How To Execute Forehand Topspin

How to Execute Forehand Topspin

To execute a forehand topspin, scrub the paddle upward against the ball, while the face of the paddle is tilted slightly forward. In the video, the motion is exaggerated.

This is a maneuver that should executed when you feel you have a strong advantage in a kitchen rally. If you try this too soon, without enough advantage, it will most likely come back to you even faster, beyond a speed at which you can react.

You may have gently bounced the ball back and forth a number of times with your opponents. You patiently waited until they were out of position, or gave you the ball a little too high. That’s when you use your forehand topspin. One of the best places to put this is directly between the two opponents.

This has several advantages over a flat shot. First, it is fast, and goes low to the players’ feet. It will also clear the net when a flat shot won’t, because the ball is slightly lifted and spun as it is hit, giving it an arc over the net. Finally, if it hits the tape at the top of the net, it will have forward spin traction and is more likely to roll across to the opponents’ side, than to fall on your side. And, once it hits the tape, it will pop strangely, being nearly impossible to hit back with any accuracy.

Thumb Guide Grip

The Thumb Guide Grip

After seeing players at all levels occasionally hit a ball that goes off in a random weird direction, I started to wonder what was going on. For instance, an ordinary back court passing shot might hit the bottom of the net. Such a shot might not be slightly low, but very low. Another case is an overhand smash that goes way off target to the right or left.

It seems the problem is that the players’ bodies aren’t quite aware of the angle of the paddle in the hand. If the paddle is twisted just one or two degrees the wrong way, they’ll have a crazy shot.

So how can you recognize the angle of the paddle? The handle usually isn’t definitive enough, generally being a sort of nebulous oval or symmetrical polygon.

Here’s what what you can do: You can switch to the thumb guide grip which is pictured below.

picture of thumb guide grip

Thumb guide grip

With your thumb resting on the edge of the paddle, your body will know exactly the angle at all times. Oh, it is mostly a subconscious thing – you don’t have to think about it. But suddenly, the problem with angle goes away. I have used this grip extensively, and can report that it doesn’t interfere in any way with ordinary play. Furthermore, you can quickly and easily switch to any other grip if needed.

Variations of the thumb guide grip can include the forefinger grip, the two-finger grip, and a combination of all with the finger and thumb grip. These might be a bit more problematic, because they don’t allow for quite as firm a hold on the paddle, and your fingers might contact the ball in a backhand.


Alternate grips with which you can feel the angle of the paddle.

Junk Your Fancy Spins

pickleball10Some of the techniques discussed on this website will carry you only so far. Spin serves, slices, hard passing shots, overhand smashes will bring you to perhaps 4.0 status, but if you try to use those very same techniques at higher levels of play, you’ll lose every game.

Why? Because many people go through this stage, and the advanced players have learned to respond to all your flamboyant moves.

If you watch a typical 5.0-level game, you’ll see that the players mostly use conventional moves. They serve deep, but not necessarily fast and low. They return deep, again, not necessarily fast or low.

They drop the third shot into the kitchen, and most often into the middle, not angled to one side. Then they have a soft rally until a genuine opportunity comes along. The intermediate pickleballer tends to end soft kitchen rallies too soon by taking a shot that might be a winner, instead of waiting for one that will be a winner. You’ll often see the best pickleball players wait out a kitchen rally for a very long time, until that decisive moment comes along. And, it might not even require an offensive move. Your opponent may make a mistake, hitting the ball into the net, or may try an offensive move, that you can easily slam back even harder.