Tennis Backhand proof
The two fundamental strokes to be perfected in tennis are the forehand and the backhand.
The forehand is hit on the dominant side of the body, making it the easier and therefore preferred option.
However, when the ball comes flying towards the player’s non-dominant side, this is when the backhand must be used.
This is very common during a tennis match, so equal importance should be placed on mastering the backhand and forehand.
This article seeks to provide all the essential information on what constitutes a strong, powerful backhand, offering detailed tips to perfect each step of the stroke.
The types of backhand that exist will also be explored, and the difference between a one-handed variation and a two-handed variation.
Finally, some drills will be explained to provide readers with practical exercises that will help make a significant difference in technique.
What is a backhand?
When stripped back to basics, the backhand is essentially the process of hitting the ball to the side opposite the player’s dominant arm.
Therefore, for right-handed players, a backhand stroke will be required if the ball travels towards the left side, as this forces them to take their swing from their non-dominant side. The opposite will apply for a left-handed player.
Every backhand shot will fit into two different categories: a one-handed backhand and a two-handed backhand.
The one-handed variation involves the player using just their dominant arm to swing and strike the ball.
Players including Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Richard Gasquet, and Stan Wawrinka are current examples of professional tennis players who use a one-handed backhand.
These players at a professional level are considered rare compared to the number of players who prefer to use a two-handed stroke.
The two-handed backhand requires the player to use both arms to swing at and hit the ball.
Bearing similar resemblances to a baseball swing, the vast majority of professional players, particularly female players, tend to favor and therefore use the double-handed backhand during their tennis matches. For example, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori, Rafael Nadal, and Alexander Zverev are current players who have perfected the two-handed backhand and are therefore very good players to analyze when trying to learn this particular variation.
Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors are past tennis players who historically used the two-hand backhand successfully.
The crucial steps for perfecting the backhand
According to My Tennis HQ, there are many steps that must be done in order to complete a full backhand. No step should be ignored, as this would have a negative impact on the development of a proper technique.
Each step will be explained below, with videos providing visual examples to help.
The one-handed backhand involves only one hand holding the racket during the stroke.
However, it isn’t as simple as this, as there are various grip types that players can use during this hit. These grips are the Full Eastern grip and the Western grip.
To effectively use the Eastern grip, the knuckle of the index finger must be placed between bevels 1 and 2, which makes this grip more like the continental grip.
The Eastern backhand grip is the first way of holding the racket that permitted players to hit the ball flat.
When the game of tennis was still relatively new, most players would only hit slice shots on the backhand side, which means that many older recreational players, who learned tennis many years ago, will be partial to using this grip.
Although it is not as widely deployed anymore, the Eastern backhand grip allows for switching up between flat and slice backhands. That being said, hitting a topspin backhand is much more difficult when using this grip.
The Western grip is an extremely effective way of gripping the racket.
The knuckle must be placed between bevel 8 and 1. This grip has rapidly risen to prominence over the last 15 years, as it facilitates the generation of topspin from the backhand side.
It is,therefore extremely popular among professional players. Richard Gasquet, Stan Wawrinka, Justine Henin, Carla Suarez Navarro, and sometimes even Roger Federer are examples of professional players who use the Western backhand grips.
Although this grip requires sacrificing variety in the place of power, it’s undeniable that the players who use it rank highest when it comes to hitting one handed backhand shots.
To find your ideal backhand grip, watch this video, which walks through each type:
The positioning of the feet is similar for both the one-handed and the two-handed backhand. In essence, the same three positions can be alternated and used. These include the closed stance, open stance, and semi-open stance.
However, it is necessary to keep in mind a few small adjustments to be well-prepared to play a one-handed backhand accurately
The neutral stance should be used for players who want to consistently hit an effective, on-target one-handed backhand.
Keeping a neutral stance will allow the player to use full body weight throughout the entire shot. This is essential because, by just using one arm, it’s necessary to have the assistance of your body to hit a hard yet controlled backhand.
