Until January of this year I had a one-handed backhand that I wasn’t too excited about. I had spent a lot of 2011 angsting over whether I should switch to a 2-hander. Clearly there were pros and cons to both. And the biggest advertisement for a 1-hander was Roger Federer (for a master class in the 1-handed backhand see this video I shot at the 2011 US Open of Federer All-Around Awesomeness in 45 Seconds)… But The Fed seemed to be the exception among the top guys on the Tour today. Everywhere I looked, I saw younger players hitting with 2-handers.
More importantly, something didn’t feel right in my body about the 1-hander. As my forehand was improving and my body was starting to work as a unit, I felt the added strength being generated from my hip rotation and legs and shoulders all working as a unit. I loved the natural feeling I got with the follow through on the modern forehand, and I envied how 2-handers used a similar motion in reverse. It seemed like it would be easier to generate topspin with a 2-hander. And I could always use my 1-hander for slice or emergencies. Plus I figured it would be better in the long-term for my body to balance things out by involving my left arm.
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I decided to experiment with a 2-hander on my own with a ball machine — and after about 30 minutes I was hooked. Since then, I’ve been working on boosting my power and improving accuracy. I recently got four tips over the course of a few days that have been game-changers:
(1) One of my incredible coaches and good friends at Total Tennis, Saif Ali, pointed out that I needed to take my racket back furtherbefore impact (the Serena photo at top of this post gives a sense of what he was aiming for). Essentially, my racket head had been stopping around 8 o’clock (I’m a right hander), whereas it should have been getting back to about 6 o’clock. Without getting it back further, my shoulder turn wasn’t complete– so I was losing power. It’s made a huuuuge difference. Here’s another image of what he’s talking about:
Photo I took of Serena Williams in Semis of 2011 US Open
(2) Another great pro and buddy at Total Tennis, Andre Santos (selected as 2011 MSC Player of the Year), gave some related advice: to make sure to aim my shoulder towards the incoming ball— which also helps get the shoulder turn happening as it should AND helps with proper spacing. When I asked him to explain on video he added a few other good tips for anyone working on a 2-hander:
(3) I was applying this advice to great effect last week at Total Tennis and another of my great coaches there, Saif Syed, added another refinement: “I don’t like that finish,” he said. He wanted me to fully complete my follow through and stay with the shot a little longer by counting “1 thousand one” before rushing to reset for the next shot.
(4) I came back to show Tumeka Harris at MPRC my new-and-improved backhand, and she was ecstatic but had yet another refinement: I want to see more hip rotation so that your back foot pivots and ends up with your laces facing the opposite wall, with your weight is on your forward leg and driving into the court…
Together these 4 things are starting to transform my new 2-handed backhand into a weapon!
Top photo credit: I took this of David Ferrer in US Open match against James Blake
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