I love showing players I coach how to play topspin shots. It’s one of the things which makes me happiest as a coach, especially if the player I’m coaching is an older player.
You sometimes hear coaches say that if you haven’t learnt topspin by a certain age, you should forget it. It’s too technically and physically demanding. Just focus on driving the ball instead.
I think this is nonsense.
Anyone can learn to topspin, at any age. My shining example, is an older player I coach called Rose. When I first started coaching Rose, she was all backhand and struggled to play even a basic forehand drive. But slowly and surely we worked on her forehand, building up her consistency and adding a bit more speed and power to her shots.
Then we started to work on a forehand topspin. It was a bit of experiment and I really wasn’t sure if Rose was going to be able to do it. But I was very wrong. Not only could Rose do it, she could do it really well! And it was just incredible to see Rose doing a forehand topspin multi-ball exercise and get almost all the balls back on the table with good technique.
It hasn’t been smooth progress, one session her technique is good, the next session not so good, the next session good again! But there has been a steady improvement over the past six months. And now Rose is starting to use her new forehand topspin shots in matches she plays, attacking long serves and picking off loose backspin balls, much to the surprise of her opponents.
Rose is in eighties.
Why topspin is so important
No matter what age you are – and how long you have been playing – you should learn how to play topspin shots. Topspin can be used against almost anything your opponent throws at you. Your opponent gives you a backspin ball, you can topspin it. Your opponent gives you a sidespin ball, you can topspin it. Your opponent gives you a topspin ball, you can topspin it right back at them! You will be able to attack more often and your attack will have more consistency as the spin will lift the ball over the net and drag it back down on your opponent’s side of the table.
It does take a bit more energy to play topspin shots – you have to use your legs more and accelerate your arm quickly – but really, anyone can do it. The main issue is with muscle memory. If you have been playing a certain style for many years, it can take longer to adjust your technique. And this is why some players give up on topspin. But don’t! Just practice, practise, practise and eventually your brain and body will start working in unison and it will become natural to play topspin shots.
How do you play topspin shots?
At some point I’ll add my own video tutorial. But in the mean time, take a look at the video below from Alois and Jeff from PingSkills on how to play a forehand topspin against backspin. You can also view their backhand topspin video.
So, if you’re an older player and you’re not playing topspin shots, give it a go! If Rose can do it, you can do it too.