(energetic music) (swooshing) – Some thoughts about what’s called, in quotes, the heavy ball. As a teacher, and I’m on court a lot, and I really enjoy that, one of my methods is to really ask players to discriminate on the
sound of their hits. Or said another way, when they sound particularly good to me, I won’t tell them what I thought happened, but I’ll sort of make
some sort of a gestures, as much as to say that
was it, did you know it? So, when you’re trying to hit a ball, you know, you’re drumming it. This is the skin of a drum,
it’s a percussion instrument, and so one aspect of hitting a solid shot is to get it dead center. Another aspect of the shot is to feel that the racquets greatest
momentum occurred at impact. Now I didn’t say the fastest swing, I said the greatest momentum. And, since I’m talking
a bit about Tom Stow, he would often say to somebody, can you swing slower and hit harder, and they’d laugh, come
on, how do you mean? But in golf there’s a
real phenomenon there, that when you try to hit hard the club doesn’t swing
as easily or as quickly as if you try not to hit hard. And so this month I’d
like feedback from you. What do you think a heavy ball is? Do you think you ever hit them? Do you ever feel them coming to you? Now here’s some science, Howard Brody, Tennis
Science for Tennis Players, an old friend, talks about
basically a heavy ball is just the pace the ball has
after the bounce, the pace. So that if a fast ball
bounces on the service line, there’s more room for it to slow down when it reaches the baseline,
than if the ball’s deep. So one it stands to reason,
a deeper ball is heavier. Number two, if the spin of
the shot is rapid enough that it will jump forward off the court, that will make it heavy, also. But here’s my hunch, I
think it’s something else. I think the pace matters,
I think the spin matters, I think the percussion matters, but more than that I think
I think it’s our perception. And I think what I mean is this, many times you play somebody and they’re swinging really
fast and grunting and groaning, and you know, (grunting),
they’re hitting it. Other times players don’t show you much, and wind up hitting it very solid, and I think the third
element of a heavy ball is that we don’t always see it coming because the cues that we normally associate with
power are not there. Now, a digression, my whole tennis life is a degression, I think. I interviewed Jonathan Stark once, he played at Stanford, he
grew up with Pete Sampras, and he told me that when they
were sixteen and seventeen, and they were warming up, it
was indistinguishable to him, whether Sampras was going to
serve a 95 mile an hour warmup or a 120 mile an hour heater, meaning the rhythm and the tempo, everything was the same, was just a little bit extra at the end, but what he told me really was that he didn’t have cues
about Pete’s heaviness. He didn’t have cues and so if you’re working
on it for yourself, try not to have the
cues, try not to muscle, but start to notice, when
you’re hitting heavily, start to notice when
they’re hitting heavily, and let’s get a dialogue here. We could have some fun with this. (energetic music)

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Dennis Veasley

32 thoughts on “Hitting The Heavy Ball in Tennis”

  1. pretty much lots of momentum equals a heavy ball to me. It's as if they have a lot of their weight/leg strength behind the shot.

  2. Nice video. But I'd say it is often about how much extra 'body mass' you impart on the ball.

    Momentum = mass x velocity = MV

    Racket momentum MrVr = MbVb …that is, ball's momentum. However the racket's mass is supplemented by the player's added 'body mass' especially during serves or stylish jumping b/hands. So if I can swing my racket only so hard, then my max Vr is mostly constant so that the increased ball pace (or velocity Vb) comes from added body mass.
    That way, MrVr still equals MbVb

  3. Although unconventional, he leans backwards to generate spin and increase his reach. This in turn increases the moment on the ball, i.e. force x distance. This principle explains how levers work so that we can lift heavy object with little effort using large distances from the pivot. The moments just have to be the same.
    Del Potro's long arms/fast swing explain his ball pace even though he swings from near the ball. Conversely, Djokovic's racket head speed explains his. Ball pace factors differ

  4. If you are strictly looking for what people think a heavy ball is… then I agree with MegaReemas, a heavy ball hits your racket and it feels as though it overpowers the stability you've put behind the racket. Now, as for the science of the heavy ball, I think it's really more about the spin than the pace. Pace can't be overlooked but a nice tight topspin hits the strings of your racket and shoots off the strings much differently than a flat ball. That makes the ball heavy and hard to control.