Firstly, the bodyweight must be put onto the front leg, as this permits greater explosiveness with the body as the player rotates around the ball.
The open stance is a position that will be used mostly during defensive situations on the court, and the two-handed backhand warrants the same set of rules.
However, it’s critical to note this stance will be used more when balls are hit high and heavy, requiring them to move both laterally and backwards.
This is important because hitting a one-handed backhand with topspin is incredibly challenging if the ball is above the shoulder. Therefore, it’s essential to move backwards and allow some time for the ball to fall to a more favorable position.
The semi open stance will be used similarly, as with the two handed backhand.
This stance is often used in shots that come fast and deep, where there isn’t much time to fully move into a fully neutral stance. The ultimate aim is to neutralize the offensive shot, and this stance will be essential for getting back into the point.
The following video demonstrates the difference between a closed and an open stance during a backhand swing:
The takeaway should start with the racket tip facing up, the dominant hand placed on the grip, and the non-dominant hand resting on the V of the racket.
Simultaneously, the shoulders should be turned, pointing the belt buckle towards the side fence. This will be done both with a one-handed and two-handed backhand swing.
It is better to create more rotation with the shoulder and upper body because this will allow for a faster rotation around the ball.
This should give the sensation of feeling like a “coil”; the more the upper body is turned, the greater energy can be generated, which adds more power and hardness to the rotation through the ball.
As the swing develops forward, it’s necessary to lean on the front foot and allow the racket to start dropping down.
Ideally, you want your arm to straighten up during the motion. The shoulders start turning, but your belt buckle should continue to point to the side fence.
Here is where you start letting go of the non-dominant hand. Ensure you are swinging as a unit instead of solely using the arm.
This video effectively demonstrates the process between the swing and the contact;
When approaching the ball, the arm should be straight, with the racket moving from a low to a high trajectory.
While this is happening, the arms and shoulders should be moving together as a unit. When contacting the ball, the ball must be hit in front of the body.
Importantly, it is here where the belt buckle will begin rotating. Swinging only with the arms and not the shoulders will create a poor swing path, so both body parts should be moving in unison.
To get a better idea of the perfect point of contact for a backhand shot, this video offers a great demonstration:
The Follow Through
Finally, following the contact with the ball, the racket should travel on an upwards, diagonal trajectory, towards the opposite side of where the swing started from.
This is how a topspin will be created. As the shoulders rotate, the arm should continue to be lifted and the body continues to turn.
However, great attention should be paid to the belt buckle, as it’s not desirable to restrict the shoulder turn with the body.
Moving as a unit will allow for an effective result. Additionally, it would be advantageous to allow the non-dominant arm to straighten behind the body,
providing a greater degree of stability.
The following video offers a walk-through of a decent follow-through:
Types of backhand
Differentiating between the different types of backhand that can be hit is extremely important because each type will produce different results. Every kind of backhand will require a slightly different technique to be successfully deployed.
To achieve a flat backhand, it’s essential to strike the ball at a neutral level and drive the racket throughout the contact, refraining from brushing the ball too much.
The flat backhand is mainly used by players who choose the two-handed backhand because the second hand provides greater control over the ball.
Controlling a flat backhand can be tough because it’s crucial to give no form of topspin to the ball. However, players including Kyrgios, De Minaur, and Norrie have all perfected the flat backhands, so they are excellent examples to learn from.
Typically, single handed players deploy the flat backhand if the ball is hit early, but generally speaking, their backhands will be hit with more topspin.
The topspin backhand is the most common, widely-used type of backhand in modern tennis. Each individual tennis player will add their own unique level and amount of topspin to the ball, but most players will tend to add a forward rotation to the swing.
Hitting an effecting topspin backhand will require the racket to come from a low position to a high position, brushing up against the ball upon contact.
Adding a topspin to the hit allows for greater aggression to be added to the swing. Players that use a one-handed backhand are usually more able to create greater spin due to the time lag they can create before striking the ball.
