If the ball goes to my forehand, I find it more comfortable to use a really junky slice to their backhand, or depending where they are at the net. I find that they get to the ball, but mishit it 95% of the time when I put a wicked backspin on it, the ball goes straight to their side of the net.

If I put a low topspin to their feet, they usually miss it, instead of mishitting it, but the ball doesn't end up in the net, sometimes they hit it up, and out.

My question is: Which shot is better to hit when your opponent is at the net, backspin or topspin?

  • Trying to clarify here - are you asking why (on average) you get different results from your opponent hitting a volley based on the type of spin you put on the shot you hit to them? – jamauss Dec 15 '14 at 21:43
  • My question is: Which shot is better to hit when your opponent is at the net, backspin or topspin? – live-love Dec 15 '14 at 22:29

Although the answer depends greatly on your skill, the volleyer's skill, and your respective positions on the court, conventional wisdom says topspin if you can hit it well.

Topspin causes the ball to drop quickly (because, moving forward through the air, the friction between the spinning ball and the air creates high pressure above the ball and low pressure beneath it), so if you can hit a shot that will peak on your side of the net, it will hopefully fall near the volleyer's feet. Backspin shots tend to float in the air (high pressure below, low pressure above), so the volleyer is more likely to hit a shot at eye- or shoulder-level. In general, any volley contacted above the net is offensive, and any volley hit below the net is defensive, as the volleyer will have to pop the ball up. So a topspin ball that lands near a volleyer's feet is the hardest for him/her to play.

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  • I like your answer. I think my backspin is effective against women because women in general have problem with spin. Men are much better at getting it. But it's good to know, topspin is the way to go. – live-love Dec 19 '14 at 14:55

The best answer I can give is "it depends". Most decisions made about what type of shot to hit in tennis are situational and depend on a variety of factors. If I'm playing someone and they come to net there are lots of things to think through:

  1. How skilled is my opponent at the net (and at tennis in general)? How good are they at hitting an overhead if I hit a lob?
  2. How good am I at hitting the shot I intend to hit?

Generally speaking, hitting a slice (a.k.a "backspin") is the easier shot for your opponent to volley, because it will have less pace on it and the trajectory/path of the ball will change less than on a topspin shot. It's also generally easier for your opponent to control the direction of the volley when you hit a slice as well because of less pace on your shot.

If you're good enough to accurately hit a topspin shot where you mean to (down the line or where ever is out of reach for your opponent) then I'd say, hit that. Or if you're good at hitting a topspin lob, hit that. Sometimes you have to try different shots to get a feel for your opponent's skills as well so you might change your tactics from what they were initially.

I know for me personally (I'm about a 4.0 to 4.5 level player) I would have no problem with volleying a slice shot from my opponent - those are actually the kind of shots I try to come to net on, if I can anticipate my opponent hitting one.

Also, if I'm playing doubles, I tend to lob more since there are 2 people at the net. If I'm playing singles, I'll try more passing shots since there's more room to hit past my opponent.

If I noticed that my opponent has a weak overhead, I'll lob more since it's an easy shot for me to hit and I'm not that likely to lose the point off of their overhead.

Hopefully these examples show you how different things factor into shot selection. There really isn't a "best" shot you can teach or recommend for all situations.

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