BACKHAND STROKE HAS ITS GAINS

While the forehand is usually the more powerful stroke, it is possible to develop a lot more variety on your backhand, writes Ramesh Krishnan.

Beginners tend to have a lot more problems with backhands than forehands. The main reason is the lack of strength on this flank.

You will be able to lift more weight using your forehand muscles than your backhand muscles. Also, as you hit your forehand, the four fingers in your hand are exerting the force whereas on the backhand, you have only the thumb to give it stability.

But the backhand is not without advantages. There is nothing in front of your shoulder to hinder a free swing. On the forehand side, your body is in front of your playing shoulder and often times it tends to come in the way.

At the upper levels of tennis, while the forehand is usually the more powerful stroke, it is possible to develop a lot more variety on your backhand. Touch shots like drop shots and lobs are much easier to play on the backhand. The biggest reason for problems with the backhand is a faulty grip. I see many players hit a forehand and then a backhand without changing their grip, or not changing it sufficiently.

From a forehand, you will have to move your hand in an anti-clockwork direction far enough so that your thumb is comfortable behind the grip (This is for a right-hander and will be reverse for a left-hander). The main thing is you do not want your wrist in front of the grip. It should be laid back.

Next comes the pivot. You need to torque your trunk so that you show the back part of your hitting shoulder to the opponent. This is very important for power.

Preparation has to be quicker on the backhand side bearing in mind that the playing shoulder is in front of the body. You will have to hit your backhand that much earlier than the forehand.

From a take back position, you will need to swing away from your body and meet the ball as you straighten your elbow. At the point of contact, the elbow is straight and the arm extends forward for a smooth follow-through.

The dilemma these days is: a one-handed or a two-handed backhand? There are advantages to both. I am yet to see a good net rusher with a two handed backhand. So, if you feel you have it in you to play well at the net, a one-hand backhand may be right for you.

It is worth mentioning here that Pete Sampras and Stefan Edberg (both ranked No. 1 in the world) started out with a two handed backhand and later made the switch to a one-handed stroke.

But if you feel your strength is your baseline game and you can cover the court well, the two-handed backhand may be the stroke for you.

More on the two-handed backhand later.