Arguably, the slice backhand is the original backhand. This type of backhand requires the player to use one arm to hit the ball from a high to low position, ensuring the racket face is kept open throughout the shot.
By doing this, a backspin is generated, which is an effective means of breaking the rhythm of the point.
Hitting a fast shot isn’t necessary for a good slice, but the speed would keep the ball fairly low, which required the opponent to hit upwards.
One handed vs two handed backhand
The backhand can be executed either with one hand gripping the racket, or both hands. For beginner players, it is recommended to try working with both variations to find what feels the most comfortable and natural to play with.
One thing that remains constant when using either of these backhands is the balance required.
It’s imperative that a player remains light and balanced on their feet after hitting a backhand shot to prepare for the next one; being off position and off-balance can lead to losing control over the point.
One general tip when using both of these backhands is to exaggerate the pose at the end (Tennis Predict).
This can be practiced over and over to gauge whether there could be a little pause after every shot without losing balance and toppling over.
Although this may seem a little goofy to some, it is a highly useful way to gain a full comprehension of just how balanced the body really is.
One handed backhand
What is it: the one-handed backhand involves using just one arm to hit the ball that travels towards the player’s non-dominant side.
Often deemed the more difficult of the two, using just one hand can offer both advantages and disadvantages, meaning it is most widely used by more advanced tennis players.
Technique: The Eastern grip should be used for a one-handed backhand shot, as this provides the most stability.
Some players will turn, even more, using the Western grip, but this is not advised. The best stance to adopt is the closed stance, as this allows the player to step across the body, providing an opportunity for power creation.
It is critical to bring the racket back, rotating the body as a whole and not solely with the arms.
Ideally, when taking the racket back, the non-dominant hand will be kept on the racket’s throat, with the arm positioned fairly straight, pointing the racket head upwards.
From the initial high shoulder turn, the racquet head must be dropped under the ball following the backswing, as this enables for swinging up and through the ball.
The racket head should point towards the ground before swinging forwards, keeping the arm straight.
The point of contact takes place before the front foot, with the shoulders still positioned sideways.
When striking the ball, the racket head should be parallel to the net, remaining stable and moving upwards and forwards after contact.
The racket should finish on the opposite side of the body, with the racket head facing upwards.
A crucial tip is to keep in mind the significant role of the non-dominant arm during the swing, contributing to stabilizing the stroke.
Generally speaking, the non-dominant arm will help bring the racket backwards and will move in opposition to the swinging arm during the stroke.
Two handed backhand
What is it? The main reason players made the switch to the two-handed backhand is to increase the level of power with which they could hit the ball.
The shot will enjoy more movement and depth by adding that extra hand, even allowing the player to better adjust for late hits.
As the name suggests, the two-handed backhand involves the player holding the racket with both hands and swinging with both shoulders.
Technique: The most common grips are the Continental grip for the dominant hand and an Eastern forehand grip for the non-dominant.
As the ball travels towards the player, a split step should be done, and then a unit turn, during which the shoulders and racquet should turn together.
The leg closest to the ball should step out just a tad during the turn to prevent closing off from the ball. Ample space is required to step into the shot comfortably.
There should be enough of a shoulder turn, so it’s necessary to look over the dominant shoulder at the ball.
When preparing to strike, all weight should be put on the back foot, ready to transfer to the front foot. Both shoulders should be level, and the knees are partially bent. Just before hitting the shot, the hand should relax, allowing the racket head to fall below the ball’s height.
Then, that weight should transfer to the front foot, and when stepping into the shot, the forward swing will begin.
This motion must be fluid, as this will create head speed, which ultimately generated both power and spin by brushing up the back of the ball. The racket’s butt cap should be pointed at the ball.
Once contract has been made and the ball has gone from the racket, the momentum should be forward and the arm extended outwards in the ball’s direction.
Pulling off from the shot too soon will waste a lot of energy, resulting in a weaker and less accurate shot. The elbows should finish high on the follow-through, with the non-dominant hand pulling the back hip through the finish, ending by facing the net.
