Return to Main Menu

Creation date: January '03, Last Update: 12/16/05

 What differentiates this FAQ from others found on tip/cheat oriented sites is that this page provides in-depth instruction with tips on creating a top contender both offline and online, and in the quickest way possible.  Additionally, I've added some insight on successful matchplay strategies in single player mode as well as when using Xbox Live.  There is no need to waste time detailing every nuance in the game as the manual should provide that information.  This is the info you should know in order to be successful. None of the information found on this page has been borrowed from other FAQs and has been obtained solely from personal experience.  Any similarity between this FAQ/Strategy Guide and others is completely coincidental (unless others took their info from this page!). 

All content found in the "Original Top Spin FAQ & Strategy Guides" (aka The Original Top Spin Superguides) is completely original work by the noted author(s).  
Content is owned by and protected by copyright law.  It is not to be reproduced or redistributed without the expressed written consent of the XBFL.



Top Spin, along with Virtua Tennis, is one of the most realistic tennis videogames ever, however, it is not without its flaws.  One of the biggest flaws found in Top Spin is the overly embellished power game.  The use of "risk shots" puts Top Spin more into an arcade-game category versus being a true simulation.  Coupled with top spin skills, ridiculous kicker serves, and the all-too-famous "death drop shot" - the game loses a lot of it's credibility in terms of being true to the game of tennis. 

In real life, tennis players often size each other up and get a rhythm going before attempting put away shots.  Strategy is a very important element of matchplay in real tennis.  In Top Spin, a put away shot could be the very first return stroke of the game by utilizing crazy angles or "risk shots."  Additionally, "no-man's land" (the area around the service line) is a legitimately playable area in this game.  In the real game of tennis, you will very rarely see a pro player in no-man's land unless he is serve and volleying or pounding a winner off a weak return shot that bounced short.  Knowing this going into the game is important because the competitive challenge online is substantially different than the moronic A.I. found in the game.  The idea is to know the game's weaknesses, and how to make sure you are able to counter any techniques used by others who intend to exploit them.

Table of Contents:

A - Creating a Player
- The Fast Track to a Top Contender; Getting to #1
- Offline Strategies
D - Skill Sets
E- Playing the women's circuit
F - Xbox Live! Play
G - Online Strategy
H - Cheesy Gameplay: Beware!
I - Strategy for Playing Cheesy Gamers
J - Where's Andre Agassi?
K - Xbox Live/Top Spin Server Update
L - Improvement Suggestions for Microsoft/PamDev
M - Wrap Up
N - Miscellaneous Links
O - The Author
P - News & Commentary  (updated on 12/16/05)

A - First Things First, Creating a Player:

Instead of going into detail on how to create a player (which you should know how to do anyway) - here are a few things to consider:

A Heavy or muscle-bound player will slow you down.  
Tip: The average weight of a pro tennis player is between 170-185lbs.   For a 175lb player, you may want to make him about 167lbs and add 8 lbs of muscle definition.

Is Extra Height a Good Thing?:
Yes and no.  It helps with your service game and knocking lobs out of the air, but low shots like a slice or short top spin will cause a tall player to be out of position resulting in a weak floating return.
Tip: Stay between 5'11" and 6'5" with your player.

Two-handed or one-handed backhand?
While not confirmed, I've experienced better gameplay with a one-hander.  I've created nearly a dozen custom players and those with a two handed backhand seem to be more likely to push (a.k.a."spoon") a ball on the forehand side at the most inopportune times than a guy with a one-handed backhand.  While it seems irrelevant to have a forehand glitch based on a backhand tendency, it has become too common an occurrence for me to ignore.   Please note that this has nothing to do with a player's positioning.  This truly is a mystifying glitch.  Furthermore, two-handers are more likely to be jammed when a ball is hit towards their body.

Service Motion: Service motions with a flat stance (feet separated) are for baseliners.  A crossover or toe-drag motion can be either be for a baseliner or a serve and volleyer, though more suited to the latter in this game.  Serve option #4 is near identical to the form that Boris Becker once used during his days on the ATP Tour.

Racquet Selection: Racquet selection does not (from my experience) provide you any advantage or disadvantage by choosing one style over another.  I conducted a test between a standard O/S Head racquet and one of those extra long-body racquets and observed no additional power generated from my player.  So, as far as I can tell, it's pretty much an individual choice on which brand or color you like.  I flip-flop between the Head Chip System (one of your first two choices when starting a new career) and the Prince More Control.  Both perform identically to each other.  I'll switch frames depending on which color shirt my custom player wears.  Pretty scientific, eh?

B - Fast Track to a Top Contender:

While some may disagree or have an alternate way of getting a juiced player quickly, I feel that the following is the best and most efficient way: After creating your custom player:

- Go to a sponsor (preferably one that you do not care about) and compete in the test match for $15,000.
- Go to another sponsor (one that you like) and compete in their test match which awards $15,000 as well.
- Compete in a minor pro tournament.  The competition is pathetic enough where you should thump the three opponents you face.  Provided you win, you should now have $50,000.

- Go ahead and begin adding masteries to the four aspects of game play: serve, forehand, backhand, and volley.
- Obtain two stars in each category for now. 

- Once you add two stars to each category, you will earn the status of "Young Gun" which opens up pro tournaments to compete in.

Note: After you obtain your first four mastery stars, you will have the option of choosing a skill from the first of four skill sets.  The same applies after your next four stars; you will have a choice of another skill from a different skill set.  More on skills can be found later in this FAQ. 

- After obtaining two stars in each category and selecting two skills, begin adding a third star to the masteries you wish to strengthen at this point.  You will have enough money to add three more mastery stars (total of 11).

Tip: It is recommended that you do not have less than three stars in any given category unless you plan to compensate with the appropriate skill.  For example, if you only assign two stars to your serve, you should choose the "Ace" skill to power up your serve a bit and reduce any mis-hits when using the risk serve meter.

- After you assign the three "silver level" mastery stars, you will only have $6,000 remaining.  At this point, you should have the following:

* 11 Mastery Stars
* Two Skills
* Young Gun Status
* $6,000 in your bank account.

- $6,000 is not enough to add any more masteries.  Go back to your sponsor and compete in the television commercial competition.  If successful, you will have an additional $50,000 added to your bank account.  This will be enough money to add two more mastery stars and provide the opportunity to acquire another skill. 

Tip: The TV commercial challenge is more easily accomplished when you have decent mastery ratings with your groundstrokes.

- Choose two more masteries you wish to have.  The tests will be expensive now ($25,000 for second tier silver) so do your best to accomplish the challenges in one try.  If you fail, you'll have to enter a tourney to get more money.

- At this point, you have only one mastery star left to add to your custom character.  It is now time to test what you have by entering a pro tournament that awards $100,000 to the winner.  Test all aspects of your player to see what you would like to strengthen with the final mastery star.  Is your forehand a bit weaker than your backhand?  Are your volleys just floating back over the net without any authority?  Be aware of how your player performs in given situations.  If you are debating whether to add the final star to your forehand or backhand, check out your player stats page (aka: the player nexus) after you complete the second tournament to see which wing you hit off of most often.  You may want to strengthen the side you hit off of most.

- After you win the pro tournament (which you should do with ease), take the final mastery test of your choosing. 

- You should receive "Rising Star" status soon after.

- Getting to #1: After you win the minor pro tournament, your ranking will be around 95 (out of 100).  After you win the pro tournament, your ranking will improve - though you will not see substantial gains until you get to the major pro tournaments.  To unlock the major pro tournaments, you first must win two pro tournaments.  At this point, you will need to check the rankings to see who's who on the leaderboard.  You will make the biggest gains by beating the highest ranked players in the major pro tournaments.  T. Tekur and G. Gide are usually around the top 15 and frequently appear in the major pro tournaments.

Note: For quick ways of defeating offline opponents, please scroll to topic heading #3 (Offline Strategies).

Visit a major pro tournament and check the draw.  Look for top 15 players to be present.  If they are not there, exit out of the tournament and re-enter once on the map screen.  You will notice that there is a new rotation of players present at that same tournament.  You can either repeat this step (exiting out and re-entering) until you see the opponents you wish to play, or, simply try a different major pro tournament.

Once your ranking gets to an acceptable level (by winning one or two major pro tournaments), the Grand Slams will be available.  Look for the events with the #1 player in the draw.  If you beat him, your ranking will improve considerably.

Keep seeking out the #1 player at the grand slam events (starting in Europe is easiest because you can go back and fourth between Wimbledon and the French Open until you get the draw you want).

After a few successful titles and defeating the top players, you will earn the ranking of #1 and have access to the fourth and final skill.  Your biggest gains will be when you face the #1 player in the quarter or semi-final matches.

Try to get a match with the #1 player in the quarter or semi-final rounds.  Defeating him early in a tournament greatly improves your ranking.

C - Offline Strategy:

Here are a few quick tips to beating the A.I. opponents in the quickest manner possible:

- When receiving a serve, if the computer-controlled opponent lines up wide towards the doubles alley, the serve will definitely be aimed out wide.  In this case, take two steps up from the baseline and one step to the side so that your outside foot is in the doubles alley.  The best return against a serve out wide is undoubtedly the slice down the line.  As soon as you hit your slice, shuffle over to the center of the court just inside the baseline to receive his shot off your return of serve (if he gets to it in time).

If your A.I. opponent lines up more towards the center of the court, the serve will be made down the middle.  They are not too brilliant in hiding their intentions.

- When serving, the quickest way to winning a point is to double tap the "B" button and briefly hold your stick to the lower right side if you are serving from the Ad Court or down and to the left if you are serving from the Deuce side.  This will give you a slow top spin serve that will land short and near the outside singles line.  As soon as the ball leaves your racquet, charge the net and right up the center of the service boxes.  Your opponent will return a serve towards the center of the court where you should be able to place an easy volley to the opposite side.  If they are lucky enough to get it, a few taps to the side they are running to should put you in great position to make a put-away-volley to the other side. 

Tip: Adjusting your approach to the net by a step to the right or left of the center service line will result in a better angled volley.

Tip: This strategy works extremely well in the minor pro and pro tournaments.  Depending on your volley skills during the Grand Slam events, it may prove to be a bit more difficult, though should still be pretty effective in giving you the upper hand at the beginning of each service point.  On few occasions do the top players hit down the line if you serve and volley.  Lleyton Hewitt is one of the few players who occasionally returns down the line.

