For initial understanding of why racquet needs to be set up differently for Under Spin than for Top Spin, I like to demonstrate and have students acknowledge the way the racquet can work just by touching the bottom of the ball, same exact way it works, when you bounce the ball up in the air with racquet face flat open up to the sky or the ceiling. Players do not need to swing the racquet prior to the contact, they don’t even need to hit the ball. All they need to do is to hold the racquet as straight as possible and grip/squeeze it gently to tap the ball at the time it lands on the strings. Racquet can be absolutely still and work as a trampoline. The degree of gripping makes the ball bounce higher or lower.
Just like I am using the previous post to make it easier for readers to understand why we need to do something different to intercept the ball out of the air than when we swing all the way from the base line, I do a lot of warm up drills. Simple “Flip-Flops” in the air help players to understand how light “tapping” and “gripping still racquet” can control the ball. Once the feeling of just a “tap” or a “touch” become trust worthy players stay motivated longer when volleying doesn’t work right away. They need to have some vision and belief to handle failures when learning to volley. Managing the degree of gripping or squeezing the racquet at the contact point comes with practice, of course. Understanding what to practice makes it much more productive, usually.
Turning sideways to the ball is the first part of the “Clean Under Spin Spin Response,” same as for the Top Spin. Down the road turning for volleys can be modified to a bare minimum and in some cases eliminated. It would all depend on the situation in the point and the way the ball comes requires something instant, intuitive, and often even unorthodox. Same with the height of the contact point and the degrees of bending knees and lifting or dropping arms. But, in my opinion, at the time of initial learning turning sideways to the ball is absolutely important. Players need to picture and believe in turning sideways to the ball to understand the reasons and the benefits turning provides. One of the benefits is that turning sideways is a huge stimulation for the use of continental grip and keeping hands relaxed. One other huge benefit is the weight shift from two feet to one. That allows to start legs movement to the ball rather than bending over.
Opening the racquet face to a different degree is the second ingredient of “Clean Under Spin Response.” Unlike in the cases with Top Spin Responses, racquet stays in front of the torso. At least racquet handle. This way it can be applied to the ball sooner, when the time is limited. Together turning and opening racquet face create nice initial disposition to handle the ball in the air efficiently and with sharper purpose down the road. “Turn to open” is what I try to get into the kids’ system as much as possible and as soon as possible.
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