  5. It's in the wrist. Most of the top players add a little slap at the right "time" while making contact with the ball. This is what gives that audible we like so much. When you get a good drive from the butt cap, then let the driving force of the swing transfer from the butt cap out to the tip and give it that little extra wrist flick you get the heaviness of the shot without the clues. Watch out though, if your don't practice and stay focused on this it will fade away. Just like any technique.

  6. Lets assume there are 2 balls one hit with top spin and another hit flat, and both travel at the same avg velocity in the air.
    The one with top spin however will have a higher velocity after hitting the ground than the flat one.
    So in my opinion a heavy ball can be produced by hitting with high velocity and topspin at the same time.
    Of course the impact is dependent on how well you disguise this.

  7. i'm not sure about the body mass being the important factor here (some skinny women pro's hit heavier balls than men on the tour), it's more about swinging through the ball with the proper technique and timing. balance does play an important role as well. in Nadal's case, he uses a lot of wrist, but if you watch closely, he hits through the ball with tremendous spin and almost 'slaps' it at contact. this is the same as Del Potro – although DP has a longer swing with a flatter hit

  8. watch the video of Federer training with Mardy Fish and you will see a HUGE difference in how heavy they hit the ball. Fish hits with less spin, but through the ball. Federer hits with much more wrist, and you can see how Fish struggles, it's really evident – even though both players are balanced when they make their shots.
    nice video Jim. from my experience, timing, balance, and technique are the 3 key factors. heavy racquet also helps (swingweight), you'll know that most male pro's use 300g+

  9. your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs – this is not the case on grass. it is the opposite for grass because the ball skids off the surface.

    for hard court, you are right
    for clay, ? – i guess it depends on the amount of surface clay. maybe you have to break your wrist to get the same effect!

  10. In my opinion the more flat u hit . More heavy the ball will come to opponent.
    And one thing more . More the spin on ball less it will be come faster or penetrating . How ever it will curve more in air.

  11. I've heard that when a spinning ball comes into the racket the soft felt bites into the strings and the ball doesn't come off the racket as easily and that's why it feels heavier. when the ball has the same spin but more pace the ball compresses more and there is more resistance against the strings which means it can bite more

  12. I think it's because he still does so well to drive off of his back foot. When you watch him hit forehands (usually) he drives off his back foot and makes his momentum move forward. I think that as he travels backwards he plants his foot and still gets a weight transfer as he's moving backwards.

    Yes, no?

  13. Its just moving into the ball. stepping into it. Pushing with you feet and hitting in front of you. In other words you just ned the right Timing( Momentum) to hit the ball when you are moving into the ball. this shot then has a great mixture of freaky spin and push because it has no kick back cause of the mass driving behind it. :O

  14. if the ball is flat then its FAST but not HEAVY because "Flats" have no spin. you can easily return it by just sticking your Raquel out. You can even hit a really heavy ball easier when returning a Flat because their is no resistance. just go down up to return the flat since its coming at great speed and a beautiful shot will appear,

  15. I think heavier balls are the ones that have both high pace and high top spin. Due to the spin, the ball dips and hits the ground harder, bounces back harder, strikes the racquet with both pace and bounce. But I personally find flat shots that skid off the surface harder to return.

  16. Yep.. people in my club have always marveled at my slow swing yet heavy ball. Guys who have never hit with me always say they never expected the speed. It's mass… a heavy racquet can be swung more slowly and create as much or more mass as a lighter racquet swung quickly.

    If the ball is coming off your strings faster than your swing, then you are doing something right.

  17. Those pros throw the arm with sequence-transferred rotational momentum… their arms are loose, like a wet noodle.

    Loosey-goosey haha

  18. I know that when I am right  during swings it feels so effortless and I that I am barely swinging at all.  Legs and torso in the swing make a huge difference in power and grip and racket direction make the spin giving the ball the spin and that heavy feel.

  19. I get what you are saying. Makes a lot of sense. Combination of spin raquet speed and solid hitting, but also throw people off by having a similiar stroke no matter how you hit and where try to hit the same as always. Spin and power come off of that consistent swing

  20. For me all timing.
    There's that lag and "snap" of the wrist (radial deviation) that gives the ball that "pop".
    I wish I could do it all the time, especially in a match.