Tip:  If your A.I. opponent has you on the run and you know that whatever type of ball you hit, it will be returned for a winner (i.e. regular groundstroke or lob), use the left trigger to pull a drop shot while you are on the full run.  By hitting a drop shot on the run, the slowed ball speed will give you a bit more time to quickly turn around and hopefully get back into position to defend against your opponent's next attack.

Note: For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the court terminology I am using (and will use throughout this webpage), please refer to the three reference images I've created:

Court Basics: Details various parts of a tennis court: baseline, singles and doubles lines, service boxes, and doubles alley.
Court Basics 2: Illustrates the ad and deuce courts as well as "no man's land."  The term "deuce court" refers to the left service box (and right baseline area when serving).  The term "ad court" refers to the right service box (and left baseline area when serving).
Court Basics 3: Illustrates popular service areas for both singles and doubles play.  "X" represents where a singles player would typically serve from, "Y" where a player would serve from in a doubles game.

FAQ: "Is there any more to Top Spin after winning all the tournaments and meeting the in-game objectives?"
As far as I can tell, playing the "world tour" a second time through will not unlock any secrets or provide additional benefits.  I've spoken to others who share the same belief.  So, if you are re-visiting all the tournaments in hopes of finding an "Easter egg" of some kind, you may be wasting your time.

FAQ: "Are there significant differences in playing as a male character versus a female aside from serve speed?"
Yes, there are a few:
1.) Female players do not dive.  This is a huge advantage when using a female character as opposed to a male.
2.) Female characters can still put some "pop" on the ball despite being jammed.  Male characters typically float up a weak reply when a ball his hit towards their body, the women hit more of a slower line-drive. 
3.) Female players do not seem to hit the ball as hard as their male counterparts in many aspects of the game, not just when serving - though, the pace is very close.

Another thing worth mentioning is that not many Top Spin gamers play as females when online.  Quite a few people I've spoken to enjoy playing the women's circuit moreso than the men when online, though they note it's difficult to find matches as quickly.  Additional details on the women's game can be found further along in this guide.


D - Skill Sets:

In addition to masteries, skill sets are what ultimately define your player.  There may be thousands of others online who share the same masteries as you, but your choice of skills will likely distinguish your custom player from others’.

There are four groups of skill sets.  The first skill set is made available after you add your first four masteries.  The second skill set comes after your 8th mastery star, and the third skill set appears after your 12th mastery star.   The fourth and final skill set becomes available only after you meet the in-game objectives (essentially getting to the #1 ranking with a Grand Slam title under your belt).

The skill sets are:
Curved Serve - adds spin to your serve so that it has a bit of a sideways curve
Precision - reduces the tendency of your player hitting the ball out of bounds
Return Serve - allows for a more effective service return against powerful serves
Return Risk Shot - increases the likelihood of a decent return off a risk shot

Volley - improves your custom character's net-play when volleying; volley returns are more effective
Speed - increases your player's court speed which helps in chasing down balls
Angle - helps in directing shots (and volleys) to the corners of the court.
Power - adds a little more speed to your shots

Risk Shot - slows down the risk meter and reduces the margin of error when attempting a risk shot
Passing Shot - adds a bit more targeting precision when your opponent is at the net
Ace - slows down the serve meters and reduces the margin of error when going for a powerful serve
Drop Shot - slows down the drop shot meter and reduces the margin of error when trying for a drop shot

Smash - adds power to your overhead smash making it more difficult for your opponent to return it
Curved Slice - adds sideways spin to your slice where it curves to the inside if hit from out of bounds, or outside if hit within bounds.
Top Spin - puts spin on the ball where it clears the net and dips quickly.  highly effective with the "angle" skill
Aggressive Lob - quicker lob that doesn't have as high as an arc as the traditional lob.

Selecting one of the above skills can either enhance an existing strength for your player or minimize an obvious weakness.  For instance, if you opt to concentrate your masteries on your player’s ground strokes and volleys, you may end up with only two stars on your serve.  Adding the Ace skill will add a few MPH to your weak serve in addition to slowing down the risk serve meter so that you have the opportunity for more success at a powerful serve.   Skills can also strengthen the default weaknesses found in your character's base-type  (e.g. a "power player" has a "0" rating for angle).

Here are some FAQ’s for the skill sets:

- What is an “aggressive lob?” Actually, this is a poor choice of a descriptor for the lob skill.  The standard lob found in Top Spin is actually an aggressive lob (aka: top spin lob or offensive lob).  An aggressive lob is when player imparts extreme top spin on the ball by dropping the racquet head well below the ball as it approaches, and then quickly striking it from low to high so that it has fast forward spin and takes off in an upward trajectory.  The ball will travel in a sharp arc due to the aerodynamics of a tennis ball, where forward spin will bring the ball downward quickly after reaching its apex.

There are no defensive lobs in Top Spin which is a major oversite on behalf of PAM Development. Defensive lobs are lobs with no spin and hit very high into the air with the intention of allowing the lobber time to "regroup" and get back into position on the court.

The aggressive lob skill in Top Spin is merely a more precise lob that lands deep in the backcourt.  Combined with the precision skill, the aggressive lob skill will enable you to effectively launch lobs without too much worry of them ever landing out of bounds.  Be warned though, most aggressive lobs are lower than the traditional lob in Top Spin, thus making them more prone to being returned with an overhead smash by your opponent.

- What exactly is "Top Spin?"
Top spin is a shot where a player brushes the racquet head across the ball from low to high very quickly on the forehand or backhand side.  When watching tennis on TV, you may notice that some players (most commonly the Spaniards and clay court "specialists") hit the ball with extreme top spin where their racquet head starts at their knees and they follow through up around their neck; they often play well behind the baseline too since the ball bounces so high.  This motion (whether traditional or extreme) puts a forward spin on the ball so that after it clears the net, it dives down to the court and rebounds with a higher bounce than a "flat" hit would provide.  Because of the forward spin imparted on the ball, it will kick up with some speed.  More top spin is required to obtain a more extreme angle.   It is important to note that top spin groundstrokes are not as fast as "flat" groundstrokes.  Typically when pro players go for a winner, they level out their swing to hit a line-drive shot.

Most every pro player hits with some degree of top spin unless they flatten out their groundstroke for an inside-out forehand or a crushing winner.  The only pro player in recent history to have truly flat groundstrokes was Jimmy Connors, where almost no spin was placed on the ball, especially on the forehand side.

Top spin is particularly effective when trying to create angles to expose the open court on the other side of the net.  For instance, a player on the right side of the court may attempt a top spin cross court shot (to the left) that will bounce shallow (in the service box) and "kick-out" beyond the doubles lane.  This would force his opponent to chase the ball down leaving most of the court exposed for a clean winner should the ball even be returned. You will most likely see heavy top spin used by pros when they are trying to hit from corner to corner (and where the ball bounces close to the service line).

Top spin shots provide a great change of pace to simply thumping flat forehands and backhands which takes more energy.  Top spin is also effective in lobbing (see above about the "aggressive lob").

In the videogame "Top Spin," be wary of people who use "Guga" (Gustavo Kuerten) on clay court surfaces that set up matches for a mere three or four games (single set).  Guga has vicious top spin groundstrokes that could have you all over the court trying to run them down.  When playing him, try to minimize the angles he can potentially hit.

- Is the risk shot skill worth having? In my opinion, no.  If you use the risk shot on a regular basis, you will earn yourself a reputation as being a cheesy player and may have your name posted on message boards.  You will undoubtedly come across others who use it regularly, and those individuals are frowned upon by sim-gamers.  (see my Xbox Live! competitor breakdown further along in this FAQ).

With practice, you should be able to nail a risk shot without the aid of this skill provided you have adequate masteries on your groundstrokes.

- Is the risk shot a realistic part of tennis? This was actually a topic of conversation recently on the message boards.  It was started by an alleged "tennis player" who stated that he believed it was realistic (and claimed to hit them all the time himself in real life), though a follow up posting by another visitor argued the fact, and supported his retort fairly accurately.  So, to lay this issue to rest, is the risk shot realistic?  The answer is an emphatic NO.  If anyone tells you differently, they either haven't a clue about tennis or they are full of ****.  Here are facts detailing why the risk shot is not a realistic part of the game of tennis:

* the average rally speed of a tennis ball at the professional level falls between 68-75mph.  Again, this is an average so there is assumed degrees of variation based on court surface, weather conditions, and of course, which two players are hitting the ball back and fourth.  Two sluggers like a Sampras and Agassi would probably reach the low-end 80mph range in some rallies when their adrenaline is pumping.

* a so-called "risk shot" at the professional level will increase ball speed by about 10-12 mph but is directly determined by several variables including incoming ball speed, incoming ball spin, incoming ball trajectory, weather conditions, string tension, court surface, and the soon to be offensive player's preparation and ability.  With that said, at the March 2004 Nasdaq-100 tennis tournament, Andre Agassi hit his 4th round opponent's return of serve with a half swing and blistered it back at 94mph.  On a HALF SWING!  Aside from the crowd going wild, the commentators were practically falling out of their seats in disbelief.  Such a shot is practically unheard of.  But then again, Andre Agassi is an exception to almost every rule in tennis.  With the advancement of racquet technology and athletes of today who are more "fit," risk shots have on occasion approached 100mph.  With that said, it is physically impossible to sustain that level of play over any period of time.  Risk shots on the pro tour are typically used in two situations: 1) the player receiving the ball is in perfect position to hit it back for a winner, and has accurately predicted the ball's trajectory, or 2) a player takes a hard/wild swing out of despiration, thus relying more on luck than skill that his or her shot will be a winner.  

In the game Top Spin, a risk shot plays out the same way regardless of the variables surrounding the inbound tennis ball.  It could be a low slice, or a high top spin shot.  It could be fast, it could be slow.  It doesn't matter.  The end result will almost always be the same with very little (if any) variance.

