STARNBERG, May 7, 2021 (Guest post)
You’re in the perfect position in the rally.
You’ve been dominating with your forehand, working the angles with precision placement, and keeping your feet ready for the perfect moment to strike.
You feel it coming, the end is in sight, and your name will be up in lights if you win a point of this level of epicness!…
Your opponent manages to get the ball across the court to your backhand wing.
You panic. You don’t have time to run around for your favored forehand. You’ll have to go for it.
You swing through with your backhand and clumsily fumble at the ball like you’re holding a baseball bat.
You frame the shot.
It lands in the net.
Hold on, hold on, hold on.
Let’s pause right there.
We’re here to give you a run-through of some key backhand drills to work with to make sure that the situation described above never comes to haunt your dreams as it does our own.
Drill 1: Consistent Recovery
One of the more common mistakes players make is getting too comfortable with moving to their forehand side or running around their backhands to hit a forehand, even when the ball is well into the backhand side of the court.
To combat this, place a cone at the center of your baseline and have your hitting partner/ball machine positioned on the other side of the net. Get them to feed balls to your backhand consistently. Move from the center cone out to your backhand side of the court, strike it hard and fast cross-court, and then reposition back to the cone.
Vary this up by incorporating more cones and making it so that you need to complete a figure-of-8 shape with your footwork before hitting each ball. This will train your mind to not reactively flinch every time you see a ball coming to your backhand.
Beginners can try this drill from up at the service line, while more experienced players should be back at the baseline.
Drill 2: The One-Handed Forehand
Yep, we know, this sounds bizarre but keep with us.
Place your non-dominant hand in position at the top of your racket handle. Move inside the baseline and get your hitting partner to feed balls to your backhand side. Resist the temptation to place your dominant hand on the handle and bring the racket back and around and through the ball, all while holding it with your weaker hand.
Yes. This will probably result in some ugly shots to begin with. But after some time, it will start to click and feel more natural. Of course, you’re not suddenly going to start landing haymakers with only your weaker hand at an awkward position on the handle of the racket.
BUT when you eventually place your dominant hand back at the base of the handle and you swing through with your two-hander, you’ll find that your non-dominant arm is now much more well-practiced and ready to help you out!
Drill 3: Heel-To-Toe
One-handers, come hither and listen in because I have a drill that’s well worth your time.
If you’ve only recently started utilizing the one-hander regularly, you’ll have noticed that it’s tough to generate power and top-spin through your shot. A lot of this comes down to how you’re moving your body through your swing.
As you place your front foot forward into position, you want to get ready to move your weight from the back of your feet to the front as you swing at a 45-degree angle to generate topspin.
Take up position on the baseline. Have your hitting partner feed you easy balls to your backhand side. Have your racket ready before each ball and don’t worry about moving around. That isn’t what this drill is about.
As your partner feeds the ball, transfer your weight forward through your swing path. By the time you’ve completed your shot, your back foot should be trailing your front and be up on its toes and your front foot shout be planted and ready to move off.
Repeat this time and again until it becomes second nature. Don’t worry too much about missing your backhands in the beginning.
Drill 4: Knee-Slice
So you’ve mastered your backhand and you’re feeling positive about it… BUT your slice backhand still keeps you up at night debating if tennis is really the sport for you.
Well, don’t panic. Come kneel beside us and learn about this drill.
No, really, you’ll want to get down on one knee for this.
Keep your front knee strong and ready and get your hitting partner to feed you relatively low arcing balls. Being down on one knee will enable you to cut right under the ball for that pitch-perfect slice technique.
After a while of being down on one knee, stand and deliver with what you’ve learned. Hopefully, you’ll very quickly notice that bending your front knee allows you to impart pace and depth to your slices by providing you with a stable front base from which to hit from.
The knee-slice drill will help you understand the mechanics of both an attacking and defensive slicing shot.
Drill 5: Two-Across, One-Down-The-Line
Get your hitting partner to feed you easy balls at a consistent pace to your backhand side.
You’re going for three balls landing within the lines in a row and for every trio of shots made, you get a point. Where this gets tricky though is that you need to hit crosscourt twice before directing one ball down the line for the winning backhand.
Remember to plant that front foot forward and keep yourself ready on your toes to move for the next shot.
The majority of baseline rallies are made up of crosscourt exchanges but you need to be willing to go down the line at times and this drill encourages you to mix it up from time to time. This is especially true of your backhand side, regardless of if you’ve got a good one or not.
You can have the best backhand in the world but you NEED to be able to vary your shot placement, or your opponent will start to see patterns emerging in your game.
The backhand is an immensely important shot, arguably even more so than the forehand…
Before we start THAT kind of debate, we’ll take you back to the start of this breakdown where we gave you an example of a nightmare scenario in which you were forced to hit a backhand.
With any luck, the next time you’re in that position in a must-win match, you’ll be able to attack your backhand with all the ferocity of someone who’s drilled their shot to perfection with a little help from us.
If we’ve contributed in even the smallest way to your future enjoyment of your backhand swinging, that’s our mission accomplished.