Fitness, mental toughness, quickness, power and agility are essential elements of a sound tennis game. However, the foundation of a player's game is built upon two basic ground strokes: the forehand and the backhand. Learning the proper technique for swinging the racket will produce consistent ground strokes. Consistency translates to winning more points. Playing styles may vary, but every tennis swing follows a fluid three-step progression: preparation, contact and follow-through.
Proper ground strokes are fluid and flow from low to high. Every swing begins with preparation, or what is often called the take-back. The take-back is the ready position of the racket before the ball reaches you. Start the take-back as soon as your opponent hits the ball. Make contact with the ball when its height is between the knee and waist and still in front of you. Swing up and through the ball. Finish with the racket high above the shoulders. This low-to-high progression produces topspin and allows for greater control and accuracy.
Developed when players used heavier wooden rackets, the classic forehand takes a turn, set and hit approach. Before the ball clears the net, turn sideways and move to the ball. Start the take-back. With the non-hitting shoulder aimed at the oncoming ball, extend the non-playing hand for balance. Set feet and then swing through the ball. Your racket face follows the ball's flight and ends high above the shoulder opposite the playing hand. This stroke is mostly used by recreational players. Top professionals who still incorporate aspects of the classic forehand include Serena and Venus Williams.
Today, most professional tennis players use what is called the modern forehand. Developed to adapt to lighter rackets and new string technology, the modern forehand begins with an open stance. The take-back is less pronounced. The swing still goes from low to high. However, instead of turn, step and hit, the modern forehand loads and explodes. The swing is similar to a windshield wiper motion. The follow-through ends across the body. Lighter rackets allow for accelerated swings, creating more topspin. Rafael Nadal's lethal forehand is a good example of this modern swing.
Considered a tennis relic, the one-handed backhand has all but disappeared on the women's tour. Only one player in the Top 100, Carla Suarez-Navarro, uses the stroke. However, on the men's tour, the one-handed backhand is making a slight comeback. Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov, Richard Gasquet, Tommy Robredo and up-and-coming star Dominic Thiem play with a one-handed backhand. The take-back begins with the playing shoulder and your back facing the net. Contact is made as the torso swivels, shifting weight from the back leg to the front leg. Swing low to high. Finish with arms extended in the same fashion as a baseball umpire calling a player safe.
Most players use the two-handed backhand because they can exert more power from the baseline. With the two-handed backhand, the player must begin the take-back while turning and running. While rotating the torso, bend knees and put weight on the back foot. When set, make contact with the ball between the knee and waist height. Whip through the ball, swinging from low to high. The follow-through ends with the racket face high above the head. Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Andy Murray play with a two-handed backhand.
- Photo Credit LuckyBusiness/iStock/Getty Images