* now, with the above statements taken into consideration, ponder this:  The estimated speed of a risk shot found in the game of Top Spin is 133-141 mph.  Is this realistic?  Is it realistic to have a forehand or backhand as powerful as someone's fastest serve? 
No.  Is it realistic to pound 10, 20, or 30 of these rockets in a single match (such as best of three, three game sets)?  Absolutely not!  Aside from the in-game "risk shot" being practically impossible to pull off in real life conditions, it most certainly could not be hit with repeated success.  Additionally, fatigue would have an enormous effect on a player.  Draw your own conclusions, but the fact is that the risk shot in Top Spin is a bogus addition to the game and should have never been included.

- Is the drop shot skill worth having? Same as the risk shot skill, it’s not worth gaining a bad reputation over.  If you are a good player, simple practice will help you hit a drop shot when appropriate.  Abusing the drop shot (or utilizing the now extinct "death drop") with a skill is very much frowned upon by many online gamers.  There are better skill options available.

- Should I select the return risk shot skill when creating my player so that if I meet a cheesy player, I will be able to be competitive? Don’t waste a skill on a return risk shot.  A slice return is very effective against power serves and risk shots provided you have enough masteries on your forehand and backhand side.

- Which skills are the best to take?
It really depends on the custom player you want to create and how you distributed your masteries.  I’ve experimented with a dozen or more custom players so far.  Ideally, if you shortchange yourself with a player attribute (e.g. volley), you may want to select a skill to counteract that weakness (i.e. the volley skill).  Additionally, if you chose a player type (i.e. defensive, tactician, power, etc…) you may want to add a skill to lessen or remove the player-type’s standard weakness.  For instance, a defensive player is short on power.  Adding the power skill will negate (to some degree) the weakness found in that player type.

Many will argue which skills are best, but the one I feel that every player should have is
Precision.  It will minimize player tendencies to hit the ball out of bounds when you are holding the analog stick to a given side.   Other than that, the other skills are up to your personal preference. If you pinned me for an answer, I'd say the following skills could be avoided: Curved Serve, Return Risk Shot, Risk Shot, Drop Shot, Ace (unless you are struggling with the meter), Volley, Smash, and Aggressive Lob.  Now, if you wanted to create variations of your custom player, you may want to try one of the above to see how it affects your gameplay.  Let me state that I mentioned "Volley" in the above list for two reasons: 1) many people online play a baseline game.  They don't require a volley skill.  2) If they do attack the net often, they already have sufficient mastery stars assigned to that area of their game; there would be no reason to waste a skill on an ability they already have.

- Why does my guy "spoon the ball" over the net around mid-court when I powered up to hit a clean winner?  Should I add a power skill?   I do not have the answer for this and I've tried many combinations of masteries and skills and I still can't figure why sometimes my players push the ball over at the most inopportune times (usually when I want to whack a short ball that lands within the service box and just inside the singles side-lines).  I have two characters - identical in mastery stars, skill sets, and player types, but only one of them is near perfect where he never spoons the ball. It doesn't make sense.  His particular weakness is that he is more sensitive to diving for balls just out of reach (unlike the other "twin") which brings me to...........

- Why does my character dive?  Is there a skill to prevent this? The best way to minimize needless (and annoying) dives is to not hold the button down as you are chasing after a ball.  Simply give your A, X, Y, or B button a quick tap when you are just within reach of the ball.  It is almost certain that you will dive if you hold one of those buttons down while running parallel to the baseline.  No in-game skill will help this problem.  While this tip is not a cure per se, it will help reduce the tendency of your player diving all the time.

Furthermore, I've proven time and time again that the top spin shot on the run will likely to cause your player to dive, whether you are trying to hit it on the run offensively, or defensively.  The top spin shot can be a blessing or a curse depending on your court positioning.

E -  Playing the Women's Circuit:

Playing the women's circuit on Top Spin can be as much fun, if not more than the men's game in my opinion.  "Why?" you may ask - quite frankly, offline play features more intelligent A.I. opponents, and requires greater precision to pull of down-the-line shots.  Additionally, player dives are non-existent and when jammed, your female player won't float the ball up in the air for your opponent to crush.  Granted, the pace on serves and slices are significantly slower, but the overall gameplay is simply more fun.  If you are frustrated with the men's game and tired of all the ridiculous diving, give the women's game a try.  You very well may like it.

F - Xbox Live! Play:

Playing Top Spin on Xbox Live! can be both rewarding and frustrating depending on the person you are playing.  Some guys play tennis by the book, others haven’t a clue, and a certain percentage usually attempt to exploit every loophole and reality-flaw in the game.  From my experience, the breakdown of gamers looks like this (and these are mere % estimations and my opinion, though some statements are factual).  Percentages based on 80,000 Top Spin gamers which were registered in January 2004:

5-10% are “cheesers” who rely on gimmicks to win their games.  They don’t play tennis by the book and resort to reality flaws found in the game.  Additionally, they usually set up their matches for only two or three games and create these challenges looking for “soft” opponents with “low experience” to inflate their win percentage quickly.   Unfortunately, many of the top 1,000 are composed of these Hall of Shame players.   They typically use risk shots frequently throughout a game, are well skilled in the "death drop," or go for the ridiculous kicker serve to win free points.

Approx 15% to 20% are very good gamers who have either a good understanding of the game of tennis or simply have the knack for being a good challenge with online videogames.  The skill level of the top 10,000 varies quite a bit.  Not everyone has loads of free time on their hands to get their ranking up around the top 1,000 (and to maintain it), especially when server resets and ranking glitches take place frequently.  You could end up playing someone ranked 7,500 who is really worthy of being in the top 500. 

40% of the gamers are fair and have had some degree of success against others in their skill range.  They understand the generalities of tennis, but do not utilize strategies, or, are just not very good with the nuances of Top Spin.

The remaining percentage are people who bought the game, like to have fun, but aren’t very good at it.  They could fall between the 30,000-80,000+ range.  With that said,
everyone starts somewhere and you could play someone ranked in the 30,000 range who’s on a tear and moving up in the rankings quickly. Also, to reiterate what I said earlier, because of Microsoft’s server resets, many top ranked players have been bumped back pretty far.  Additionally, one never knows when the server will be reset so that everyone is on an equal playing ground in terms of ranking.  The moral of the story?   Never take an opponent lightly! 

Update 6/04/04: The number of registered Top Spin gamers has decreased dramatically.  In January 2004, there were 80,000 gamers ranked on Top Spin.  As of 6/04, there are under 20,000.  Because of this, the above percentages will not apply, and it is important to note that the number of "cheesy gamers" online with Top Spin has also been on the rise. 

FAQ: - If I play a series of online games back to back, why is it that sometimes my player's performance will just drop considerably where he's missing shots, diving (where he didn't before), and not hitting shots which he's skilled in?

I wish I had the answer to this question.  I've experienced the same exact problem numerous times, and many others have as well.  I'd be on a seven game winning streak where my player is performing flawlessly and all of a sudden, one match comes along where he is diving all the time, his curved slices no longer curve, he's missing volleys, and when retreating for a lob, he'll shake or be unresponsive for a second or two before actually running back despite my thumb pulling downward on the analog stick the whole time.

Some had speculated that if you played someone with a much better ranking, they would hold an edge in the "intangibles" category, i.e. - the lesser ranked player would have some control/performance "hiccups" so to speak. I am not sure if I believe that because I've experienced it both with higher ranked players and lower ranked players.  It's absolutely ridiculous to have something like that happen and it's probably something to do with the programming.   Similar theories surround Sega's ESPN Football series where some teams seem to perform better against rival teams.  It is as if lady luck is blatantly favoring one side over the other.  If anyone reading this has a theory, please send it in!  I'll post your theory and credit you for it!

The following ranking-related questions were the result of a Top Spin server issue that took place in January 2004.  This problem seems to have been corrected after patch updates were made available to address the problem:
- What is the deal with the leaderboard/server?  I've had match wins not count towards my ranking!
- Why did my ranking fall from 5,000 to 30,000 overnight?
- After my match, it showed my ranking and my opponent's ranking being zero.  What does that mean?

My answer in general terms?  Microsoft's servers have/had issues (just ask those who play Sega's 2K series of football).  But to specifically answer the above: I've had a few bad experiences with the server and I am sure they won't be the last.   In early January 2004, my ranking fell over 10,000 spots within two days.  During a one-hour period, I had won all seven of my matches played.  Of those seven matches, three showed a "0" ranking in the post-game screen.  After my fifth match, I noticed my ranking had fallen 100 spots.  After my sixth match (and win), my ranking had fallen another 100+ spots.  After my seventh match (and win), I had lost about 250 spots.  I checked my individual stats and saw that my winning streak of 20+ games had been reset to "1," that my ranking had fallen considerably, but oddly enough, my win % was the same as it was before I had played those seven games.  It wasn't positively or negatively affected.  A few nights later, I saw my ranking was in the mid-10,000 range.  There was no doubt that the server was reset, or partially reset, or that a major systems glitch had occurred.

Seeing if others shared similar stories on a few Xbox Live! forums, I was shocked to see even worse experiences being told.  One guy fell from the <1,000 range to 30,000!
I've had the "0" ranking report after games before and never thought much of it because it didn't hurt my overall standing.  This was all prior to late December 2003.  I guess I was lucky then.  Now, it seems that when this happens, it's not a good thing.  In early January of 2004, I experienced many match wins that simply didn't count towards the leaderboard.  I recall playing 6 matches back then where only three counted towards my win streak and court surface win percentage.  One of the three involved a guy who disconnected because he was losing.  I was awarded the win according to the post game screen, but it didn't count towards anything on the overall standings (where times like this in the past, it had counted).

While this is very frustrating to gamers such as myself, it's a part of Xbox Live! and Microsoft won't divulge any details as to what is going on.  When asked, they gave the standard, "We weren't aware of any problems" answer. One message board post back in January '04 stated that Microsoft had promised to call back a gamer who brought this problem to their attention. As far as I know, they never did.

So, unless you have no social life and can get in 500+ games immediately following a server reset, don't be disappointed if you don't reach #1.  As far as I'm concerned, those who can afford to play the most games are the ones who are rewarded.  It took me nearly two full weeks, about 7 games a day, over my Christmas vacation to improve my ranking from 9,500 to the 300 range (back when there were 80,000 active Top Spin gamers).  In that time, my record was approximately 91-7 with several wins over top 1500 players.  Server resets and scoring glitches cost me dearly shortly thereafter, and I no longer had the time to work my way back up that high for quite some time, and truthfully, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to put forth the effort - only to risk being kicked back to 10,000+ again without warning.  I dealt with nearly a dozen system resets in January '04 alone (as did everyone else).

