Tennis Shots: The Backhand

From listening to tennis commentators, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that a backhand was something that any tennis player compares to a particularly troubling visit to the dentist – if it can be avoided, you should, because the result of going there will be painful and potentially embarrassing.

There is no doubt that a good backhand is trickier to play, and therefore rarer in the competitive game, than a forehand. For this reason, professional players will aim to hit to their opponent’s backhand in the hope of forcing a mistake. Because it is an “unnatural” shot – played across rather than with the player’s body, mistakes are more common with it – but a good backhand is worth developing, because it can be devastating.

As players instinctively aim for their opponents’ backhands, having a good shot with that stroke is liable to win you a lot of points. The Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, a top twenty player with a moderate record in the game, is believed by no less an authority than John McEnroe to have the best backhand he has ever seen – but unfortunately for Wawrinka, this has resulted in players hitting to his less gifted forehand.

Wawrinka’s compatriot Roger Federer is one of very few top players to hit the backhand single-handed, allowing him greater reach and ability to hit on the run. This has made him dangerous from anywhere on the court, a major element in his success in the game.

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