The Art and Science of Victory
Buggy Whip

O.K., this is not the prettiest stroke. It takes allot of energy and does not maximize pace or power. It is, however, an absolutely essential adjunct to the Millennium Forehand.

The stroke produces a ball with extreme topspin and only moderate pace. It is the weapon-of-choice for handling a short, low ball because the heavy top keeps the ball short. It is also excellent for hitting extreme angles to chase your opponent off court, for putting the ball at the net rusher's feet and for hitting the topspin lob. I would sot use it as my bread-and-butter forehand when rallying behind the baseline because it tends to sit up and say 'punish me!', and if I had to hit four of these in a row my heart would explode. Sharapova uses this variation frequently, but she is bigger, stronger and younger than I am.

The Stroke

Legend

The buggy whip represents a variation on the semi-western forehand. If you master the semi-western you can hit the buggy whip - just 'tighten the screw' on the follow through until the racquet ends up over the right shoulder.

The essentials:

Follow-Through

Legend

To achieve excessive topspin...that is the point of hitting the buggy whip. Topspin depends largely on the angle-of-attack (AOA) of the racquet as you address the ball. You increase the AOA by making the follow through more 'steep' or 'tightening the screw'.To hit the buggy whip you use the force, footwork, back swing and grip of the semi-western forehand, but instead of following through by the left ear the racquet ends up on the right side of the body. The steep AOA results in a slower ball with extreme topspin. '
Tactics

Buggy whip tactics - in response to a short ball this Kill Shot is hit with extreme angle.

So when do you use the buggy whip? The shape of the flight path of the buggy whipped ball is a steep high arc. The ball clears the net with room to spare and lands much shorter than a flat or underspin shot. This means you can take a short, low ball and hit it hard and still keep your shot inside the baseline. You can also go for more extreme angles and hit a dipping shot at the feet of a net rusher. Finally if you aim it high you have an effective and consistent topspin lob.

Scenarios:

  • The Kill Shot - If you are a baseliner, your goal is to induce your opponent to hit the ball short. When you step over the baseline you are on the offensive and a winner or near winner should be possible. The usual heavy topspin millennium forehand or two-handed backhand is designed to hit the ball from baseline to baseline - if you hit the same shot from four feet inside the service line it will land four feet long. As you move in you have to increase the percentage of topspin to pace to keep the your ball in the court - so whip it - whip it good!
  • The Impossible Angle - Excessive topspin is the secret behind those wicked angle shots that are hit from behind the baseline and land on the sideline at the tee, pulling the opponent into the side spectators box. This can be a great way to open up the court for the 'Kill Shot' as long as you remember that if your opponent manages to get to the ball you are also opening up your own court for nasty angles.
  • The Topspin Lob - Who doesn't love this shot? Well, Me for one. I am an inveterate net rusher, and this is the shot that breaks your heart and your back. It is the baseliner's answer to the net rusher's drop volley and is as close to an outright winner as you get in the game of tennis. The execution is trivial - just hit the buggy whip and open the racquet face a bit at the point of contact and you have it. It can also be very effective against base liners who don;t know what to do with balls that bounce over their heads.
  • The Ankle Biter - Another application of the buggy whip effective against the net rusher is to hit the whip lower than usual and have the ball dive to the feet of the net rusher. This leaves the net man with a though shots and few options if he pulls it off. Most of the time he will simply pop it up short and you can then push it by him. The trick to this shot is to understand that your goal is not to have the flight of the ball peak over the net, but rather on your own side of the court. That way as it crosses the net it is already on its way down - zeroing your opponent's Reeboks.