- How is it that I have a higher win percentage than my opponent, but he is ranked a lot higher than me?

Chances are, he has a lot more experience online than you with many more matches under his belt, possibly with wins over top ranked players.  If you defeat someone ranked in the top 1500, your ranking will improve much moreso than if you played and beat someone ranked 20,000+.  I refer to top 1500 wins as "quality wins" because they improve your rating considerably.  Now, with that said, I recently played someone ranked 163 who had a win percentage of 72%.  How someone could be ranked that high with a 73% win percentage is beyond me - especially considering that I had a 93% win percentage and was ranked around 270 at the time (with many "quality wins" under my belt).  He had played quite a few more games than me, but still, I can't see how his ranking could be that high when he is losing roughly once in every four matches he plays. There must be some sort of weighted average formula used by Microsoft to calculate rankings.  I haven't figured it out yet.


G - Online Tips and Strategy:

Here’s a few tips to playing online which should help anyone new to the game:

- Do not make the same mistake I did early on:
Don’t hop online with an incomplete custom character (i.e. not having all masteries and skills) as soon as you get the game.  As enticing as it is to play online – make sure you are ready by passing the offline skills challenges so that you get a feel for the game.  My winning percentage took a hit when I first got the game because of this.  I’ve played tennis (in real life) at tournament level competition for many years (hence, knowledge of the game inside and out) and I still got my arse handed to me by guys with jacked up custom players.  An inferior custom character in the hands of a good gamer versus an average opponent with a jacked up custom character will still have the good gamer at a disadvantage!

- Be careful if you pick an existing pro to be your online character. 
Pete Sampras, while popular, is very underrated in Top Spin despite having 15 mastery stars.  It’s almost as if PAM Dev created him based on his performances near the ending point of his career. Gustavo Kuerten and Tommy Robredo are better options if you want to use a pro with heavy groundstrokes.  Lleyton Hewitt is okay, but not as good as the other two suggested options.  Lleyton has a tendency to miss shots wide or long.

- When looking for a “Quick Match,” make sure you look at the game setup to the left of the screen when you initially connect to someone to see how many games/sets will be played by the hosting opponent.  If you see a two or three game match, I’d recommend getting out.  Chances are, he’s a top player looking for a quick win. They tend to set up quick matches so that they an get more games in to pad their stats.  Additionally, they often have a "gimmick" as part of their game that gives them confidence in them holding serve, whether it be excessive usage of risk shots or the zero power/unrealistic kicker serve.

- It’s best to size up your competition from the onset. If your opponent is serving first, note whether or not he went for the risk serve right off the bat or if he opted to use the “rainbow meter.”  If he uses the latter, chances are he’s either a conservative player or new to the game.  If he goes for the risk serve from the get-go, he’s either hopeful or very good.  If he goes for the risk serve as his second serve – he’s either stupid or he’s a top 10,000 player and knows exactly what he’s doing!

- Return risk shots and risk serves with slices unless you have the skills necessary to counter those offensive shots effectively. The slice is a very underrated and underused shot online, and it’s very effective.

- Don’t get discouraged if you encounter a player who wins points off of repeated risk shots, or serves un-returnable top spin serves. Those that play this way are not how the majority of players play Top Spin (though the number of people doing this is increasing very quickly).  Rat him out on the XBox Top Spin Message Boards if you are annoyed by that sort of gameplay.  He'll deserve the bad reputation gained from his cheesy gameplay.

- When using the risk serve, don’t wait for the moving line to go up and down before you anticipate it centering for the power serve.
Try to nail it on the initial rise.  It only takes a quick depression and release of the right trigger (depending on your speed and technique) to get that power serve we all crave.  Practice!

- Interested in shaking things up online? If so, develop a player who’s an ace at the net!  I’ve only encountered only a dozen or so people who charged the net during every point, out of over 400 matches!  It takes a whole different strategy to beat an opponent who charges the net and is effective in doing so.

- I hate to say this, but if you are about to join a game with a foreign looking Gamertag, you should probably decline accepting the challenge. Look for two letter designations like "UK" or "NL" attached to a gamertag.  Overseas connections are less reliable for quality gaming (from a U.S. gamer's standpoint) and there’s no reason why your gameplay should suffer as a result of lag.  I’ve only had about a dozen overseas matches with good connections out of approximately 75+ in the early part of 2004.  With the latest patch (Apr '04) you can now check your opponent's connection quality.  Unless it's a minimum of 3/4 green, I wouldn't recommend playing them.  With that said, there is no guarantee that what the signal/connection meter says at the beginning of a match will remain consistent throughout.

- If you enter the challenge screen (your Gamertag and player icon and your opponents'), check to see if your opponent is using a headset or not.
You can tell this by the icon next to his player picture.  If you are and he are not, it is recommended that you don't continuously say, "Hello?" "Hello?"  or try carrying on a single-sided conversation.  It's annoying, and many people who don't wear headsets forget to turn off the "enable system speakers" option.   They end up having to listen to their opponent's jabber (or foul language) through the TV as they are trying to play.   If I don't have my headset handy, I purposely turn off that option for no reason other than to avoid hearing profanity from my opponent.

- For opponents who have the Top Spin skill or are talented in respect to manipulating the analog stick in addition to a top spin shot, you must minimize the opportunity for them to hit angles you will never reach. Only hit a shot down the line if you think your opponent won’t get it.  Do not give them angles that will expose the open court.

- When hitting a shot that will have your opponent on the run, anticipate their return by considering the following: Iif your opponent is running to the left, their analog stick is pressed towards the right.  If they just get to the ball, they will undoubtedly hit the ball to the left -- your right (or down the line depending on court position). 

Note: If you play someone who is very good, they may try to flick the stick in the opposite direction at the very last moment, but the angle they’ll hit on the run should be minimal and nothing you shouldn’t be able to reach if you charge the net.  There are exceptions though, so beware!

Chase down that ball! Nothing is more frustrating than having your opponent run you side to side knowing it's inevitable that he'll eventually get the right put-away shot since you are barely getting the ball back over the net.  Your ground strokes are weaker because you are on the run, and a lob will almost certainly get put away for a winner.  So what do you do?  The best thing to do in this case (where you are on the run chasing down a ball hit to the corner) is to "drop shot" it.  In real tennis, this would be a slice (different than a normal offensive slice, where this is more like a "chop" motion) or a hack.  A regular slice will get put away, but the "hack" does two things:

1) It slows the ball down a bit so that you can quickly recover and regain your position on the court.  This is not a fail safe tactic, but it may provide you the extra split second you need to get back on the offensive.

2) If you hit a regular slice, your opponent will see it coming, he'll move up a bit and likely hit to the open court for a winner.  If you hack the ball back, he'll see the power meter show up and his hesitation in determining whether or not you are hitting a risk shot may give you the advantage.  At the very least, he may stay back at the baseline before realizing you are returning a slow, short ball.  By the time he moves to take action, you should be in good position to receive the ball.  

This technique is most affective against baseliners.  If you are playing against a net person, he'll likely put the ball away regardless of you trying this.  The purpose of this trick is only to buy you a split second more time - sometimes that's all you need, sometimes it's just not enough.  Use the left trigger as you would when performing a normal drop shot, however with this move, finesse isn't necessary.  Just get the ball back over the net.

- Mix up your serves. Hit them down the line, hit them wide, hit them right at your opponent.  Don’t be predictable! - In returning serves, mix up your returns.  While hitting down the line is probably most effective, it can become predictable which will hurt you in the long run.  Jamming an opponent (so that he half-volleys the ball over the net) can be nearly as effective as having your opponent on the run: it sets up your guy for a winning shot, or, makes your opponent guess which side he should defend.

- By hitting the black or white buttons for attitude after you win a point, your character will showboat or make an unsportsmanlike gesture.  While it may seem cool or funny to you, it may tick off your opponent.  I played some high ranked guy who got cocky after winning the first set.  He began to do the "cut throat" gesture  after each point which fueled me into whupping his butt the next two sets.   It is however sportsmanlike to applaud your opponent's winning shots by pressing the white button after they win a point if it as rather spectacular.

- Don’t rely on the risk shot or risk drop shot by incorporating them frequently in your game. Only deadbeats do that who can’t win a game on their own merit.  The game is hardly a sim as it is, there is no need to make it worse.  It ticks people off and could earn yourself a bad reputation. 

- Don't be cheesy, set up your matches for a single six game set or best of three, three game sets. Anything less than four total games is a complete joke.

- When you are serving and a point concludes, be patient Don't repeatedly hit the 'A' button to fast forward through the replays.  Some people/opponents intentionally hit their 'A' button so that the replays end abruptly leaving you to accidentally start your service motion with the rainbow meter (i.e. you think you are the only one hitting the 'A' button to end the replays when you are not). 
In contrast, be a sport:  don't do the same thing to your opponent.  Let them cut short the replays when they are on serve.  I know that we all lack patience for the most part and we like to skip those animated scenes, but it's just a bit of courtesy to let the serving party take control of the game's pace.  Now, with that said - if someone is trying to screw you over by "helping" you advance through the replays quickly, do the same for them! 

H - Cheesy Gameplay, Beware!:

I once played a high-ranked cheeser who would drop shot my serves (yes, he dropped 133mph serves over the net) and when I’d run in after them, he’d then lob over my head.  It was like this every single point.  He’d also take my return of serve and drop it, and then lob my counter shot when I was up close to the net and unable to retreat.  My success came from anticipating the drop shots and trying to get the right angle to pass it around him. I tried to make him guess where I was going with the ball.  Sometimes it worked, other times he guessed right.  What made this difficult was that he’d often follow in behind his drop shots to cut off any of my spoon shots over the net if I was late in getting to the ball. To add insult to injury, I was able to see what he was trying to attempt with the drop shot:  If hit just right, a drop shot may hit the net cord and dribble over which is near impossible to get unless you happen to be right there, and this is what he was trying to do!  This joker was ranked #64 at the time.  Hardly worthy of such a rank and guys like that have no business playing the game.  I played the #98 guy shortly after who played a solid game of tennis and was very good at it.  It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t #64 because he was legitimately the better of the two.

