When you are learning to play tennis, there comes an important time when you need to choose between hitting a one or two hand backhand. Let me tell you the advantages and disadvantages of both strokes.
I think that nearly everyone starts out learning to play tennis using a two hand backhand. However, as a player progresses, there comes a time when he or she starts finding out that there are advantages of learning to play with a one handed backhand. With a one hander, it is possible to have more power on your shots. Why you ask? You may think that you would be able to generate more power by using two hands. However, it actually restricts you in some ways of generating the most torque.
Using the one hander, you will be able to generate more torque with your body, and you will be able to whip your racket around creating more topspin and massive power. With a two hander, you will be able to have more control, especially in terms of hitting the tennis ball down the line.
I learned to play tennis using two hands, but
The impression I have from many TV commentators and almost every tennis expert that I have read or listened to, is that they all seem to be in awe on how fast the game of tennis today is. Everyone seems convinced that players of the past played slower games and therefore could not cope with today’s fast game. Is it true that power and power alone and faster means better in Tennis? I dare challenge everyone to think twice.
Remember Mike Tyson in boxing? Who drove him to the border of insanity? A boxer that had mastered an “old” punch, the jab, Evander Hollyfield.
In tennis the two most dominant male players of the last few years Pete Sampras and Roger Federer mastered the “tennis jab” the “old” backhand slice from “eons” past. When you have understood the importance of such a shot and the advantages it brings to your game you will understand why sometimes slower is better.
Like in boxing the jab is designed to open up the opponents defense to allow a KO, in other words a powerful straight right (or left if you are a left-hander). In tennis the slice backhand is to allow you the put away forehand. In many cases if you do have an excellent slice, many opponents get so frustrated that they end up making unforced errors before you even need to put the ball away! That is a bonus!
What happens when the slice is well executed? That changes dimensions in the whole game, from fast to slow, from waist or higer level shots, to low skidding balls, from not bending to getting down on your knees, from being comfortable with your racket grip to having to change gripping slightly to get under a lower ball, from using the opponents pace to having to generate it yourself and so on.
So what does a good slice backhand do for you?
- If you are in trouble it can give you more time to get back into position by floating it deep.
- It can force the opponent into giving you a slower high shot that you can put away.
- If you play it short with an angle it can bring any opponent into no man’s land and allow you to hit behind them into the open court.
- Again, if you play it short with an angle it can force your opponent to have no other choice but to come to the net (where he may not want to be) from an uncomfortable position. Roger Federer has mastered it.
- Once you have displaced your opponent out of the court with a punishing stroke, you can easily surprise him with a sliced drop shot (if you disguise it well) instead of a deep ball.
- You can use it as an attack on second serves from your opponent (the so called chip and charge) and go to the net. Pete did it both with the forehand
What is a backhand? It is any shot hit from your non-dominant side. There are two main ways to hit a backhand: one-handed or two-handed. Most players decide which way they are going to hit their backhand early in their training. Both ways have various strengths and weaknesses. In general, people are “naturally” either one-handed or two-handed players, and I’ll discuss why this is the case below…
People are either “naturally” one or two-handed players. When I watch a student hit a backhand for the first time I start them with a two-hander and see how they react to it. If it is comfortable for them I keep them with it, but if they have difficulty a switch to the one-hander is in order. How do I know when to make the switch? The single thing I’m looking for is how much they extend their follow through. If they like to push their dominant hand through the court more they are almost always a “natural” one-hander. On the other hand, two-handers tend to have a more compact follow through that wraps around the body. It is important to pick the style that best compliments your natural hitting tendencies; hitting the wrong type of backhand can cause years of pain and frustration. Trust me, I know! Let’s now discuss each type…
The one-hander was the “traditional” way of hitting a backhand. Watch footage of most professional players from the middle of the 20th century, and you’ll notice that most of them are hitting a one-hander. The one-hander is a beautiful stroke when done correctly; simply watch the fluidity of Roger Federer… And Federer is not the only example! Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, Tim Henman, Justine Henin, James Blake, Martina Navratilova are only a few world class players that endorse the one-hander. One-handed players tend to enjoy attacking the net and moving forward into the court.
