Originally published on 21/05/15
Nine out of every 10 shots in tennis is hit with topspin. It’s the stroke that allows you to pummel the ball and still find the court, and a coaching fundamental. It is also one of the trickiest techniques to teach to beginners, who generally learn to hit the ball first before adding the complication of topspin later.
Phillip Hofmeyr wants to change all that. A player and coach for over 30 years, he believes topspin should be taught from the very first tennis lesson: “Spin is what gives one consistency. Teach topspin first and you dramatically accelerate how soon someone is playing with consistency and power, making tennis much more fun. And teaching topspin to beginners saves you the trouble of changing their grips and getting them to ‘un-learn’ the strokes they were taught when they first started.”
The problem for beginners and coaches alike has always been the demonstration of how a topspin drive should feel. Talking about topspin, brushing the racket against the back fence and shadowing a coach’s low-to-high trajectory may give beginners a sense of what topspin should look like, but not how it plays. The missing element is the sensation of a ball spinning off the stringbed, the cornerstone of the stroke.
That’s where the TopspinPro steps in. The tripod construction features a tennis ball mounted on a flexible pivot that both spins and springs back when hit with topspin, placed between two angled mesh wings that guide the shape of the stroke. Hit the ball without hitting the wings and it will spin, pass between the wings and spring back, ready to be hit again. Hofmeyr believes TopspinPro can help pupils get to grips with topspin in two minutes.
“By forcing you to keep the angle of your racket face constant and allowing you to feel what it’s like to brush the ball, TopspinPro combines both the visual and kinaesthetic elements essential to accelerated learning,” he says. “It focuses on the impact zone, where the racket face is between 75-80 degrees and encourages wrist use to generate spin.”
Hofmeyr developed TopspinPro from scratch and has received a string of endorsements and orders, including a deal with Virgin Active, who will soon have the coaching aid at their tennis facilities nationwide. Prices start at £69 plus shipping, with a discount for ordering multiple units.