FAQ - What types of gameplay are considered cheesy?

I have my opinions, and they seem to jive with what many others have posted on Top Spin message boards.  My personal definition of cheesy gameplay is
the exploitation of reality flaws found in a game. A few examples are:

- A player uses the risk shot frequently during points and throughout a match.
- A player who utilizes the reality flaw in the top spin/kicker serve to achieve unrealistic bounces or angles (zero power/full power).
- A player who intentionally uses the risk shot to hit a player at the net.
- A player uses the drop shot from the baseline to return serves and return of serves.
- A player uses the drop shot to pull you in, and then lobs over your head frequently throughout a match.
- A player who hits the drop shot
frequently during a match
- A player who uses the lob as their normal ground stroke
frequently throughout a match.
- A player who uses the drop shot hoping that it hits the net-cord and rolls over (a.k.a. "death drop shot").
- A player who sets up single set, two game matches.
- A high ranked player who sets up an OptiMatch seeking "soft" and "low experienced" opponents.
- Hitting the select button to prompt the score to appear when your opponent is serving.  This is not only distracting, but it adds extra "work" for your Xbox and if an Internet connection is not pristine, it may disrupt the frame rate causing the server to screw up their serve.

These are all forms of cheesy gameplay and are often exploited by many in the top 1,500.  Top Spin has several reality flaws in the game which make the game more arcade-like than a simulation.  The above are prime examples of these flaws and how they can be exploited. 

While in my opinion, there is no excuse to employ the above tactics in regular match settings, there may come a time where you will need to
fight cheese with cheese.  In other words, if a guy is taking control of a match due to his bogus style of gameplay, the circumstances may necessitate you stooping to his level in order to win.  However, there is NO EXCUSE to resort to the aforementioned bogus styles of gameplay if you are losing a match fair and square in a sim-style game.

FAQ - Why do people disconnect after I win match point against them?  Is there any point to that?
Not any more (in most cases).  Nothing is more frustrating to an honest gamer than legitimately beating an opponent and just before the "match over" message pops up, there is a bit of connection lag followed by the "opponent has disconnected" message.  Shortly after, you get bounced back to the Xbox Live login screen.  Let me make this clear, the latest update to Xbox Live incorporates a new technology called "Level Playing Field Technology".   According to Xbox/Microsoft, the "new arbitration and reliability technologies reduce players' ability to cheat online, while increasing reliability ratings for all players and penalizing actions like disconnects during games."  So, what does that mean for those who disconnect after losing match point?  They are a double loser.  Disconnecting after losing match point, but prior to the "Match Over" message does NOTHING to save their ranking or protect thier win/loss percentage. Quite the contrary.  The person disconnecting will take the loss with standings affected accordingly, and the person who stayed online (and won) will be rewarded as such. 

(6/1/04 Note:  Some gamers have found a loophole in the above example of disconnecting and still get away without incurring a deserved loss.  In most cases, a person who disconnects after losing match point but before the "Match Over" indicator will earn a loss.  Read further into this Guide to fine a Web link that lists these individuals).

I - Strategies to Counter Cheesy Gameplay:

Let me start off by saying that none of the following will provide guaranteed success against cheesy gamers.  They simply increase your chances of getting better "opportunities" in winning points.  In coming up with these strategies on my own, I've also found ways to "counter my counter" - where if I successfully defended against a cheesy tactic, I've found instances where I'd be left vulnerable.   Because there are already enough deadbeat gamers out there, I will not post these counter moves that could possibly aid their cause.

Playing a risk shot abuser: 

From the baseline: if you have the return risk shot skill (which many don't), you may not have much difficulty returning these laser-like bullets.  However, if you do not have the return risk shot skill, your best bet is to do one of three things: 1) strike the ball using "A" before the ball bounces.  For some reason, you can hit the ball better while it's in the air and before the bounce. 2) if the ball bounces, slice it back.  It will keep your return shot low which will force your opponent to play another ball (and not get the free floater that sits up in the air for him to smack for a winner).  If possible, aim at his body so that it jams him.  It will make it difficult for him to hit another risk shot.  It's challenging to do, but very effective if pulled off.  And lastly, 3) if you are skilled (or lucky) enough, you could always return a risk shot with a risk shot.

From the net: I am a net guy and find it very challenging to play risk shot abusers because of a flaw in PAM Development's programming.  Two problems may occur if you are at the net trying to block back risk shots: 1.) you will return the risk shot with a weak reply thus allowing your opponent a good chance of reaching it, or  2.) the risk shot from your opponent will hit your player's body and not your racquet strings.  On-court placement when returning a risk shot at the net demands precision due to this programming flaw, otherwise you will get hit by the ball - and this can be extremely frustrating.  In reality, a ball that is fired at me should rebound off my strings at a very high rate - not the semi-weak deflection I encounter in the game (provided that I am in very good position).  I utilize a 4-star volley mastery with precision and angle as two applicable skills.  I shouldn't be getting ball bruises on my hind-end.  Granted, many of my volleys are effective, but there are enough weak ones returned that makes me think that someone at PamDev doesn't know much about racquet physics.  Because of this issue and being a net-minder in Top Spin, I try to force the error by my opponent. 

When a point is in progress, and depending on who is dictating the point, many risk shot takers aim their powerful strokes cross-court (more room for error) if they are hurried to pull it off.   In this situation,  I try to position my net guy so that it forces them to aim for the small window of opportunity (usually down the line or in a direction that would be more difficult to hit to).    If they are running from right to left, I'd try to cut off the cross-court knowing that I'll most likely get that shot if they hit it, but tempt them to eye the down the line shot - and by this example, their thumb would be already pushing to the left which could lead to their shot going wide left.

With that said, there are many high-ranked cheesy players who intentionally aim their risk shots at players hovering around the net (because chances are, the ball will likely hit the netplayer's body and not his racquet).  Be careful!

From the baseline and serving/returning serve: Nothing is more frustrating than playing a risk shotter who blasts your serve back in an unreturnable fashion.  What's the point in playing someone like that if you can't physically get the ball back?  Additionally, there are guys out there who will take your return of serve and do the same thing.  Here are a few tactics that may help you in these situations:

When your serve is risk shot back to you: Movement of your serve is key.  If your opponent guesses wrong, his risk shot won't be effective.  Don't be predictable with the placement of your serve.  Go wide, go down the line, and try to jam him.  Do anything you can to prevent them from lining up their return shot.  If you have a four star serve, you can even try the ridiculous kicker serve to force them back.  Let me note though that this kicker serve is a cheesy form of gameplay, but may be needed to beat someone who is cheesy themselves.  You may also want to think about slowing your serve down to provide yourself an extra split second to get into better position to receive the risk shot.  By feeding a risk shot abuser 125mph+ serves, you aren't allowing yourself much time to get into position after your service motion is completed.

When your return of serve is risk shot back to you: They serve, you return, they hit a risk shot for a winner.  Sound familiar?  If not, you are very lucky.  This happens quite often against high ranked individuals.  Risk shotters rely on good timing.  It is up to you to screw with their timing so that they either miss-hit th eball for an unforced error or, be unable to hit the risk shot at all.  Here are two tips on preventing an opponent like this from risk shotting your return of serve for a winner every time:

- Lob Return:  One of the more effective techniques is to lob your return down the line.  The risk shotter will be unable to hit his risk shot return and the ball will essentially be in play with no one really having an advantage or disadvantage, though, the surprise of your return may win you some free points.  This technique is
very cheesy, but like I've said earlier in this FAQ, sometimes you need to counter cheesy gameplay WITH cheesy gameplay.  When you hit the lob, position your player at the center of the baseline so that you will be prepared for any sort of smash your opponent may hit.

- Hack the ball:  Another way of preventing your opponent from risk returning is to
hack the ball with the drop shot meter.  Instead of hitting a drop shot by aiming for the center of the meter, let it get to at least 3/4 of the way to the top, and hack it back.  Against regular gamers, this is not effective at all.  They will kill the ball.  Against cheesy gamers who use the risk shot, it may screw up their timing thus promoting unforced errors.  I came up with this technique in May ('04) and it proved effective against two risk-shot abusers.  I tested it against a friend who doesn't use the risk shot and he crushed the ball every time.  This tactic seems to throw risk shot takers out of their comfort zone since the speed of the incoming ball is inconsistent and unpredictable.  This could be considered cheesy gameplay, but if it's used against risk shotters, then them calling you cheesy would be like the pot calling the kettle black.

Playing a kicker-serve abuser:
One of three strategies will work here:
1) Step back about five paces behind the baseline and tee off on the serve with a risk shot (or, if your player is capable, step up to the service line and blast a risk shot).  2) Step up to the service line (as far as you can go) and slice the ball back down the line as soon as it starts to kick up.  If your opponent runs in behind the ball, lob over his head cross-court or down the line.  3) Move up to the service line as far as you can and drop shot the kicker serve before it bounces up too high.  Yes, this is a cheesy form of leveling the playing field, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. 4) Move to an area of the court where you would normally be able to return the cheesy serve effectively (typically well behind the baseline).  Lob your return down the line if you aren't pulled too far off the court (i.e. near the pressbox).  You can use either a deep lob or an aggressive lob.  It will force your opponent to stay back and hopefully prevent any sort of offensive counter on his behalf.  By serving the ultra-high top spin serve, your opponent is anticipating an instant advantage.  If you lob down the line, he is put on the defensive immediately.  Once you hit your lob, it is best to place your tennis player at the center of the baseline.  That way, you will be prepared for any type of smash your opponent may hit back your way.  You'd be surprised how quickly people stop pulling this crap when they realize you can counter their bogus gameplay with success.  Chances are, they will disconnect because they don't know how to win without relying on this cheesy way of playing.  Fight cheese with cheese if you have to!

Playing someone who uses the "death-drop shot:"
No need to worry about this any more!  As of the April '04 patch, this technique is no longer possible.

