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Justine Henin (left) and Jelena Jankovic (right) in a backhand stroke.
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The backhand is a tennis shot in which one swings the racquet around one's body in the direction where one wants the ball to go, usually performed from the baseline or as an approach shot. For a right-handed player, this means that a backhand begins on the left side of the body, continues across the body as contact is made with the ball, and ends on the right side of the body, with the raquet over the left shoulder. The backhand can be a one-handed or two-handed stroke.

Because the player's dominant hand "pulls" into the shot, the backhand generally lacks the power and consistency of the forehand, and is usually considered more difficult to master. However, the two-handed backhand provides more stability and power for the shot, and is increasingly used in the modern game. Beginner and club-level players often have difficulty hitting a backhand, and junior players may have trouble making the shot if they are not strong enough to hit it. Many advanced players still have a significantly better forehand than backhand, and many strategies in tennis aim to exploit this weakness.



For most of the 20th century, the backhand was hit with one hand using either an eastern or continental grip. The first notable players to use a two-handed backhand were the 1930s Australians Vivian McGrath and John Bromwich. Beginning with Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert in the 1970s, many players began to use a two-handed grip for the backhand. Pete Sampras and Stefan Edberg notably switched from the two-handed to the one-handed backhand late in their development.

Strengths and weaknesses

Often players choose their backhand type based on their handedness—if the player is somewhat ambidextrous the two-handed backhand might be best.

Two-handed backhands have some important advantages over one-handed backhands:

-They backhands are generally more accurate because by having two hands on the racquet, this makes it easier to impart topspin on the ball allowing for more control of the shot.

-Two-handed backhands are easier to hit for most high balls.

-Two-handed backhands can be hit with an open stance, whereas one-handers usually have to have a closed stance, which adds further steps (which is a problem at higher levels of play).

But one-handed backhands have some advantages over two-handed:

-One-handed backhands allow greater reach.

-One-handed backhands are able to hit low balls with much pace and penetration.

-One-handed backhand players move to the net with greater ease than two-handed players because the shot permits greater forward momentum and has greater similarities in muscle memory to the preferred type of backhand volley (one-handed, for greater reach).

-The backhand should be hit more in front of the body than the forehand which can be hit with a deeper hit spot.

-One-handed backhands players are much less likely to develop the habit of playing volleys with two hands.

Many of the greatest players of all time used the one handed backhand.[1] Such players include Don Budge,[2] Ken Rosewall,[1] Roger Federer, Justine Henin, Amelie Mauresmo, Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg, Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe, Anthony "Tony" Roche, and Patrick Rafter.

Great backhands

The player long considered to have had the best backhand of all time, amateur and professional champion Don Budge[3], had a very powerful one-handed stroke in the 1930s and '40s that imparted topspin onto the ball. He used an Eastern grip, and some pictures show his thumb extended along the side of the racquet for greater support. Ken Rosewall[4], another amateur and professional champion noted for his one-handed backhand, also used a continental grip to hit a deadly accurate slice backhand with underspin throughout the 1950s and '60s.

In his 1979 autobiography Jack Kramer devotes a page to the best tennis strokes he had ever seen. He writes: "BACKHAND—Budge was best, with Kovacs, Rosewall and Connors in the next rank (although, as I've said, Connors' 'backhand' is really a two-handed forehand). Just in passing, the strangest competitive stroke was the backhand that belonged to Budge Patty. It was a weak shot, a little chip. But suddenly on match point, Patty had a fine, firm backhand. He was a helluva match player."

On the men's pro tour, dramatic changes have occurred since then. In the 1980s, many great players such as Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe were leading the charge with their one handed flat backhand. But a new wave of players, such as Björn Borg, Mats Wilander or Andre Agassi, started to show the world that two-handed backhands could also offer major advantages. Players could now increase the speed and control of their two-hander in key defensive shots, such as returns, passing shots and lobs. Since then, many players followed this trend. Among the main ones, we count Andrei Medvedev, Marat Safin and David Nalbandian. However, the one-handed backhand is still used by many great players, such as Richard Gasquet, Tommy Haas and Roger Federer.

On the women's pro tour, one of the great rivalries of the 1980s was symbolized by two different backhand styles: Martina Navratilova's smooth one-handed sliced backhand versus Chris Evert's perfectly controlled two handed backhand. Many different styles of backhand arose in the late 1980s. Among the best ones, we count Steffi Graf's exceptional sliced backhand, and Monica Seles's two-handed backhand, characterized by its rapidity of execution. This trend was followed by many players in the 1990s, such as Jelena Jankovic, Martina Hingis, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

Other professional players noted for their exceptional backhand:[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Greatest Shots in Tennis History". 1/2/2008. Retrieved 2008-10-26. 
  2. ^ Ray Bowers. "Greatest Shots in Tennis History:Don Budge". Retrieved 2008-10-26. 
  3. ^ "Budge's Great Pro Year, 1939". The Tennis Server. Retrieved 2008-10-26. 
  4. ^ "The Backhand:Ken Rosewall". Greatest Shots in Tennis History. 01/02/2008. Retrieved 2008-10-26. 

External links


Simple English

hitting a ball with her backhand]]

The backhand in tennis is a stroke hit by swinging the racquet away from the body in the direction of where the player wants the ball to go. For a right-handed player, a backhand begins on the left side of his body, continues across his body as the ball is hit, and ends on the right side of his body. It can be either a one-handed or a two-handed stroke.


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