The importance of the one-hander is that it affords several advantages that the two-hander doesn’t. It is much easier to learn how to hit an effective slice backhand. It is generally easier to hit balls below your knees, and balls that stretch you wide since your effective reach is greater. It is also often times easier to learn the backhand volley as well, since this stroke is also one-handed. Interestingly, many of the best volleyers in the history of the game (Stefan Edberg, Patrick Rafter, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova) all had one-handed backhands. However, on the other hand, it can be difficult to hit heavy topspin with a one-hander, especially when the ball gets high above your shoulders. For young junior players it can be frustrating to learn the one-hander because early on it puts you at a distinct strength disadvantage (this is part of the reason why many juniors nowadays learn two-handers).
If you’ve decided that a one-hander feels like the way to go the next question is how do you hit it? Let’s start by discussing the appropriate grip. A continental grip is the way to go. The continental allows you to hit both topspin and slice without having to change the position of your hand on the grip. A more extreme continental will allow you to “brush” up the back of the ball to hit more topspin; a less extreme continental will help you flatten the ball out. You can also hit very effective slice using a continental. In essence, the continental grip is one-stop shopping for the one-handed backhand.
Once you’ve gotten the feel for the continental, there are a few key steps to hitting a great one-hander. The first is footwork. Like all great strokes in tennis, if the footwork isn’t there then the stroke will suffer. The one-hander is no exception. Footwork on the one-hander is a little hard to get at first because it requires superb timing. The goal is to step into the ball with your front, or dominant, foot (right foot if right handed, and left foot if left handed). In other words, as the ball comes you are going to time your step with the ball strike so that they occur nearly simultaneously.
Once you feel comfortable stepping into the ball with your leading foot it is important to figure out where in relationship to your body you should strike the ball. Unlike the two-hander, which we’ll talk about in a moment, the contact of a one-hander is well out in front of your leading foot. To hit an effective one-hander you need lots of room; if you catch the ball late it will cause you to tighten your shoulders and hit the ball wide.
With the superb footwork, step, and contact point out in front the final element to hitting a successful one handed backhand is the follow through. One-handed follow throughs should be long and directed towards where you are aiming. One of the biggest problems beginning one-handers face is they over rotate the dominant shoulder causing them to “whip” the follow through. An ideal one-hander finishes with the shoulder low and the follow through on a single linear path towards your target. If someone were taking a picture of you from the front immediately at the end of the stroke they should not be able to see your chest; your body should be facing the sideline. Watch Federer or old footage of Sampras and notice how they lengthen their follow throughs; very rarely do they over rotate or pull the shoulder away.
If you’re not convinced that the one-hander is the way to go then you may be a natural two-hander. The two-handed backhand has exploded in popularity in recent decades. Look at many of the top players in the world and you’ll see that they are hitting two-handers. Rafael Nadal, Andre Agassi, Andy Murray, Jimmy Connors, Serena and Venus Williams, as well as Andy Roddick are only a few world class tennis players that hit the two-hander. Two-handed backhands tend to compliment players who prefer to play most of their points from the baseline.
Why the recent explosion in popularity? For starters the two-hander is a relatively easier stroke to use compared to the one-hander. It is also highly popular with junior players because they can develop significant amounts of power; and for many people, having the second hand on the grip gives them a greater sense of stability that the one-hander doesn’t. Unlike the one-hander, you don’t need as much room/space to hit it effectively. However, the two-hander also has a few draw backs. First, it can be much more difficult (although not impossible) to learn how to hit an effective slice backhand since the follow throughs are much different. Likewise, it can be harder to learn backhand volleys and it can be hard to hit effectively if you are stretched out wide.
Despite the disadvantages the advantages clearly trump in many circumstances which is why the two-hander is immensely popular in today’s game. So how the heck do you hit the two-hander? Like the one-hander we’ll start by discussing the appropriate grip. The dominant hand should be in the continental orientation. The non-dominant hand’s palm should be pressed directly against the back panel of the grip during the swing (ie: the panel of the grip that is flush with the net). Having the non-dominant hand in this orientation will help you guide the follow through towards your target.