Here were my comments to counter this move prior to the April '04 patch:  "
More and more people are doing this, and are unfortunately very good at it .  To counter this, you first need to anticipate your opponent doing it.   Many times, they will do this as their return of serve.  So, you serve, they "death drop" the return.  Simply run up to the net as soon as you complete your service motion and you should have plenty of time to reach it before the second bounce.  Here, it becomes a guessing game for your opponent as to where YOU will place the ball.  Always use the "B" button to return a death drop shot.  You will be able to put it straight up the line and short, or, at a tight cross-court angle.  Another good tactic (if needed) is to use the low/short lob: tap "Y" and pull back on your stick.  It may cause your cheesy opponent to mis-hit the ball and return a floater which you can put away with ease."

Playing against a drop shot abuser:
Same as above, but don't leave yourself vulnerable to your opponent's return shot if he gets to it.  Make sure you can cut off any of his angles should he reach your shot in time.  Also, you could always drop shot a drop shot, or do a short/low lob which may force your opponent to block it back up high in the air for you to put away with an overhead smash.

Playing a drop shot return of serve abuser:
This is something that
quite a few guys have been doing just recently, so I am assuming some loser posted this technique online and those who haven't the ability to play an honest game resort to this sort of B.S. gameplay.

The scenario is this:  You serve the ball and your opponent drop shots the return down the line and immediately follows in behind it. 

Why is this effective?  A few reasons:

1) in most cases, it is a player's natural tendency to already commit to a shot (X, A, or B) when chasing down a drop shot (i.e. for a more powerful swing).   If positioned correctly, the cheesy opponent can deflect any sort of return for a volley winner.

2) if the cheesy gamer is also a risk shot abuser, the person serving the ball may feel required to be quick on the buttons in anticipation of the ball coming back at 131+mph.  So, a button has already been depressed and the server is thus committed to that particular shot while running forward to scoop back the drop shot.  Because of the cheesy gamer's positioning, he can block back almost any standard shot for a winner.

What to do:
Try to see a pattern with your opponent doing this.  For some reason, most gamers returning the serve do this from the ad-court.  Anticipate the cheesy drop shot return and follow in after it as normal.  Try not to commit to a ground stroke as you are running after the ball because it won't help you any.  Instead, press the Y button hard as you are just about at the ball which will lift it over your opponent's head for a winner.  Be careful not to keep pushing the analog stick forward when you actually hit the ball.  If you do, it may go long.  If you think they are wising up to your strategy and backpeddling a bit, hit the lob to the other side of the court.

If you have the top spin and angle skills, you may be able to rip a tight cross court shot by pulling back on the analog stick and towards the side you want to hit the ball.  Pulling back on the stick will give the shot a much tighter angle.  This isn't guaranteed to work, but if your opponent is just a bit out of position, you may be able to squeeze it over the net for a winner as it will bounce off the frame of your opponent's racquet.

Playing against a lobber:
If your style of play has you up at net quite often, your opponent may start to lob against you.  The trick is to never over-commit to net play by staying right on top of it.  Hang back just a bit around the service line if your opponent is on the run and may lob.  By doing this, you will be in perfect position for an overhead smash.  Furthermore, practice hitting your lobs down the line.  Nine times out of 10, your opponent will run cross-court in an attempt to get it back.  Hitting it down the line has three benefits: 1) it's a more direct line/shorter distance, thus the ball will carry more speed, 2) because of the shorter distance, the ball has the potential for a higher bounce depending on how you position the analog stick when hitting the overhead, and 3) your opponent will likely vacate that area of the court to cover the open/cross-court area.

You can also bait your opponent into thinking it's safe to lob by hitting a few key volleys when close to the net, and then back peddling a bit in anticipation of his offensive lob.  This works best when you have someone on the run and they are probably only thinking "lob" as their desperation hit.


J - Where's Andre Agassi?:

So where’s Andre?  One of the biggest complaints with Top Spin is the lack of pro’s available.  The most noticeable absentee is Agassi.  It is assumed that Andre could not appear in Top Spin due to licensing issues.  He currently has an embarrassing PS2 title in his own name which probably prevented him from appearing in Microsoft/PAM Dev's tennis offering.  Something similar happened back in the days of the Sega Genesis: TekMagik had exclusive rights for him to appear in “Andre Agassi Tennis” (another abysmal game).  As a result, he couldn’t appear in any of the superior SNES tennis titles (though a clone or two of him did appear with a different name).  Another reason is money.  Getting top talent to appear in a game costs developers $$$, and no name is bigger in men's tennis than Andre Agassi.

With that said, it is possible for him to be created in Top Spin as a custom character.  With some patience and a good eye for detail, a near replica of Andre can be made that is actually better than any of the in-game likenesses of the available pros.  I’ve seen three “Agassi’s” on Xbox Live!; two were very poor renditions (one looked like the lead singer of Smash Mouth with very little hair) and the third, while very good face-wise, had Andre towering over 6' tall which is quite a stretch (no pun intended).  The hair is tricky because in the Salon view, you can get a dark stubble appearance, but when out on the court, it sometimes looks too dark or too brown.   To start with, I chose the DNA sample that was in the top row, second from the left.  If I have the time, I’ll recreate mine and list the steps needed.  It's by far the best I've seen and I doubt anything better exists on Xbox Live!. In addition to creating your very own Agassi, you can also find wardrobe similar to what he’s worn in the past:


In the Mid-East Sports Shop:  Purchase the Polo Model 08 and go to the color adjuster.  Make sure the color bar is all the way to the left.  Make three quick “clicks” to the right so that you get a Hazelnut color on the bold striping (see pic).  Andre wore a similar shirt to this at the 1995 U.S. Open.   It's a bit of a stretch in terms of styling, I'll admit, but it's an option.

In the Asia Sports Shop: Purchase the Polo Model 06 and put both sliders to the left to achieve a solid black color.


Mid-East Sports Shop
:  Purchase the shorts labeled Long Model 06.  Put both the brightness and color sliders all the way to the left to achieve a solid black color.

Socks: Any sports shop: Purchase the socks labeled Model 05.  Again, put both sliders all the way to the left for black color.

Shoes: There are two models of shoes that somewhat resemble the ever popular Nike Air Flare (which were re-released six years later as the Air Flare 2000) and Nike Air Challenge LWP - both worn by Agassi in the mid-90's. 

Nike Air Flare (aka Model 05):  Move the color slider all the way to the left to achieve a white sneaker with a black center where the laces are.

Nike LWP (aka Model 09):  There were two versions of this Nike shoe that Andre wore: black with hazelnut trim (see linked image) and black with a teal/blue trim.  The teal/blue is tough to match accurately but you can use the same technique described for the hazelnut/white/black Agassi/Nike striped polo-clone mentioned above.


South America Sports Shop:

Head Radical Intelligence (Note: Andre used the
Head Liquid Metal Radical in real life -- that is, at the time Top Spin 1 came out).  The in-game Radical is the only one of its kind, i.e. sporting the “Radical” name.  That's as close as your going to get to what he actually uses.

K - Xbox Live! Server Update:

January 7th, 2004 - Problems with games not counting ("zero rank").
January 10th, 2004 - Microsoft not acknowledging problem that still continues.  Server appears to have reset due to lost statistics and ranking drop.
January 20th, 2004 - Server seems to have stabilized.  No problems to report.

March 17th, 2004 - Word is that a patch will be available soon and required for online play.  The patch will address specific glitches found in the game (e.g. online ranking issues) as well as eliminating the "death drop."  Yes, you read this right - the death drop shot will hopefully be no more.  From what I've been told, if the DD is attempted, the ball will hit the top of the net and fall on the side of the person hitting the ball.  So, you can expect a lot of cheesy gamers to be unhappy with the pending system reset and inability to score cheap points after the patch is issued.  Now, if only the ridiculous zero power kicker-serve could be taken care of....   Also reported to be included in the patch: at the challenge screen, you will have info on your opponent pertaining to rank, ping count, etc.  Thanks to "Rammer" of XMG for the initial heads up!

April 12th, 2004 - The patch should be available now and the server has been reset.  Details on new bugs/glitches will be reported soon.
April 13th, 2004 - A disconnection bug has been found and reported. Now, unsportsmanlike losers can disconnect just prior to the "match over" announcement, thus screwing the winner's win percentage which will indicate a loss.

April 14th, 2004 - Big problems with the Patch bug.  Microsoft quality assurance has let us down by overlooking the aforementioned bug.  Unsportsmanlike gamers can now disconnect as a match is loading which will result in a loss for both parties.  Some jerks have been reported on the Xbox Live Forum for intentionally doing this to high ranked gamers.  Furthermore, some guys are using the free two month trial Gamertags to intentionally damage others' rankings while they in turn use their "legitimate" Gamertag I.D. to boost their character's online status.  A fix will hopefully be released soon.  An Xbox Live Forum moderator/game tester has stated the problem is being reviewed at this time.  Let's hope a fix will be made soon along with another server reset.

April 26th, 2004 - Random disconnections seem to be plaguing some gamers online.  They are not due to someone pulling the plug, but could possibly be to network congestion from the Sasser worm. 

April 26th, 2004 - Gamers have reported control issues that are affecting performance included bizarre glitches such as the "invisible wall" being more prevalent, non-response from certain buttons, and player tendency to "paddle" the ball back versus whacking it.  ?  What is going on?

May 3rd - Disconnection issue becoming more common.  Some ISPs are noting fluctuating performance due to Sasser worm virus.  No confirmation whether this is the cause or not.

May 8th, 2004 -  I personally have lost well over 200 spots on the leaderboard due to bogus disconnections.  Three of them when I was approaching match point to higher ranked players ("higher" as in - worse than me).  This has got to stop.  I can also confirm a few of the control issues others have complained about:  paddling the ball vs. hitting straight through the ball for no apparent reason, button non-response, and I can also add this weird event: slices dumping into the net.  What gives? 

Also, If you happened to have played me online and we got disconnected, it was NOT intentional on my part.  I play games straight through regardless of the score and have never quit a match early.  I've been getting hammered with disconnections lately - some were intentional on behalf of my opponents, but others I knew were just flukey Internet issues.

May 10th , 2004- Scoring errors have surfaced where rating points have been incorrectly assigned to the winner/loser of a given match.  This happens randomly, and there is no known variable that causes this.  Example:  A person ranked 125 is playing a person ranked 150.  The person ranked 150 should receive more rating points for a win - but recent scoring errors have shown the better ranked player (#125 in this case) having the potential for more points vs.  the lesser ranked player (i.e. #150) during the pre-game challenge screen. 

