The U.S. Open: Home of the Topspin Lob

This is part 4 in my series of articles on hard court shots.  It's the end of the 1st week of the 2014 U.S. Open in New York, and as expected, there's been a lot of swinging volleys, kick serves, and attacking groundstrokes.  With all this offensive firepower being unleashed, someone has to end up on defense.  When it comes to the fast and high bounce of the Deco Turf 2 courts in the US Open and all the other tournaments in the US Open Series leading up to it, the Topspin Lob suddenly becomes a popular defensive tool that has very offensive results.  It shows up far more often this time of year because of two factors:

  • The speed of the surface encourages players to move forward and attack at a far higher rate than other surfaces.
  • The rubberized hard court surface produces a predictable and high bounce that gives baseline players room to move under the ball and lob with topspin

It happens far more in the Men's Draw because the men move forward to the net at a far higher rate than the ladies do.  No net player; no need to lob.  Here's a great example of Men's U.S. Open point involving the Topspin Lob:

David Ferrer vs Janko Tipsarevic US Open 2012

David Ferrer is about as far away from an attacking player as you can get.  Yet, at the U.S. Open, even a counter puncher like Ferrer takes the opportunity to move forward.  Ferrer attacks with a Topspin approach shot.  His topspin, combined with the bouncy U.S. Open surface, gives Tipseravic the time and space he needs to not only lob, but hit an offensive topspin lob.

Whether it be the Pro Tour, College Tennis, or USTA Junior Competition, the most common approach shot is to use a forehand (usually from the middle or just into the ad side of the court) and attack the backhand side.  This pits the shot with the biggest racquet speed potential vs the one with the lowest potential racquet speed.  Consequently, the first topspin lob I recommend any player learn is the backhand topspin lob.  Here's 2013 US Open Men's Champion, and current ATP #2 player Rafael Nadal of Spain, showing how the two handed backhand topspin lob is done:

Rafael Nadal Two Handed Backhand Topspin Lob

Now here's ATP #67 Bernard Tomic of Australia showing how the One Handed Backhand Topspin Lob is played:

Bernard Tomic One Handed Backhand Topspin Lob

The forehand topspin lob does offer more potential racquet speed due to the greater distance between racquet and ball. So when possible, this is the preferred side for topspin lobs.   It's also a wise idea to use the increasingly popular reverse follow through to add not only more topspin, but some side spin as well.  That effect makes chasing this shot down after the bounce nearly impossible.  Here's Nadal one more time showing how this shot works.

So if you're playing on hardcourts this summer, prepare to be attacked and be ready by adding a topspin lob to your game.  Find a USPTAor USPTR Certified Pro in your area to hit the courts and practice those lobs!