The footwork of the two-hander is similar to that of the one-hander. In essence, the player should step forward into the court with their dominant foot. The differences with the one-hander now become more apparent. Rather than timing the step of the foot with the ball strike, instead you want to bend the knees and rotate the back hip through the ball (see image to the right). This is much more similar to hitting an effective forehand. In addition, you want to allow the follow through to rotate around the body rather than staying on a long linear path. You still want to push the palms of your hands towards your target, but you do so in a less exaggerated way compared to the one-handed stroke.
-By: Brandon Gabel
Brandon Gabel is a former sectionally and nationally ranked tennis player with over 10 years of coaching and teaching experience. He has coached everyone from beginning “pee-wees” to collegiate level players. He has also given seminars on mental toughness and goal setting techniques. Brandon is available for private consultation by contacting the email at his website below…
Visit his website at http://www.addictedtotennis.com.
Making tennis practice resemble a competitive tennis match is a key to playing better tennis in competition. How to make practice simulate a competitive tennis match has been a matter of debate. The study featured in Medicine and Science in Tennis looked at whether using sanctions (negative reinforcement) or rewards (positive reinforcement) during practice could improve tennis tennis skills during competition.
Kangaroo Jumps vs. Milk Shakes
The 2006 study was conducted using 12 semi-professional and professional tennis players, seven who were ranked by the ATP. The goal of the study was to see if sanctions and rewards could assist in simulating competitive play, encourage consistent control of hitting and create high performance motivation in players. The sanction used was the dreaded kangaroo jump, and the rewards were the ever popular milk shakes. The players were tested using the following five tennis simulations:
Hit 96 balls toward a small rectangle with a forehand, trying to get four shots in a row into the rectangle Hit 96 balls toward a small rectangle with a forehand, trying to get eight shots in a row into the rectangle Match simulation with two players where one player only uses a forehand and the other only uses a backhand and then switch strokes after each point. The only part of the court used was the backhand diagonal. Same as above, except both players started using only the backhand and once one player used a forehand the entire court was opened up for play, not just the backhand diagonal. 5 minute practice game. Results In tests 2, 4 and 5, kangaroo jumps and milk shakes were added to the test. For example, in test two if a player hit eight forehand shots into a rectangle, they received a milk shake and in test 4 and 5 if a player lost a point they had to do a kangaroo jump. (“Rewards and Sanctions”)
In test 2, the study found when sanctions were used there was a 20% increase in ball control, however there was also a 3.7% reduction in ball velocity. In test 3, the backhand diagonal match found that when sanctions were used a 7.3% increase was seen in stroke consistency. Additionally, it was found when using sanctions the players had an elevated heart rate and high-perceived concentration, which simulates conditions found in match play. (“Rewards and Sanctions”)
When rewards were used in the tests, it was found the players took more chances and played a riskier and more aggressive version of tennis, which may be appropriate in some competitive situations.
There is no doubt the over the years tennis has become a more fast paced sport. Powerful, driving shots are serious attributes for any tennis pro. But is power and speed really all tennis is about? What about slower shots like the backhand slice?
Lets consider two of the tennis worlds male greats of the past few years: Pete Sampras and Roger Federer. These guys literally mastered what is called the backhand slice from generations past. Both of these players worked this shot into their routine and if you read on you will find out why this slower, but very strategic shot helped them improve their game drastically.
In tennis the purpose of the slice backhand is to allow you the put away forehand. Those who have a great slice will make many opponents frustrated to the point they will start making errors early on in a match.
Think about it this way. A constant return of slices change the entire play of the game. It will go from fast to slow, from high shots, to low skidding balls, from not bending to getting down to the clay, from having a comfortable racket grip to having to adjust uncomfortably to get under the low shots and more!
Strategically you are at a huge advantage if you prepare for a match rich in backhand slices.
