This article will go over everything you need to know to have a solid tennis backhand. Beginners will learn what a tennis backhand is and how to hit one step by step.
You can always improve your groundstrokes by developing a stronger foundation, whatever your skill level. The following is how this article is structured:
- What Is A Backhand In Tennis?
- One-Handed vs. Two-Handed
- Two-Handed Backhand
- Forward Swing
- One-Handed Backhand
- One-Handed Backhand Grip
- One-Handed Backhanded Take-Back
- One-Handed Backhand Forward Swing
- One-Handed Backhand Contact
- One-Handed Backhand Follow Through
- Different Types of Backhand
1. What Is A Backhand In Tennis?
In tennis, the backhand is the other of two types of groundstrokes. Again, it is possible to use a one-handed or two-handed stroke. The basic swing pattern, like the forehand, begins on one side of your body, moves forward and across, and ends on the opposite side. The tennis backhand, however, is hit with the back of your dominant hand facing the direction of the stroke instead of the forehand. All of the backhand options have advantages and disadvantages, but when used in specific strategic situations, the selection can have a significant impact.
2. One-Handed vs. Two-Handed Tennis Backhand
There is no clear answer to what is better than the other. At the pro tour level, the single-handed backhand works for some players while the double-handed tennis backhand works for others. It all comes down to what you’re most at ease with. The main advantage of the two-handed backhand is that it is much easier to learn and allows you to advance your game much faster.
Some players may feel that switching to a single-handed backhand will allow them to get more out of it, but this is a highly personal decision. Looking at some of the best backhands in the world, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that both work equally well.
If we had to choose the best backhand in the world right now, we’d have to go with Novak Djokovic’s two-handed backhand, but there are incredible single-handed weapons out there, such as Stefanos Tsitsipas.
3. Two-Handed Tennis Backhand
The foundation of good body preparation is good footwork. Try to time your split step so that your feet touch the ground immediately after you notice your opponent’s shot moving in the opposite direction.
You want to react to the ball now that you’ve noticed it’s moving toward your backhand side. The first step is to pivot and shift your weight to your outside foot before starting to rotate your shoulders and hips. Once finished, you can push off with your outside foot and react to the ball. You will notice that as you rotate your shoulders and hips, your racquet will naturally begin to be taken back as well.
With a continental grip, place your dominant hand near the bottom of the handle. The line on the upper left-hand side of the grip lines up with the “v” formed by your thumb and index finger., which is the line between numbers 8 and 1 for right-handers and 1 and 2 for lefties.
Once you’ve established a comfortable grip with your dominant hand, place your non-dominant hand on top as if you were going to play a forehand with it. This will position the “v” to the left of the line between 1 and 8 for right-handers and to the right of the line between 1 and 2 for right-handers. Again, your hands should be closed but not interlocked.
There are two types of backhand stances: the traditional neutral stance backhand and the modern open stance backhand. Both types of backhands are used by professional players today and can be effective at all levels of competition. Unlike the forehand, most tennis teaching pros think that both stances are useful for players to have in their repertoire.
You want to set up your feet and upper body to stroke through the ball now that you have the proper grip and the ball is in your comfort zone. Load your weight onto your back foot, which should be your left foot if you’re right-handed, and step into the ball with your right foot. Ideally, your feet should be lined up as if you were riding a skateboard or snowboard, allowing you to open up your hips and shoulders efficiently. This stance directs your shoulders and hips where you intend to hit the ball.
The key to the two-handed tennis backhand is that the body prepares the racket, which is where the power comes from. Once your hips and shoulders rotate, your left foot (right foot for lefties) should start opening up slightly to allow you to turn your body freely. Next, swing the racket in a neutral direction (about hip height) before rising slightly so that the racket’s head is slightly higher than the handle.
8. Forward Swing
After making contact with the ball, the player’s left arm extends and moves upwards to the right side (we started on the left side for right-handed players). Continue to rotate your belt buckle until it finally returns to the net. Remember, unless you’re trying to hit into the net, never swing from high to low. The arms will ultimately bend and finish over your shoulder as everything rotates.
Make contact with the ball slightly ahead of your body, with your hips and shoulders rotating back through the ball and your right foot (left foot for lefties) stepping into the court.
When you make contact with the ball, your weaker hand should drive through it, pushing forward before following through over the shoulder. While you follow through, your rear foot should rock onto your toe, but it doesn’t want to follow through with the rest of your body. Additionally, ensure that your body is strong and continues to rotate in order to better absorb the weight of the ball.
10. One-Handed Tennis Backhand
The backhand has grown from a one-handed to a two-handed stroke in the last 50 years. However, the one-handed backhand has seen a resurgence at the top of the modern game in the last decade, demonstrating that a good one-handed backhand can be as effective as, if not more effective than, a two-handed backhand. It’s difficult not to enjoy watching a well-placed one-hander. Younger players, such as Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov, show that the one-handed backhand player still has a lot to offer.
