Hit a Tennis Backhand

Edited by Jerry Rivers, Graeme, Lynn, Alma and 1 other

Tennis is a fun sport for thousands of people around the world, but as a former tennis instructor and competitive player, the one stroke that frustrates many players is the backhand. Many beginners find it much weaker than their forehand, and some even develop tennis elbow, which will take them out of this fun sport for several months. This tutorial will teach you how to prevent painful tennis elbow, and also make your backhand a versatile strong stroke. This will not only make your tennis game more competitive, but will also make this fun sport even more gratifying. You may even find it, after this tutorial, stronger than your forehand. You will learn a two-hand and one-hand backhand from the instructions, which will allow you to hit a flat, topspin, and slice backhand. So read on, and master that backhand that you have always wanted.

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First, this tutorial will give the step-by-step sequence for the complete one-hand and two-hand strokes. Then, for each, the optimal broken-down steps in learning each stroke will be provided. Thanks to the Professional Tennis Registry, or PTR, formerly known as the United States Professional Tennis Registry, or USPTR, for the methodology in this tutorial so that you can learn a strong backhand stroke. A backhand stroke in tennis means that you are striking the tennis ball from your non-dominant side. If you are right-handed, as 80 percent of us are, your backhand will be stroked from the left side. Once you learn the stroke, practice on a wall when you are not enjoying a tennis match. There are advantages/disadvantages of both the one-hand and two-hand backhand, which will be learned from this tutorial, also.

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The steps for the full one-hand backhand stroke

Jerry- federer backhand.jpg
Jerry- Grip for backhand.jpg
  1. 1
    You should have the dominant hand at the bottom of the racket, and the "V" of that hand between the thumb and first finger on the first bevel left of the top of the handle.
    This grip is called the eastern grip, and is the one that tennis legend Roger Federer uses. This is your right hand if you are right-handed. Your non-dominant hand will be holding the racket lightly at the "V" of the racket, just above the handle.
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  2. 2
    Your stance should be the basic ready position that is common in all running sports.
    1. You should have knees bent comfortably.
    2. Your head should be looking straight ahead. Your feet should be completely on the ground.
    3. Your weight should be on the balls of your feet.
    4. Keep your racket in front of you, with the racket head tilted up in front of your chest.
    5. This ready stance will enable you to be prepared for a quick pivot to either side for a needed forehand or backhand.
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  3. 3
    Pivot – Pivot to the backhand side (to your left if right handed), and turn your shoulder the moment that you see the ball approaching that side.
    The back of your shoulder should then face the net. You should begin to bring your arm back as you do this pivot and shoulder turn.
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  4. 4
    Make sure that you have your dominant hand in the proper backhand grip mentioned above as you bring your arm back for the backhand stroke.
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  5. 5
    Bring your racket arm back with the racket head cocked high above the wrist.
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  6. 6
    Step toward the ball and bring the racket down to just below waist level.
    Your body should still be in the "coiled" position. This step shifts your body weight driving forward.
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  7. 7
    Uncoil and you swing your arm and the racket toward the center of the ball with a firm wrist.
    Let go of the racket with your non-dominant, or "op-arm" as the racket is at the level of your waist beside your body.
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  8. 8
    Follow through – Upon contacting the tennis ball, continue the path of your swing until your racket hand is about head-high.
    Your other arm will reach back as simultaneously as you swing the racket arm around your body and follow through. In other words, your arms will finish apart like the wings of a bird. Your shoulders will be perpendicular to the net as you complete the follow through.
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Learning the one-hand backhand in step-by-step progression

  1. 1
    Practice makes contact properly - If you are a beginning tennis player it is recommended that you first learn to properly make contact with the tennis ball.
    1. For this reason, have someone toss balls to your backhand side as you simply contact the ball above your front foot as you step into the ball. Note that for the one-hand backhand, you make a slightly closed step as you step into the ball.
    2. The "sweet spot" on your strings is just above center. Track the ball as it comes to you all the way until you make contact. Watch the top players of the world. They will not take their eyes off the ball until it leaves that racket.
    3. You want to practice contacting the ball with your hitting arm comfortably away from your body.
    4. Your racket must be parallel to the ground, with the racket facing perpendicular to the ground as you make contact.
    5. You want to make contact with the racket above the lead foot. This will make a controlled and powerful backhand. Your body weight will be behind the racket as you make contact.
    6. The practice tosses to you will not all be perfectly waist high. You must BEND those legs if the ball is low so that you can still make contact at your waist. Never "scoop" a tennis ball with your racket head down. Always keep your racket parallel with the ground as you make contact. Keep your head still as you look at the ball leaving your racket.
    7. It is critical that you keep the basic contact position following the steps above.
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  2. 2
    Bring your racket arm back.
    Jerry- one-hand backhand backswing.jpg
    1. Once you have mastered the proper contact form and are making contact well, you are ready to learn the next step toward a complete one-hand backhand.
    2. Start now from the coiled pivot position, with the racket arm back. Your body is turned sideways to the net.
    3. Have the butt of the racket facing squarely to the net and at your waist.
    4. As the ball approaches your backhand side, continue tracking the ball while you are uncoiling to contact the ball.  
      1. Make contact with the ball as you see the ball hit the "sweet spot" on the racket strings.
      2. Stop and hold your racket after contact.
      3. Check your form. Is the racket face perpendicular to the ground? Is the racket parallel to the ground at impact? Is the contact point waist high? Is it also above your lead foot at the contact point? Is your grip in that backhand eastern grip?
      4. Practice this drill until you have mastered all these requirements toward a good stroke. Once mastered you are ready for step 3.
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  3. 3
    Ready position - Start with the ready position stance.
    Jerry- ready position in tennis.jpg
    1. Then pivot as the ball approaches, turning your shoulders as you bring the racket back.
    2. Have the racket tilted up at a 45 degree angle as you pull it back.
    3. Then bring the racket down to parallel to the ground as you swing forward. This will create a loop naturally, which adds power to your stroke.
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  4. 4
    Use the complete backhand stroke.
    Once you are adequately pivoting, turning the shoulders, and stepping into the ball, with a solid contact on your strings, you are ready to add a follow-through.
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  5. 5
    Drill with the entire backhand stroke - Now, put together all of the progression steps.
    This will be the full backhand stroke. You should finish the stroke with the racket arm extended with the racket at head level.
    Jerry-federer follow through.jpg
    1. Hit lots of tennis balls from the service line.
    2. Once you have mastered the full backhand stroke from there, move back to the baseline.
    3. Practice as often as possible now as you master the proper one-hand backhand, and gain confidence.
    4. The one-hand backhand is versatile.  
      1. Once you have mastered the basic stroke, you can add a slice when desired by simply starting above the ball and driving the racket down as you contact the ball. Still finish your follow through as usual.
      2. The sharper the downward stroke as you contact, the sharper the slice on the ball.
      3. It will impart underspin, which will keep the ball low on its bounce off the court surface.
      4. In time, you can use this stroke as a basic stroke and as the backhand stroke to use before you move up to the net for a finishing volley (hitting the ball in the air).
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The Two-Handed tennis backhand