Lets say your in the midst of a tough rally and your losing ground and control. A well placed backhand slice floated deep can get you back in the game. Of course the real beauty of this shot is playing it short and then sending the ball over your opponents shoulders into the empty open court behind them!
Tennis is a game of timing, and variation in play to keep your opponent guessing. By employing a slow backhand slice at the right times you put both of these factors to good use!
-By: Sean Light
For new tennis players, it is so important to learn the right basic tennis strokes right from the start. It is too easy to swing the tennis racket just to hit the ball to the other side of the court, but soon you’ll develop bad habits that are difficult to break, and make it even more difficult for you to improve your game.
Getting your basic tennis strokes right will give you a strong foundation to build your skill as a tennis player. With more practice, you can then slowly but surely improve your skill by enhancing your strokes with more speed and accuracy.
For most beginners, learning and mastering the following basic tennis strokes will be sufficient for a fairly decent game:
o Forehand Volley
o Backhand Volley
There are several ways to learn these basic tennis strokes.
A professional tennis coach will not only show you these strokes, but will also start you on drills to get these basic strokes right. At least for your first few lessons, you’ll only be practising the forehand, the backhand and the serve.
Even as you learn additional strokes such as the forehand and backhand volley, your coach will ensure you continue to have sufficient practise on the forehand, backhand and the serve.
Of course the advantage of having a coach is that he or she will be able to pinpoint what you’re doing right and what needs to be improved. Unfortunately, sometimes the cost of getting a professional tennis coach is prohibitive, particularly for personal or individual coaching.
Tennis clinics, or group lessons, may be an option to keep your cost down. However, there should not be more than four students per session to ensure that the coach is able to provide sufficient attention to each player.
Alternatively, you can also turn to books, videos or the internet to learn the basic strokes and practise on your own.
Books or magazines may offer step by step pictorial instructions. And there are dozens of websites now offering high quality instructional videos which are very effective.
Lastly, you might want to join a tennis social group at your local sports and recreational clubs. These groups usually organize weekly tennis sessions which offer fantastic opportunities to practise your strokes and socialize at the same time!
-By: Nora Yu
Nora Yu is a tennis enthusiast who has been playing the game for more than 5 years. For more tennis tips, visit [http://www.TennisVideoLessons.net]
Every offensive in tennis begins with the forehand drive, and it should be most carefully studied. When you learn tennis techniques you should remember there are certain rules of footwork that apply to all shots. To reach a ball that is a short distance away, advance the foot that is away from the shot and thus swing into position to hit. If a ball is too close to the body, retreat the foot closest to the shot and drop the weight back on it, thus, again, being in position for the stroke. When hurried, and it is not possible to change the foot position, throw the weight on the foot closest to the ball.
The receiver should always await the service facing the net, but once the serve is started on the way to court, the receiver should at once assume the position to receive it with the body at right angles to the net.
The forehand drive is made up of one continuous swing of the racquet that, for the purpose of analysis, may be divided into three parts:
* The portion of the swing behind the body, which determines the speed of the stroke.
* That portion immediately in front of the body which determines the direction and, in conjunction with weight shift from one foot to the other, the pace of the shot.
* The portion beyond the body, similar to the golfer’s follow through that determines spin, top or slice, to be imparted to the ball.
All drives should be topped. The slice shot is a totally different stroke.
To drive straight down the sideline, construct in theory a parallelogram with two sides made up of the side-line and your shoulders, and the two ends, the lines of your feet, which should, if extended, form the right angles with the side-lines. Meet the ball at a point about 4 to 4 1/2 feet from the body immediately in front of the belt buckle, and shift the weight from the back to the front foot at the MOMENT OF STRIKING THE BALL. The swing of the racquet should be flat and straight through. The racquet head should be on a line with the hand, or, if anything, slightly in advance; the whole arm and the racquet should turn slightly over the ball as it leaves the racquet face and the stroke continue to the limit of the swing, thus imparting top spin to the ball.
The hitting plane for all ground strokes should be between the knees and shoulders. The most favourable plane is on a line with the waist.
Never step away from the ball in driving cross court. always throw your weight in the shot.