11. One-Handed Backhand Grip
One of the most common errors on the one-handed topspin tennis backhand is attempting to hit the shot with the incorrect grip. The eastern backhand grip is used by the majority of players who hit a technically good single-handed backhand. This is because it is a highly flexible grip that can be used to hit the ball with a lot of topspin, creates angles, or flattens the ball out easily. The eastern backhand grip also allows you to easily manipulate the wrist, allowing you to hit aggressive shots on the run a lot more of the time. To find the eastern grip, hold your racket so that the frame is at a 45° angle and the strings are closed. This allows you to spin the ball while driving the racket up the back of the ball with your low to high one-handed backhand stroke.
Feel free to experiment with it and find a grip that is comfortable for you. However, we believe the eastern backhand grip provides the best of both worlds when hitting a one-handed backhand. Tightly gripping the racquet creates tension and slows down your racquet head. As a result, I always emphasize to my students the importance of keeping their hands as loose on the racquet as possible.
12. One-Handed Backhand Take-Back
Returning the racket by rotating the body as a whole, not just the arms, is critical. Ideally, you should take the racquet back with your non-dominant hand on the racquet’s throat, your arm fairly straight, and the racquet head pointing upwards.
13. One-Handed Backhand Forward Swing
You must lower the racquet head under the ball at the end of the backswing, allowing you to move up and through the ball from your original high shoulder turn.
Ideally, your arm should straighten during the motion. Your belt buckle should point to the side fence as your shoulders turn. At this point, you begin to let go of the non-dominant hand. Ensure you’re swinging as a unit rather than just using your arm. To hit topspin on your one-handed backhand, swing the racquet upward from low to high.
14. One-Handed Backhand Contact
The point of contact is in front of the front foot, but the shoulders are still sideways. The racquet head should be parallel to the net when making contact with the ball. This is extremely important. I see many hobby players only swinging with their arms, which results in a poor backhand swing path.
15. One-Handed Backhand Follow-Through
After making contact, your racquet head will remain stable and continue to move up and forward as if pushing the ball. As the body completes its rotation, the racquet head will continue to move up and around. The arm is kept straight. With the racquet head pointing up, the racquet will finish on the opposite side of the body.
16. Different Types of Backhand
- Flat Backhand: To hit a flat backhand, strike the ball at a neutral level and drive the racket through contact without brushing it too much. The second hand helps with ball control, and players with a two-handed backhand mostly use it. Controlling a flat backhand can be difficult, given that the ball does not generate a lot of spin. However, players such as Kyrgios and Norrie have incredible flat backhands. If a single-handed player takes the ball early, he or she will typically use a flat backhand, but in general, they will hit their backhands with more topspin.
- Topspin Backhand: In modern tennis, this is the most common type of backhand. The amount of topspin generated by each player varies, but most players will add forward rotation to the shot. To hit a topspin backhand, move the racket from low to high, brushing up on the ball during contact. Topspin enables players to take more aggressive swings. Players with one-handed backhands can usually generate more spin because of the lag they can create before making contact.
- Slice Backhand: The slice backhand is a valuable weapon on the tennis court, and it can be used offensively as well as defensively. A backhand slice in a tennis match is lower to the ground and moves slowly towards the opposing player. When a player intends to advance to the net, this change-of-pace shot is frequently used as an approach shot. Moreover, drop shots, lobs and other high balls, and other changeup strokes with a slice backhand disrupt the opponent’s flow which is to your advantage. Consequently, this stroke is a great tool to have in your arsenal. Because the slice backhand moves from high to low, your first movement should be up above the shoulders. Turn your hips and shoulders, shift your weight to your back leg, and bend your arms slightly upward. As you swing, you will shift your weight onto your front foot, which will be placed either across or in front of your body, depending on where the ball is. The swing should go from high to low, not high to low to high. The strings will slide down the back of the ball as you swing, creating spin and chopping the ball low across the net. The racket will come up on the follow-through, but usually, after the ball has left the strings. The contact point should ideally be just in front of your lead knee. You’ll stay sideways on the follow-through and keep everything very linear, coming through with your arms straight down the court. Your racket hand does not come through with your non-dominant hand. Instead, it splits on contact and thrusts behind you.
Both one and two-handed backhands have advantages and disadvantages, so choose the most effective shot you are most comfortable hitting. However, don’t be put off by trying the one-handed backhand because it can provide more variety than the two-handed backhand, and keep in mind these general reminders:
- Swing and rotate as a unit: Recreational players have a tendency to concentrate too much on their arms and hands rather than using their entire body. To hit the ball, make sure to use your legs and upper body turn.
- Firm hands at impact: Many tennis coaches teach their players to have loose hands. Forget that. Feel as if you’re firmly squeezing the racket grip at impact. This will keep the racquet head in place during contact, enhancing your control.
- The belt buckle trick: Begin the swing by turning your body and pointing to the side fence with your “belt buckle.” Finish a proper backhand by pointing the belt buckle to the net.
- Determine your perfect shot style: Do you prefer hitting flat or with spin? Decide on a strategy and stick to it. We all feel more at ease with different ways of hitting the ball; figure out what works best for you.