By Larry Hodges
The hooking sidespin loop had its heyday in the early 1970s, with the rise of Hungary's Istvan Jonyer, the 1975 World Men's Singles Champion. Jonyer looped with a straight arm, and would often contact the ball on outside, hooking the ball with incredible sidespin. Often his racket tip would point straight down at contact, giving him essentially 100% sidespin. When players went to his forehand side, often he would loop around the net, with the ball barely rising above table level, and essentially rolling when it hit the far side - nearly unreturnable. Primarily because of Jonyer, the rules were changed, requiring the net to project six inches outwards. This makes around-the-net loops rare, though top players still do this shot sometimes from the very wide forehand.
However, while we may never see the sidespin dominance of a player like Jonyer again, most loops do have sidespin on them. According to U.S. Men's Coach Dan Seemiller, your typical forehand loop should be about 15% sidespin. This is the most natural loop - for most players, it would be tricky going for 100% topspin, as the racket naturally tips downward from the shoulder, and contact point is below the shoulder.
Yet some players like to go for extreme sidespins on some of their loops, especially on the forehand side. It's a great way to mess up an opponent and set up your own shots. How and when do you do it?
This is one of those shots where if you see a top player do it once, it's easy to copy. The basic key is contact the ball on the far side, with the racket tip down.
It's generally easier doing it from the wide forehand. In fact, if someone blocks to your wide forehand, and you have to stretch for the ball even a little bit, it's best to get your racket outside the ball and hook it back with sidespin as well as topspin. If you do it to the opponent's wide forehand, he'll have difficulty attacking your now open backhand side, and so you'll get another forehand shot - except now you are in position.
Hooking sidespin loops are also good set-up shots. The sidespin messes the opponent's timing, and forces returns to your forehand, making it a nice set-up shot.
Last of all, sidespin is fun and creative. So, tired of throwing the usual topspins and backspins at your opponent? Have a little sidespin fun!