The forehand drive from the left court is identically the same for the straight shot down your opponent’s forehand. For the cross drive to his backhand, you must conceive of a diagonal line from your backhand corner to his, and thus make your stroke with the footwork as if this imaginary line were the side-line. In other words, line up your body along your shot and make your regular drive. Do not try to “spoon” the ball over with a delayed wrist motion, as it tends to slide the ball off your racquet.
All drives should be made with a stiff, locked wrist. There is no wrist movement in a true drive. Top spin is imparted by the arm, not the wrist.
The backhand drive follows closely the principles of the forehand, except that the weight shifts a moment sooner, and the R or front foot should always be advanced a trifle closer to the side-line than the L so as to bring the body clear of the swing. The ball should be met in front of the right leg, instead of the belt buckle, as the great tendency in backhand shots is to slice them out of the side-line, and this will pull the ball cross court, obviating this error. The racquet head must be slightly in advance of the hand to aid in bringing the ball in the court. Do not strive for too much top spin on your backhand.
I strongly urge that no one should ever favour one department of his game, in defence of a weakness. Develop both forehand and backhand, and do not “run around” your backhand, particularly in return of service. To do so merely opens your court. If you should do so, strive to ace your returns, because a weak effort would only result in a kill by your opponent.
Do not develop one favourite shot and play nothing but that. If you have a fair cross-court drive, do not use it in practice, but strive to develop an equally fine straight shot.
Remember that the fast shot is the straight shot. The cross drive must be slow, for it has not the room owing to the increased angle and height of the net. Pass down the line with your drive, but open the court with your cross-court shot.
Drives should have depth. The average drive should hit behind the service-line. A fine drive should hit within 3 feet of the baseline. A cross-court drive should be shorter than a straight drive, so as to increase the possible angle. Do not always play one length drive, but learn to vary your distance according to your man. You should drive deep against a baseliner, but short against a net player, striving to drop them at his feet as, he comes in.
Never allow your opponent to play a shot he likes if you can possibly force him to one he dislikes.
As you learn tennis techniques I urge that you play your drive:
With the body sideways to the net.
With the swing flat, and with a long follow through.
With your weight shifting just as you hit the ball.
It won’t be long before these techniques become second nature to you. Just keep practicing and enjoying your game
-By: Paul Schaverien
The author enjoys playing tennis and would love to pass on his experience to help others playing this wonderful game
For more articles and information about improving every aspect of your game please visit Learn Tennis Techniques where you can also download (without any sign-up) a free ebook about improving your game.
Tennis Players pretty much know that it’s their backhand swings that cause Tennis Elbow.
Tennis is a great game that people of all ages enjoy. But if you’re like me, you enjoy tennis more when you win. So what are some of the things that you can do to improve your chances? There are many things that help, but here are some of the main ones.
Get your first serve in
In tennis, the more first serves that you get in, the more likely it is that you will win the match. When you get your first serve in, it puts pressure on your opponent, even if it is not a fast serve. So slow your first serve down a little or add more spin. The main action you should be thinking about when you hit the serve is to hit up into the ball and over and across the top of the ball. This will give you excellent ball rotation, spin, control and will make the serve heavier to return.
Hit the Tennis Ball Cross-Court
This is one of the secrets of tennis pros. When you hit cross court from the back of the court, it gives you the maximum distance, meaning your ball will less likely go long. Also, if you can make the ball bounce just inside the sideline while hitting crosscourt, it will mean that your opponent has to hit the ball from outside the sideline. If he or she hits it down the line, it will be a risky shot over the high part of the net, with less court to work with. Then just whip the ball cross court to the other side and try to make your opponent hit the ball outside the sideline again. If they keep hitting down the line, you will only need to take one or two steps to get to the ball, and they will be running back and forth across the whole court. Over the course of the tennis match, this will mean that you cover much less distance than them.
Make your opponent play one more shot
One of the best things about Rafael Nadal’s tennis is that he chases the ball down and keeps the rally going. When you think you have won the point with a great shot, he gets it back and the pressure is back on you. Don’t underestimate the power of making your opponent play extra shots in each rally. The pressure builds. Particularly on the big points. Bjorn Borg was also a great exponent of this tactic and it helped him to win a lot of tennis matches he might otherwise have lost.
