Passing Topspin or Jump Serves
A topspin serve is a serve in which the ball spins quickly, often over the top of the axis of the ball. In general, a topspin ball is easier to pass than a float serve except in the case of a very powerful or talented server. A hard server might be able to overpower passers simply because the passers cannot take enough heat off of the ball with their platform. So, how do you pass a hard topspin serve?
As with any form of passing, it is important that your feet get to the ball first. It is much easier to pass if your feet are stable, making your whole body more balanced.
A Strong Platform
Once you get your feet to the ball, it is important that you have a strong platform. Your elbows should be straight and your hands pointed downward. See the image above if you are confused. Having a strong platform while receiving a topspin serve is key because if your platform breaks at all, you are most likely going to shank the ball. A topspin serve is meant to overpower the passer–a strong platform won’t allow this to happen. If you need to take some power off the ball, you can lower your arms a bit (usually 2-5 inches is enough) as you are passing, but your elbows still shouldn’t break.
Watch it Drop!
A topspin serve will often drop the last few feet of its flight because of the rotation of the ball. Know this and always be prepared to take a last step forward as the ball approaches you. Many topspin servers garner a lot of points because the ball looks like it is sailing out until the last few feet of court when it drops suddenly and lands on the back line.
What About Side-Spin?
Some topspin servers will put some side-spin on their balls in order to try to get the ball to curve or cut one way or another. The best way to pass a ball with side-spin is to read it early and get to the passing spot quickly in order to be able to make any last-second adjustments in case the ball drops or curves.