was also brilliant.
Most players can loop a ball from the forehand side with ease but the backhand is a little different.
Many players go with a 'conventional' style but David Nalbandian of Argentina owned a backhand that defied logic. The angles he could hit with that shot were nothing short of remarkable plus he had the ability to hit down the line winners to finish a rally seemingly at will.
Andre Agassi could do many things with his backhand but I loved it when he looped it high over the net because it gave me many ideas on how to teach it. A shot like that I believe was possibly one of the hardest balls to get back as most of his opponents also found out.
Agassi's looped balls were all part of Gilbert's idea of a 'holding' shot, a shot that asks the question of the opponent, not an attacking shot. Agassi's backhand in the video I shared on this site is the type of shot I refer to. Not a lob but a high ball.
As far as the backswing is concerned if you look at the way Agassi does it he slightly dips the racket head before impact which creates an almost flicking effect. If the racket head is not dropped then the amount of topspin generated will be considerably less. Many kids are not aware of the 'flick' yet it makes a huge difference.
If you can learn to hit a looping ball off both sides consistently then I believe you can win a tennis match through consistency alone. It's one thing to drive a tennis ball but you cannot possibly keep driving it without wearing yourself out.
I have seen many players, not just kids who own just one style, the driving flat style of play and I refer to them as 'a dime a dozen'. No variety. It's where perception of the game has got muddled up with logic.
I am not sure who this person is who asked me for some advice but I send them a thank you because it has reignited my own thoughts on the game that have been stagnant lately. Must be that time of year, the off season.
Thanks Champ for the enquiries, hope it all helped......

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