Play to your opponent’s weakness
For most tennis players, this just means hit to their backhand. But occasionally you will come up against someone who is more comfortable on the backhand side. Try to see how the opponent hits the ball in the warm up. If in doubt, just hammer the tennis ball into their backhand and wait for a short reply. For players with a very weak backhand a good tactic is to hit sharp crosscourt shots to the forehand. When they get to this, their backhand will be exposed and you can hit deep into the backhand. Roger Federer did a great job of this in the Australian Open Tennis Final one year against Fernando Gonzalez, who has a terrific forehand.
When things are going bad, use more spin
If you find that you are making a lot of errors in your tennis, then slow the pace of your shots down or just add more topspin. Aim higher over the net and don’t go for the lines as much. This is a good tactic when it is a very windy day. More spin will mean more control until your confidence and feel returns. It also means that your opponent is more likely to make mistakes.
Accelerate the Racquet Head
Make sure your tennis racquet head moves slowly from the take back position toward the ball, gradually increasing at speed. Try to make the maximum acceleration as you are hitting the ball. Don’t decelerate the racquet head until the ball has left the tennis racquet.
-By: Matt Olsen
Matt Olsen is the current World Master’s Games Champion for Over 35′s Men’s Singles. He is also a Nationally ranked player in Australia in Open competition. When not playing tennis tournaments, he coaches a few students privately and many others remotely via the internet. For free information on how to hit a killer forehand go to Matt Olsen Tennis
Sports coaches have come to recognise that competency develops through four recognised stages. Understanding the stages of the competency cycle is a key aspect of mastering the inner game of tennis. It will also help you persist with your efforts to improve your tennis strokes.
The four stages are described below.
Stage 1: Unconscious incompetence
Before you start to improve a tennis stroke, you are often unconscious of what you are doing wrong. It may have to do with your swing, your stance, your grip or the way you address the tennis ball.
In this stage, you are not conscious of your specific incompetence though you may experience a sense of unease or dissatisfaction with the results of your effort. This dissatisfaction leads to the desire to improve the way you play tennis.
Stage 2: Conscious incompetence
Through your reading, coaching or observation, you have now become aware of what you are doing wrong. You may have been watching a slow motion video on YouTube and seen how Federer plays his backhand. You have identified an area for improvement, e.g. improving the way you grip the racquet to complete a backhand stroke.
You are now consciously incompetent, you are aware of your specific incompetence in relation to gripping the racquet for a backhand. You start to change your grip in practice and it feels very uncomfortable and you are not successful initially. One of the challenges at this stage is to unlearn established, unconscious habits.
It is important to persist despite the discomfort and frustration. This is where so many people drop out, give up and go back to their old way of doing things.
Stage 3: Conscious competence
If you persist with practising a better way (e.g. improving the way you grip your racquet for a backhand shot), you will start to feel comfortable with the new grip. You will also start to be more successful with your backhand shots.
The improvement in your backhand gives you positive reinforcement to keep up your practice.
You still have to make a conscious effort but you are acquiring the necessary competence, you are becoming consciously competent.
Stage 4: Unconscious competence
This is the stage where the new backhand grip becomes a part of your normal play, you do not have to think about it as you just do it naturally. It requires no conscious effort.
The old saying, ‘practice makes perfect’ is emphasising this stage of achievement. If you persist with conscious practice, eventually you will overcome old habits and replace them with new ones that are equally unconscious.
If you reflect on your game as you play tennis you will notice that there are many things that you do on a tennis court that represent unconscious competence, things that you do naturally or spontaneously, without conscious thought. These are the micro-skills you have built up over time.
As you progressively build from unconscious incompetence to conscious competence across a range of tennis strokes, you are building your inner strength and inner armour. You are developing your ability to win the inner game of tennis.
-By: Ron Passfield
Learn the Inner Game of Tennis from a professional tennis coach: Tennis Mind Game
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