Land of the Sky Tournament information can be found by clicking on the button above.

Newcomers to the site should note the pickleball book "chapters" in the left column and the repository of expert articles and videos in the right column.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


One of the phases most players go through is spinning the ball. Putting extreme spin on a shot makes it bounce in directions that are hard for an opponent to predict. That unpredictability often leads to a fault by the opponent – either a miss or a mishit. Even if the player returns the ball, it looks impressive. Sounds good, right?

The reality is that extreme spin might be effective against lower ranked players but it will generally become less effective as skill levels improve. Players with experience can predict the bounce though visual clues like the arc of the paddle swing and the spin on the ball. A spinning pickleball is easy to read.  Its construction includes lots of holes that contrast with the solid color. So, if spinning the ball won’t work against players that you will encounter in your future, why bother even spending one minute practicing it? My experience is that my time is better spent perfecting shots that will be effective.
However, there is always an exception to every rule. Adding topspin or backspin (also known as a slice or cut shot) to a groundstroke hit behind the mid-court area can be an effective variation to the basic flat groundstroke. Topspin means the ball is rotating forward as it moves through the air. Backspin means the ball is rotating backwards through the air.

Topspin                             Backspin            

Changing the direction of the spin impacts the way the ball bounces. Topspin will bounce lower than a flat shot with little or no spin. Backspin will bounce higher than a flat shot with little or no spin.

A lower bouncing topspin shot is obviously more difficult to return especially when mixed in with flat shots. But a backspin shot seems less advantageous since it provides a higher bounce and appears easier to return. However, there is another action associated with the higher bounce – the ball's forward motion is slowed. It is almost like brakes were applied. The result may be an opponent hitting an unbalanced return if he expected a longer bounce. Softening the backspin shot amplifies the impact.

If you use these spin shots, you should be aware that they also change the ball flight in the air. Topspin bites into the air and drives the ball downward. That means the shot can be hit higher over the net and deeper in the court. A soft ball will drop over the net more quickly and a hard shot will drop in front of the baseline more quickly. In contrast, a backspin will rise as it moves forward and will carry farther. Therefore, a softer shot is required.

There is 1 other advantage to a topspin shot, although it is rare and not to be counted on. The topspin action of the ball might allow it to “climb” over the top of the net if the shot hits the net cord.  Who doesn't love a netcord shot that drops inches over the net?  Your opponent!

Both topspin and backspin shots require relatively small changes to the basic flat groundstroke. These small adjustments are less likely to cause inconsistent or mishit returns than the strokes needed to impart extreme spin. Topspin and backspin is added by slightly changing the arc of the paddle swing. Topspin is imparted with a low-to-high arc, meaning the paddle is moving upward when it contacts the back of the ball. The spin can be increased if the top of the paddle is tilted slightly forward. Backspin is the opposite, with a high-to-low arc required and a downward movement when contact is made. The spin can be increased if the top of the paddle is tilted slightly backward. The differences in the topspin and backspin shots are illustrated in the following photo. (Click on the photo to make it bigger.)

The topspin sequence is on the left and shows a low-to high swing arc. The backspin sequence is on the right and shows a high-to-low swing arc. Note that the finish is identical with a follow through across the body and above the shoulder. The screen captures in that photo sequence came from the following short video from Deb Harrison called Return of Serve.

Spin can be added to either a forehand or backhand groundstroke using the same technique.

No comments:

Post a Comment