You don't have to play like Bjorn Borg to hit with a spin. The great Bill Tilden wrote that no ball should be hit with spin without a specific reason, but the truth is that every player quite naturally puts some kind of spin on almost every stroke. Stripping a tennis player of his spin shots would be like robbing a pitcher of his curve and his slider.

Rod Laver made a fortune using topspin. You should adopt it to add consistency and control to your game. With topspin, you can hit the ball hard and still keep it inside the fences. Every topspin stroke begins by keeping the racket head low on the backswing. Then stroke through the ball with strong upswing - the racket starts at your knees and ends at ear level. The ball will swoop in an arc that drops precipitously into the opposing court.

The resulting high topspin bounce will keep your opponent pinned at the baseline wishing for a stepladder to reach your shots. If he presses to net, hit an exaggerated topspin ("big dipper") that just makes it over the net and drops at his feet. Or try to pass him with a sharply angled topspin cross-court.

A sliced backhand looks like a karate chop to the solar plexus. The racket head moves from high to low, knifing under the ball and imparting backspin. Slice is efficient and easy to control (unless you open the racket face to the sky). The ball will skid low and force your opponent to hit off his shoe tops.

Slice is especially good as an antidote to topspin. It takes the pace off your opponent's shot and forces him to try to hit another topspin shot off a difficult low bounce. It is also the smart stroke to use on drop shots and on lobs made from impossible "gets."

The exaggerated version of the downward slice is a chop. A good chop has so much backspin that it makes the ball stop dead in its tracks or even bounce backwards.

Finally, there is a sidespin, produced by stroking the racket sideways across the ball. On the forehand, it's somewhat like flinging the ball off the racket face. Sidespin bounces away from your opponent, toward the sidelines, and is thus a favorite down-the-line approach shot. Your opponent is forced to run an extra half-step to meet the bounce.

Learning spins can open up a whole new world of tennis beyond the basic push-and-slam of getting the ball over the net. You'll feel what it's like to have your opponent on a string. When he starts making errors, you may also begin to understand one of the reasons Bjorn Borg is the best in the world.

Q - Jimmy Connors seems to do all right by hitting hard flat shots. Why is spin so important?

A - Connors is the exception, possibly the best flat hitter in the history of tennis. But even he has trouble controlling some of his shots. You should learn spin to give your fame versatility.

Q - I play on fast hard courts and find I have trouble hitting good topspin. Why is this?

A - Topspin is an offensive shot that requires time for a big backswing. On fast and low ball, underspin is more effective.