The WTA has seen its fair share of dominant women’s forehands through the decades, from Steffi Graf to Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova, but who takes the cake among the active players?
While it does take more than a fast and powerful forehand to master the stroke, these attributes undeniably bring in heaps of damage to the opponent and also do a number on their morale during the match. In this article, I’ll be taking a look and ranking my Top 5 most powerful women’s forehands currently on display within active players of the WTA Tour.
#1 Serena Williams
Don’t act surprised because we all knew who would be at the top of this list. Twenty-three-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams may be a seasoned veteran of the sport who is more or less approaching retirement age, but don’t count her out just yet. What makes Serena’s forehand so devastating is not just the high speeds she is able to reach with it but also the accompanying heavy topspin which effectively becomes a recipe for a consistent winner.
Alongside Venus, both Williams sisters had this phenomenal forehand which led to many tight bouts and memorable rallies between them each time they met on court. Much of this speed and accuracy is attributed to their unique open stance technique which accommodates wide-angle shots and greater power generation. While they may have been equally as dominant at one point, there’s no denying that Serena took the helm somewhere along the line and became an even more aggressive baseliner than her sister Venus. Hence, the top spot for the most powerful women’s forehand will have to go to the younger Williams sibling on this occasion.
#2 Madison Keys
Perhaps one of the most entertaining players to watch on the WTA Tour at the moment, Madison Keys always puts on a good show with her aggressive playing style and incredibly fast-paced groundstrokes and serves. On numerous occasions, analytics have shown that in some tournaments Keys was able to reach average forehand speeds equal to or greater than the fastest averages achieved by men. For example, at the 2014 French Open Madison Keys had recorded the fastest average groundstroke speed for both men and women at 127km/h, topping Novak Djokovic’s average speed of 124km/h which was the fastest on the men’s side.
#3 Iga Swiatek
Similarly, world No.8 Iga Swiatek is another speedy forehand hitter who has reached top speeds rivalling the fastest men’s forehands in the ATP. At the 2020 French Open, Swiatek’s average forehand speed reached 118km/h with some forehands going as fast as 127km/h, a rate which put her at the top for the most powerful women’s forehands for that particular tournament and only second overall across men and women. Coupled with this speed, Swiatek applies a heavy topspin as a result of her extreme western grip on her forehand which allows her to reach topspin levels of over 3000 rpm to even rival that of Rafael Nadal.
#4 Naomi Osaka
The young lady from the land of the rising sun, four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka hits an incredible forehand comparable to her childhood idol Serena Williams. In fact, Osaka’s raw power at just the age of sixteen was already reaching heights of 160km/h, a truly remarkable feat that would even dominate the speeds across the WTA pro tour.
Despite her absolute gift of a forehand, the former world No.1 gets most of her success out of her consistency rather than brute force, as she is able to triumph in long rallies where the stakes are high. Hence, I would conclude that Osaka’s forehand certainly has the potential to reach the fastest speeds on tour, but as she stated herself, she only does so when she is “100% sure they’ll go in” and thus opts for a toned-down but consistent average forehand speed instead.
#5 Petra Kvitova
Last but not least is the former world No.2 Petra Kvitova who has a unique way of gaining forehand speed that is a little different from the heavy topspin methods of Serena Williams and Iga Swiatek. Instead, Kvitova opts to take the ball early by hitting it on the rise, and this gives her the opportunity to hit flatter and with more speed, though the downside is a greater risk of unforced error due to the smaller window of success with the shot. The two-time Wimbledon champion achieves this by using a shorter backswing so she can react to the ball’s bounce quicker and swing faster with less topspin and more power. In particular, Kvitova is able to attack her opponents’ serves and really go for those breakpoints with this risky but very rewarding forehand.
The WTA is full of unique players that produce unbelievable forehand speeds in their own ways, but these five players are the ones that immediately come to mind as far as active players go. Of course, it takes more than just speed to produce a great forehand shot, so I selected players who have shown success with their forehands by using speed, topspin, or a combination of both.
Who are your top picks for the most powerful women’s forehand on tour?