  21. Jim In my opinion the "heaviness" of a ball is BOTH the force exerted on the ball (speed) combined with the amount of topspin. It's both and not just one. One can hit heavy topspin without it seeming "heavy" and also one can hit "hard" without it seeming heavy. It's the combination of the speed and topspin that makes a heavy ball so effective. And isn't Nadal's forehand the very definition of "heavy"?  That ball explodes off his racket and ditto when it hits the ground.  I think one relevant question is, why is hitting "heavy" so effective and what does it "do" to an opponent?   One possible answer is that a heavy ball is unusual in tennis.  When one encounters it they're put on the defensive because it's so hard to play.  Most players try to counteract a heavy ball with topspin of their own. Kind of like trying to swim out of a riptide. Big mistake.  This makes it a battle of upper body strength. It takes a lot  energy to reverse the heavy topspin of a Nadal-like player. You're forced to slice or hit flat to use less energy but that only makes the heavy hitter's job easier! I've played heavy hitters and there's nothing worse.Fighting the heavy topspin with your own topspin is the wrong strategy unless you're sure you can outmuscle them.

  22. I think the longer you have the strings on the ball the easier it is to hit the ball faster, whether it's a flat ball or a ball that travels higher over the net. Keeping the ball on the strings means that the wrist movement can impart more spin and speed if all levers are working together. Maybe that's why you can swing slowly to hit fast. I'd say that it's more spin than speed that produces a heavy ball. I also think that a flat ball can have a lot of spin, produced by hitting across the body rather than upwards and these balls are driven into the ground rather than jumping up when they bounce.

  23. To me the 'heavy' ball is spin and speed. Must have both. It is the speed/spin of the ball after the bounce, in particular, if the ball leaps up and you have to contact it head high or above. Hitting head high balls is tougher because that is not where your strength is…your hitting strength is waist high, right? At head high, the returner is basically slapping at it or looping it back, a weaker return for sure. Getting it head high also means having to hit it deep as was mentioned in the video. So, deep, spin, speed. If it doesn't go high, it is not heavy, b/c it falls in peoples' shot box.

  24. For me it was simply making contact at the point where the racquet's acceleration was peaking… no need for a big grunt or anything, easily 90mph+.

    I didn't start out wanting more power, I am a tennis player for a little over a year but I climbed to USTA 6.0 range quickly due to being in a college team, and there I started out ripping huge forehands but they were sailing long. After completely scrapping my erroneous technique, I was working with our coach to better my rotational power and just focusing on more spin. In short, I was simply getting more balls in at a steady pace. Now that I have better control, I have a 92% consistency on 90-100 mph forehands, but if I go above 105mph I tend to be very close to hitting out. I tried to adjust for this by stepping back a little more.

    However, from my games so far if the opponent's footwork is good, 90+ forehands won't get past them unless there's an obvious opening for you to exploit, so I think one has to focus on consistency before all else. Hitting forehand winners with high speed and precision makes you feel good about your game, attracts attention, etc, but also creates a fatigue opening your opponent can use to counter push you. Look at Verdasco, great forehand technique, when it sails in, it's magic, easily 120mph. However, his 100mph+ forehands only have a 63% success rate, which is more than half, but is also the reason for why he never climbed to the top of a grand slam. In addition if you look at his matches with Djokovic, getting in position to return Verdasco's forehand allows Djokovic to control the rally which in turn translates into Verdasco not having the opportunity to exert his strength.

    Also, at the end of the day, consider stamina. How many of these top-of-the-line forehands can you muster in 1 game? 1 set? 1 match? It's a war of attrition, thus it is important to consider physique and stamina. For someone like Nishikori, his groundstrokes are well-developed and above average speed for his build, and he uses them tactfully to move the rallies in his favor, whereas Verdasco, hits an average-high speed forehand for his build and has little footwork to follow up should he fail.

  25. without looking at any other comments, my assessment of a heavy ball is one hit a) extremely cleanly and b) with maximum spin rotation (rpm's) and above average pace

  26. great stuff Jim. it's been some time since you posted this, any chance of a sequel to hear more thoughts of yours on this subject? and maybe reflect on some of the comments below…

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