May 25th, 2004  - The random disconnections seem to have become much less frequent, if not corrected completely.  I had lost over 270 rating points due to disconnections that affected me.  The "fix" (if anything was even done) was a bit too little too late in my case.

May 27th, 2004  - Server Update!! Don't get too excited though, while one problem was fixed, another still has yet to be addressed.  Now, when a random disconnect takes place (not an intentional disconnect), no points are awarded or penalized to either player.  The problem arises when someone disconnects after losing match point.  There is a chance that the server will still show them as losing, but it's not guaranteed.  I had two losers disconnect on me after I had won match point.  One guy showed as disconnecting in the post-game screen and we were both ranked accordingly (as we should have).  A jerk by the name of "Gnarus1603" disconnected on me after I had won (but before the "match over" title came on the screen) and in the post-game screen, it showed us both as being disconnected and no points were awarded either way.   He was a big-time cheesey gamer and it turns out I wasted 20 minutes of my time beating this guy for nothing.

June 1st, 2004 - Several more people showed their true sportsmanlike colors by disconnecting after I had beaten them on match point.  Rightfully so, they still earned a loss in the post-game box score and I was awarded points accordingly.  The patch seems to have helped this particular issue that plagued gaming in previous months.   Unfortunately, the aforementioned "Gnarus1603"  has apparently found a way to beat the latest "fix" because he's yanked the plug on other gamers after losing which resulted in his losses not being recorded (and the winners showed as being disconnected too).   PamDev and Microsoft should look into this because their patch has not closed the disconnect-loophole entirely.

L - Suggestions for Improving Top Spin:

In the rare event that someone with decision making power at Microsoft or Power and Magic Development views this FAQ, here are some items that need to be fixed should a Top Spin update be released later this year (or as a sequel in the future).  I'll make this list short and sweet:

* Get rid of the Risk Shot. It's ridiculous.  Charging up the "A" or "B" button is sufficient for a put-away shot.
* Make it impossible for the death drop to be a frequent occurrence. I've been watching professional tennis for over 16 years and I think I've seen maybe one occurrence of that ever happening - and it wasn't intentional! (this has been fixed as of 4/04!)
* Make hitting an effective drop shot from around the baseline substantially more difficult to execute - especially if attempted repeatedly.
* Power and Magic Development (Pam Dev) should research what a kicker/top spin serve is. Apparently, they don't know.  What we have in the game should only take place on a planet with low gravity (specifically relating to the cheesy zero-power serve & full power serve with the analog stick pulled back).
* Expand the roster by including more professional tennis players. Also, include some legends like Becker, Edberg, Rafter, Connors, MacEnroe, Noah, Wilander, Lendl, Graf, Sabatini, Evert, Navratilova, etc.
* Limit the frequency of male players diving. The women players don't dive.  What gives?
* Reduce the angles to which a return of serve can be hit on a regular basis.
* Get rid of the "cut throat" and inappropriate gestures that come about with "negative attitude."  How about adding some sort of positive acknowledgement for your opponent's effort despite him losing the point?  Some of the gestures seen in Top Spin would incur code violations in real life.
* Add degrees of difficulty to the game (i.e. rookie, pro, legend) that reduce or exaggerate angles and various types of possible shots depending on the skill level selected.  Higher difficulty levels should play like real life tennis (more realistic than what Top Spin is now).
* Add the defensive lob as a choice of shots (replace the risk shot with this one - no power meter needed)
- Add the capability for four remote Xbox Live users to play doubles.  In other words, if I want to team up with a buddy from out of state, I'd be able to send a private invite in a doubles setting, hook up with him, select our desired players, and then choose a court and match preferences for a public or private challenge.  Of course, our opponents wouldn't necessarily have to be in the same room sharing the same Xbox, too.  This would be a HUGE addition to Top Spin.
* Remove the "glitch" that has the majority of risk shots hitting players at the net where they can't get their racquet on the ball.  More times than not, a net player will get hit in the back or rear-end by a risk shot despite him being in good position to volley it away.
* If two people cannot connect in a reasonable amount of time just prior to the 3,2,1 countdown indicator (after both parties agree to challenge each other), the game should kick back to the main menu screen. As of right now, up to 5 minutes can pass before a pop-up window appears indicating that the connection has been terminated (i.e. the opponent has disconnected).
* FIX THE LATEST PATCH! How a patch that was meant to address gaming issues can be released with bugs, I have no idea.  There is a bug that allows gamers to disconnect prior to the countdown which results in both taking a loss. Some losers have done this intentionally to bring down higher ranked players' standing/win percentage.  (FIXED as of 5/27/04!)  Futhermore, control issues are now a factor with poor response at times and funky ball physics.  Has anyone hit the "invisible wall" just above the center point of the net?  Or, see their opponent somehow reach a ball that was previously unreachable (prior to the patch)?  Where the ball is inches from their outstretched racquet, the screen will momentarily hesitate, and their player will get a frame rate boost to the ball??   There are simply too many bugs for a newly released patch that was supposed to eliminate cheats and gaming flaws.
* Penalize gamers with losses who disconnect from gameplay once a match is underway.  This includes disconnecting after match point is won (during the replays, but prior to the "Match Over" text). The latest patch (5/27) is an improvement, but people are still finding ways to avoid getting an earned loss counted towards their overall standing on the leaderboard.  Players who disconnect (or have a signal loss) to avoid a loss should not only incur the earned loss, but also be penalized DOUBLE for doing so.  That would quickly discourage that sort of unsportsmanlike behavior very quickly.  Sure, some guys may have legitimate signal loss, but the advantages of this penalty system would far outweight the disadvantages.


M - Miscellaneous Links:

(note: more online strategies at the bottom of this page!)

Below are some links that may be of use to you with relation to Top Spin gaming.  Only the "acknowledgement of quality gamers" is a part of this website, and was put together by the author of this FAQ.  The other pages are not part of, and not necessarily endorsed by the XBFL or this Top Spin FAQ.  More links may be added over time should any new sites come into existence that appear to be of value to the Top Spin gaming community.  This page will be updated accordingly.

Cheesy Gamer List:
In response to popular demand for a decent website detailing cheesers and quitters, here is but one of MANY sites naming these kinds of gamers.  It's easy to read, and used to be updated fairly regularly.  There may be more, but I never bothered to look.

Cheesy Gamer List  aka "Top Spin Cheater List"

Acknowledgements To Real Top Spin Gamers:
I used to maintain a personal list of gamers here who played a good game of sim-tennis, however, I have found that in recent rematches, many of them have taken the popular approach to playing Top Spin online: being cheesy.  Because of this, I felt it was best to remove the list since I will no longer be maintaining this FAQ (as of 10/28/04).  It would be misleading to new visitors of this FAQ if I had a list of guys who I considered good gamers, only to have their play-styles change in the future where they no longer fit my description.

Additionally, I have noticed that a few on my previous list have also become "dodgers," that is, persons who won't play anyone at or better than their ranking level. Instead, they'll only play people who they are confident they will beat.  They were removed from my list too.  What's the point in playing the game if you aren't willing to risk better rewards by beating better players?  Fear of playing potentially cheesy games is no excuse.

The only guys I have played on more than one occasion who offered me a challenge and stayed true to sim-style tennis were Undaunted Erik and Mr Lesath.  Mr Lesath tends to play on clay quite a bit which is my character's biggest weakness, but the matches are fun and usually pretty close regardless.  Best of luck to those guys.  I hope to meet them again when Top Spin 2 comes out on the Xbox 360.

Andre Agassi Videos:
Are you a fan of tennis ace Andre Agassi?  Do you wish you could have seen some of his classic matches from the late 80's or early 90's, or, revisit some of his classic moments from the recent past?  If so , below is a link to a Website that has an extensive library (probably the largest first-generation collection around) of Agassi videos spanning most of his career, most of which are original recordings (not copies of copies).  

Tennis Legend


XBox Live Forum:
This is the place to sound off with whatever is on your mind regarding Xbox Live.  It's a good forum to visit and read up on what others think about issues relating to Top Spin and other Xbox Live enabled games.  Though, be prepared to deal with inflated egos and potentially offensive language.  

Xbox Live Forum
(will require a .NET account/password)

N - Wrap Up:

I hope the tips found on this page provides you with some information that you didn't know beforehand and helps in your success both online and offline.  If you have any questions not answered in this FAQ, please feel free to email me HERE.  I'll do my best to help.  I am part of a small network of sim-gamers who have seen the best and worst this game has to offer and there may be some items not covered in this FAQ that I would have information about.  By no means is this page intended to be the "end all" to available guides in cyberspace - it's merely some thoughts and strategies I put together that may be of help to you if you are new to the game,  have relatively little experience, or may be struggling online.  Good luck and stay true to the game!

Update: 12/17/05 - To address a question that I've been posed on several occasions, yes, I do intend to post a Top Spin 2 FAQ after the game comes out (1st week of April 2006 here in the U.S. if no more delays take place).  It is my intention to follow a similar format to this Strategy Guide which will cover offline aspects of the game, as well as online strategies.  I am hoping that some (if not all) of the reality flaws are removed from Top Spin 2, though I hear that the risk shot will still be available to some degree on the Xbox 360 version.  Hopefully, it will be toned down to around 85-100mph and not useable as a normal groundstroke.  We'll see.  I'll post a link to this FAQ for the new one, and I am sure a few gaming sites will post it as well as they did this one.  I'll probably begin work on it in late April/early May 2006.