Jerry-2 hand backhand
Jerry- two hand grip for backhand.jpg
  1. 1
    The grip is different with your dominant hand for a two-handed backhand.
    It is a more powerful stroke than the one-hand back, and is easy to hit with top-spin. Top spin makes the ball bounce high.  
    1. Have your dominant "hitting" hand at the bottom, as with your one-hand backhand. However, for the two-hand backhand place the palm of your dominant hand onto the top front bevel of your handle.
    2. Ready position - Your ready position stance is going to be the same as for the one-hand backhand. It is going to be the optimal starting position for receiving any tennis ball hit to you, by the way.
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  2. 2
    Pivot and shoulder turn - The pivot is similar to the one-hand backhand, but you rotate your shoulders just a bit more for your back swing.
    This will coil you more than for the one-hand backhand.
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  3. 3
    Use two-hands - As you pivot and shoulder-turn, bring your racket back.
    Your op-hand, will slide down the handle until it is on top of the dominant hand. You will have the op-hand's palm at the back bevel of the handle.
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  4. 4
    Hands will be coupled - With this particular coupling of your two hands, it will be similar to swinging a baseball bat left-handed.
    Get ready for a powerful drive on the ball.
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  5. 5
    Backswing - Have your backswing with the racket at a 45 degree angle as you did with the one-hand.
    Track the ball all the way.
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  6. 6
    Contact point - As the ball approaches you uncoil and bring your racket down to around waist level as you step and swing forward.
    Continue tracking the ball until you make contact.  
    1. You can hit the two-hand backhand stroke with an open stance, in other words with your feet parallel to the net. The advantage is that you will have your feet in position to move either direction readily. The disadvantage of an open stance for your two-hand backhand is that it will not have as much power as when you step forward "into" the ball. Keep your head still as you watch the contact off your racket strings.
    2. The follow-through – The follow-through is different, in that you finish the stroke with the racket over your opposite shoulder.
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Learning the two-hand backhand in step-by-step progresssion

Jerry- nadal 2 hand backhand.jpg
  1. 1
    The progression in learning a two-hand backhand is the same as learning the components of the one-hand backhand stroke, except for three modifications:
    1. From the ready position you must drop your op-hand down to on top of your dominant hand with the palm of the op-hand at the back of the handle.
    2. The step taken as you make contact doesn't have to be a closed step as with the one-hand.
    3. The follow–through is over the shoulder, as opposed to the hitting arm being extended with the racket at head-high level of the one-hand.
    4. Now, you just have to get out there and practice. The forehand, volley, overhead smash, and serve lessons are upcoming. Get ready for a fun sport that will possibly be enjoyed for your entire lifetime.
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Advantages/disadvantages of the two types of backhands

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There are advantages and disadvantages to both backhand strokes. Some players, such as myself, will use both. The two-hand is used often at the baseline for driving the tennis ball hard. It is more difficult to use it for a slice approach or volley, however. So, many two-handers will switch to the versatile one-hand backhand for such shots. To hit a top-spin drive, you must simply bring the racket down below the path of the ball and brush the racket from low to high over the ball. This is exactly the opposite, therefore, from the slice, in which you brush "through" the ball from high to low. An extreme downward brush will impart severe underspin, and is usually only used for a "drop" volley. The ball will have very little bounce once it hits the court surface, so it will be difficult for the opponent to hit. In conclusion, you have now learned how to effectively use a one-hand or two-hand backhand in tennis. You have also learned the advantages and disadvantages of each. Now, get out there on the court and practice either or both tennis backhands. Watch out, this is an addictive sport, my friend.

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Categories : Sports | Ball Games

Recent edits by: Alma, Lynn, Graeme

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