Tennis Instruction Video: Topspin Forehand with Coach Ryan
Holabird Sport's own Coach Ryan shows you how to brush the ball and perfect your topspin forehand in this instructional tennis video.

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 How to practice your topspin forehand
Learning to hit a tennis ball with topspin is a pretty fundamental skill that's important at all levels of tennis—from beginners right up to the top-ranked players in the world.  To apply topspin to the ball a player must swing from low to high and use a "brushing" motion on the back of the ball.  When a player brushes up the back of the ball with this low-to-high motion, the top of the ball spins forward, away from the player.  The exact physics that result are somewhat beyond the scope of this post, but suffice it to say that applying topspin to a tennis ball works somewhat like the spoiler on the back of a race car by forcing the ball downward into the court.  This allows players to hit the ball higher over the net and harder, while still keeping the ball in the court.

There's no doubt that learning to hit with topspin is important, but for beginners it can be a somewhat difficult concept to grasp.  A lot of players hear "low-to-high" and end up "scooping" the ball with the stringbed of their racquet pointing to the sky.  This usually results in the ball being launched up in the air, which is not the desired outcome.  Instead, the player needs to keep the stringbed of their racquet pointing forward—towards the other side of the court—and "brush" up the back of the ball.

I like to use a simple, three-part drill to help beginners (of all ages) easily get a feel for "brushing" up on the ball in a low-stress situation.  This drill can be used to practice topspin forehands or topspin backhands, but for simplicity, this post will only illustrate the forehand.  To make things even sweeter, it can be done solo, so you don't need to wait for a partner to feed balls.  All you need for this drill are some tennis balls (the more, the better), and a racquet.

Topspin Forehand Drills
Start close to the net with your shoulders turned sideways (perpendicular to the net).  Using the stringbed of your racquet, trap a tennis ball against the headband of the net.  Keeping the stringbed pointing forward (not pointing to the sky), and your wrist bent back slightly, gently "brush" the ball over the net by moving your racquet up and forward.  It is especially important to complete the stroke by following through all the way around to your opposite shoulder (for right-handed folks, the racquet should end up by your left shoulder).  For a simple point of reference, imagine that you are wearing a watch on your racquet arm.  When the follow-through is complete, you should be able to glance at your arm and easily read your watch.

You should repeat this 10-20 times (make sure to keep the stringbed of your racquet facing forward, not up).  Take some time to observe the spin of the ball after you brush it over.  You should see the top of the ball spinning away from you towards the opposite baseline.  Once you feel comfortable with the "brushing" motion, scoot back to the service line.

At the service line, start with your shoulders turned sideways, perpendicular to the net, the head of the racquet down by your knees, and your wrist slightly bent back.  Practice a few swings without the ball first, focusing on keeping the strings of the racquet pointing forward and following-through so that you can read your watch.  When you feel ready, grab a ball with your non-racquet hand, bounce the ball in front of yourself, and then gently hit the ball over the net using the low-to-high, brushing motion you've been practicing.  If it doesn't go over the net, or doesn't go where you wanted, don't worry: It's just practice.  Make sure you are swinging nice and easy (power will come later).  Stay focused on keeping your wrist back, swinging from low-to-high, and keeping your stringbed facing towards the other side of the court—not towards the sky.  Repeat this 10-20 times.  Once you feel comfortable, move back to the baseline and repeat the exercise an additional 10-20 times.

That's it; that's all there is to it!  This drill is a perfect way for beginners to get a good feel for the "brushing" action that's needed to hit with topspin.  It's a great way to practice in a low-stress setting and you don't need a partner so you can get out to practice anytime.  Remember that this drill is an excellent first step, but the only way to truly master the topspin forehand or topspin backhand is to practice, practice, practice.