In this month’s Tennis Tips guest post, coach Marcin Bieniek, founder of Enjoy Tennis Blog, explains why backhand tends to be inferior to forehand and what you can do to make it a powerful tool in your tennis game.
When you ask tennis players about their strengths, most of the time they talk about forehand or serve. Rarely do they mention backhand. Does backhand always have to be inferior?
Types of backhand
There are two ways to hit a backhand. Players can use only their dominant hand (one-handed backhand) or they can hold the racquet with both hands and use them simultaneously to hit the ball (two-handed backhand). Both shots are hit from the same side, but there are some major differences from the technical point of view. Because more players have a two-handed backhand, we will discuss the problem of inferiority on the example of that type of backhand.
The reasons backhand is more difficult than forehand
Looking at pro athletes, there is no doubt that they try to use forehand as much as possible. Rarely can we see competitors who have a better backhand than forehand. At the lower level of performance, it is not so evident, but still most beginners and intermediate players have more trouble hitting backhands than forehands. Is it more natural for players to hit the forehand? Does the number of repetitions during practice sessions give advantage to the forehand? Is this a new trend present all over the world?
For a right-handed player, it is definitely a little bit easier to hit a forehand. The motion that goes from the outside of the body to the inside of the body is more comfortable. Motions executed with the palm of the hand come more naturally, because a lot of daily actions are performed this way (e.g. shaking hands, moving heavy objects). On the other hand, we rarely do something with the motion that goes from the inside to the outside, as well as with the back of the hand leading the motion. That is why players usually learn forehands faster and they tend to use this stroke more often.
Backhand doesn’t have to be inferior to forehand. Applying proper conscious changes, players can develop a solid stroke that will bring them consistency and plenty of great winners.
Tips to improve your backhand
Use your non-dominant hand
Your non-dominant hand is not holding the grip without a reason in your two-handed backhand. The next time you hit a backhand, pay attention to the hand that dominates during the stroke. Probably it will be the right one. If you start using your left hand more during the shot, you will see the difference in the quality of your stroke and you will be able to hit more consistently even while being under pressure.
There are different stances to hit any stroke in tennis. With backhand players make a lot of mistakes because they limit their body position just to close stance. Right leg in front of the body is a great way to deal with less demanding shots, but when players have to chase the ball to the sideline or go back behind the baseline, the use of left leg is necessary. Learn how to control your body using open stance and you will see that a little bit more demanding shot from your opponent won’t force you to hit a backhand into the net or outside the court.
If you start preparing your backhand after the ball bounces on your side, you are already late. Top players start preparing by turning their shoulders right after they notice where the opponent hit the ball. Try to learn from the champions and do the same at your level. If you see that the ball goes to your backhand side, immediately turn shoulders and then run to the ball with racquet already prepared for the shot. With this initial move you will have a better chance to contact the ball in front of the body, so the control over the ball will be optimal.
The more you practice something, the better you get at it. You have to apply this rule during your practice sessions. If your backhand is not stable, don’t run away from this problem. Practicing only your strengths won’t help you to win more matches, because opponents will always look for your backhand to put tactical and mental pressure on your game. Spend more time on backhand repetition. Technical skills will also improve your confidence.
Your backhand level depends on many factors. Players are not born with a better forehand or a better backhand. Environment (coach, practice sessions, game style) shapes every stroke, so if you have a faulty backhand, it means that you have to implement some changes. Analyze the causes of your problems and start working on them. After some time, you will see that your opponents won’t know where to hit the ball, because both your forehand and backhand will be consistent.
Visit our Tennis Tips page for a lot more articles by tennis coaches. There you can learn how to improve specific shots and skills, handle pressure, adapt your game to all surfaces and weather conditions, choose the best tennis racquet, and much more.