Drills for improving backhand strokes
Using drills is a brilliant way to practice that backhand, which will lead to improvement the more you do them.
They tend to be more effective for intermediate to advanced players, but some beginner-friendly drills are slightly easier.
The trick is to perfect the technique, not just continue hitting a certain way, never learning and understanding how it could improve.
Backhand Cross Court Drill
If two right-handed players are playing, both should stand on the ad side of the court and just hit each other’s backhands.
If executed well, both players will be hitting inside the singles lines and solely to each other’s backhands.
Two left-handed players can strike from the deuce side. If both a right-handed and a left-handed player are in practice, both should begin on the ad side.
The right-hander should be hitting backhands, while the left-hander should be hitting forehands.
After, both players should change to the deuce side, and the right-hander will hit forehands and the left-hander backhands.
All balls should be traveling across the court. This is quite a tricky drill to execute with consistency. However,it’s a great tool for improvement that many coaches favor.
Volley to The Backhand
This drill will see one player volleying at the net, as the other player will position themselves slightly behind the baseline, around the center of the court.
The player by the net should be hitting the ball to the opposing player’s backhand with every volley.
The baseline player will optimally hit backhand shots to the net player on every shot. This can also be turned into an actual game.
After both players have hit two shots each, the baseline player should try to pass the net player. However, it’s important to note lobbing is not permitted.
The net player can attempt putting the ball away if possible. This should be played until 11.
For this particular drill, the player should be standing on the baseline near the center of the court.
Have someone toss or hit a ball so that it’s required to move at least 8-10 feet to hit with the backhand. Once the backhand has been shot, the player should cross-step or shuffle back to the center.
This entire sequence should be repeated 10 times, followed by a rest. The same drill can be done by backing up to hit a backhand and then coming back to the baseline.
Additionally, it can be done coming forward to hit a backhand, by getting someone to toss a ball so that it’s necessary to move forward to meet a backhand shot.
Then return to the baseline, repeat 10 times, and finally, rest. Practicing in all three directions, to the side, back, and forward, will enable better, more skillful movement in any direction for the backhand.
Beginner's Drill 1
A beginner can practice hitting on the TopSpin Pro, for about 10 minutes or so.
If this tennis tool isn’t readily available, try hitting the windscreen on a fence and moving the racket up during the follow-through.
The objective of this drill is to learn how to swing to contact, whilst brushing up on the ball. It’s essential that the swing starts from underneath the level of the ball or point of contact.
Beginner's Drill 2
This drill requires standing on the baseline. Another person should stand close by, on the backhand side. Said person would then drop feed balls, one after another.
The ball should be left to bounce once and then hit it with the backhand. This can be practiced continuously.
This drill is effective, as it allows beginners to work on their backhand without needing to move towards the ball; it’s only necessary to stand still and hit. This isolates the stroke, allowing for much better focus on the ball.
Beginner's Drill 3
This drill involves the player standing by the baseline. Another person should hit balls from the other side of the court, by approximately about 7-10 feet, in the back of the net.
This person should feed the balls using their racket, hitting the backhand side. Like a rally, the balls will be hit on one bounce.
It might be the case that a bit of movement is required, but not to a great extent. Once the hits start coming along nicely, aim up the middle and then to the corners.
Advanced Player's Drill
This drill requires a third party to toss the ball close by while the player attempts to hit the ball out of the air with the backhand.
This is known as a swinging volley. This drill can be executed near the baseline if preferred. This drill aims to increase the speed of the racket speed and improve hand-eye coordination.
In summary, it is clear the backhand is no simple affair; it requires a great deal of training, practice, and solid technique.
Each step mentioned above is crucial to learn to continue using a good backhand that uses perfect skill and accuracy.
Depending on the player, thegrip and the type of backhand to be used are down to the player’s individuality.
The main thing is that it feels natural and comfortable.
The drills mentioned above are beneficial for practicing the backhand, regardless of skill level. There is always room for improvement.