O - The Author:

Mr Fett

Tennis resume:

- Tennis Schooling: Nick Bolletieiri Tennis Academy & private instruction
- High school varsity tennis team captain
- Tennis teacher (adults & children)
- Worked for Volvo International Tennis Tournament in New Haven, CT
- NCAA tennis career shortened by ACL tear
- Last USTA rating: 5.0 (mid-90s)
- Team stringer
- USTA member
- Brushes with tennis fame:  Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter, Luke and Murphy Jensen, Martina Hingis
- Tennis Apparel of choice: Nike
- Tennis Racquet of Choice:  Donnay Pro One Ltd. Edition O/S (I still have a few after all this time!), Prince "Classic" Graphite (O/S)
- Favorite Pros: Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter

Top Spin Record (since 12/19/03):

"Banditt"  110-8 (officially retired from singles)
"Mr Fett v7" 600-57 (officially retired from singles)
Miscellaneous: 40-6
Total W/L:  750-71
Win Percentage: .914

Top Spin Achievements:

- Top 50 Ranking (when membership exceeded 80,000 players)
- Top 100 Ranking (when membership exceeded 80,000 players)
- Career win percentage greater than 91%
- Defeated two former #1 players (at a time when they were not ranked #1)
- Won 3 out of 4 matches against top 10 players (when membership exceeded 80,000)
- Highest ranked player played and defeated was #6
- Achieved over 50 "perfect matches" without yielding a single point in best of three set matches with three games per set.
- Longest win streak: 77 matches*
- Losses to Cheesy Gamers: 63.  Losses to Sim-Gamers: 8  (losses to sim-gamers on clay: 5)

* Did not pad stats by playing weaker opposition like many current gamers do.  Streak included wins over several top 200 individuals.  Also did not achieve streak by playing against myself (two Xboxes and two Live accounts) at any time - which is something a few guys on the leaderboard did (and continue to do).

Last Update: (July 8, 2005)

While my posting below ("Final thoughts..") in October of 2004 was to be my final addition to this FAQ, I felt that I should revisit these pages after many months and correct the broken links that some of you reported, and to once again thank you all for making this Top Spin FAQ and Strategy Guide the most popular on the Net.  As you are probably well aware, Top Spin 2 will make its debut on the PS2 in the near future with a few new pro players, but the *real* Top Spin 2 will appear in April on the new Xbox 360.  It will be distributed by 2K Sports this time around which offers some interesting possibilities.  I've read some critical reviews of the PS2 game and apparently, despite some tweaks to the gameplay (along with new pros), there isn't much to get excited about.  Reports have said that the game doesn't appear to be a great evolution in terms of graphics or playability.  While I am sure the final product wasn't tested and reviewed, I must say that I am a bit disappointed to hear that, though to me, the biggest flaws with the original Top Spin were found in the actual gameplay - not the visuals . With that said,  I was somewhat recently informed that the developers of Top Spin 2 were referred to my Top Spin FAQ & Strategy Guide by a beta tester/Xbox Forum Administrator - whether or not that is true, I dunno - but I hope they take my suggestions into consideration as they will greatly improve the game; that I am sure of.

And lastly, there will be a newTop Spin 2 league forming in the first part of 2006.  It will be a spin-off of the popular XBFL (XBox Football League) and will be run and moderated by myself and a few others from XMG.  The league's functional name is The XBTA and should found by Google in early-to-mid February 2006.  Registration and such won't be available until around that time as well  The league will be a STRICT sim-style league with heavily enforced rules against cheesy gameplay and cheating.  It will also have limited membership availability for at least the first season.  (Update, 2/6/06): The XBTA Web page can now be found HERE.  (2006 update: due to too many connectivity problems with the new Xbox 360, that is, where gamers couldn't hook up for scheduled matches, the league was disbanded after a few events.   After working with both Microsoft and Linksys for several months, I've been able to provide assistance for many gamers, but not enough to where a league operation would run smoothly for those who don't use a Linksys router.  Microsoft will continue to investigate this problem which seems exclusive to the 360 (no problems on the original Xbox between the same gamers), but in the meantime, I've removed hyperlinks to the proposed Top Spin league site until things get straightened out).

Once again, thanks to everyone who has visited this site, and I appreciate your emails detailing how these pages have helped improved your competitivenes.  Perhaps I'll see you around on the '360 Top Spin 2!

Final Thoughts about Top Spin: (October 25, 2004)

As you may have already heard, there will be no Top Spin 2 on the Xbox, nor are their any planned updates for the current game.  XBN Magazine noted several months back that there was a pending downloadable update, but that info has since been retracted. So, what we have now is what we are stuck with 'till the end of the Xbox's life-cyle (unless PamDev surprises us with an update).  With that said, Top Spin 2 is apparently in the works for the next-gen Xbox system due out in late 2005 or some time in 2006.  I truly hope PamDev/Microsoft examines the criticisms of this current game and offers the best of both worlds with Top Spin 2: a sim option which eliminates the ridiculous and unrealistic risk shot, and an arcade mode which will allow the risk shot for those who can't play without it.  Both versions should be revamped where the bogus and overly exagerrated kicker serve is no longer an option.

I am pretty much at the end of my run with Top Spin as I no longer have interest in the game.  My goal was to have 750 wins and then retire.  In my final 30 game stretch, I played approximately 24 cheesers with rankings from six to 1,500.  It seems like that's the "norm" these days with online gameplay - and to me, it's just not fun playing guys who exploit reality flaws and glitches in the game for the sole purpose of winning.  I am certain that if the risk shot was not an option in the game, the leaderboard would be drastically different.  There is no strategy in pin pointing unretrievable risk shots corner to corner.  That's B.S.. You take that unrealistic element away from this game, and I'd venture a guess that 75% of the top 100 wouldn't even be ranked in the top 500 afterwards. They rely soley on that reality flaw (and others) to achieve success.  You take away both the risk shot and bogus kicker serve, and they are likely to be no better than a guy or gal ranked 1,500 or higher.  With that said, there are probably a few people reading this thinking, "Well okay, I'd just drop shot serves for my return and play that cheesy strategy by following them in and volleying a winner."   <sigh>

My final 30 game stretch also reminded me just how much I have come to despise the overall game too, especially in one instance where I played a guy by the name of Iverson392.  He hit nothing but risk shots and cheesy serves the entire match, and I still beat him in straight sets.  Immediately after I won match point, the guy disconnected before the "Match Over" graphic appeared and the game was ruled a double disconnection.  He was ranked 250 something at the time with a win percentage of about 72.  Hmm, I wonder why;  he lets his wins count, but when he loses, he disconnects, and probably without incurring a recorded loss.  According to a Microsoft report many months ago, this sort of B.S. loophole was closed where it couldn't happen any longer, however, other reports of losers doing this continue to surface.  Again, this is all attributed to poor quality assurance on the part of PamDev and Microsoft.  Heck, it took an assertive gamer in the Xbox Live Top Spin forum to draw Microsoft's attention to the "death drop shot" earlier this year.  They didn't believe it until he showed a Microsoft game tester that it existed during a match over Xbox Live!.   A patch was released a month or two later to fix the problem.  Anyway, enough of my griping on that issue.  I guess I am just adamant that if someone (or company) is going to create a sports game, they should do it right the first time.  How they could allow certain elements of Top Spin to pass initial inspection is beyond me. It doesn't take a die-hard tennis fan (or anyone of above-average intelligence) to point out the problems with this game, and how they can potentially rob enjoyment from it.  The two or three updates earlier this year were not enough.  Please note that I am omitting any and all issues with the offline portion of the game.  That would be a page in itself, mostly involving the moronic A.I. found in the game.

So, here is my final posting to this Top Spin FAQ.  I will no longer continue to update this Top Spin FAQ/Strategy Guide with new content as it seems just about every topic has been covered and I am pretty much stepping away from the game.  However, I have been informed that a few links haven't been working properly.  I'll take care of that and note the changes on Page 1.

With this being my final blurb, here are just a few more bits and tips that may or may not be of some help to you:

- If you are about to play someone ranked in the top 1,000 but notice that they have a low win percentage, there is a very good chance that they are ranked that high because they rely soley on a gimmick.  Chances are, they have beat some top 500 guys who couldn't adjust to a particular cheese-tactic like the bogus zero power/full power kicker serve and as a result got some big wins.  I would guess that this would be the case in 7 out of 10 times.  If a guy is ranked in the top 1,000, he should have a respectable win percentage.  Not 45 or 50% like many do.

- If you see someone ranked between 350 and 750 with a 75% win percentage, this means one of two things:  1) it's most likely the case where this top ranked player avoids playing "quality" opponents.  That is, he'll only play people he thinks he can beat (i.e. a "dodger").  There are quite a few guys ranked between 250 and 500 that refuse to play anyone ranked better than 900 or 1,000.  They are content with getting 3 to 5 rating points per win instead of risking a much better gain by playing someone closer to, or better than their own ranking.  2) it's a rarity, but it could be someone who is moving up through the ranking ladder quickly.  I've only seen a few cases of this in the past year - and one goon was using two Xbox accounts to play himself up to the top.  

- If you see anyone with an 85% or better win percentage, chances are, they are an elite cheesy gamer.  Actually, I'd be willing to bet on it.  Despite my personal win percentage being just above 91%, in the 800 plus matches I've played, I have found only ONE person who had a 89%+ win percentage who was NOT a cheeser (at least not in the game we played).  I think my opinion is backed at least in part by pretty good experience with the game over a full year's time.

- Those who abuse the top spin kicker serve glitch will most likely be found playing on clay or indoor surfaces where the balls seem to bounce higher.  The clay will slow the ball down allowing them to get to the net quicker too.  Assess your opponent's record and win percentage if you see them hosting on these surfaces and draw your own conclusion before challenging them.

- I have been asked what makes my character Mr Fett v7 so successful.  I really don't have an answer.  There is nothing special about him other than that he is well balanced and I am a pretty good gamer.  I've done my best to adapt to cheesy gamer tactics which has afforded me some success, and I'm good enough talent-wise to challenge the best sim-gamers around.  Mr Fett v7's biggest weakness is clay.  Many of my losses have come on the terre battu, and as a result, I tried to stay away from it as much as possible when using him.

Mr Fett v7's breakdown is this:

Defensive Player

Weight: 175lbs (about 164 natural weight, the difference being muscle)

Height: 6' 0"

Serve: 3, Forehand: 4, Backhand: 3, Volley: 4

Skills: Precision, Angle, Passing Shot, & Slice

And for the sake of being a completist:  Addidas clothing and the Prince "More Control" racquet.

That's about all I have to say.  This was my first FAQ and it's evolved into something bigger than I expected, but it was fun nonetheless.  Thanks to all of you who have visited this FAQ and emailed me about the content I created and posted here.  I am glad to have helped so many of you and perhaps we'll hook up online with Top Spin 2 some day.  Best of luck in your future gaming!


 Back to Main Page

Copyright 2002-2009,  All rights reserved