Back to basics: Two-handed backhand
We team up with Tour coach David Sammel and young British pro Yasmin Clarke to master the two-fisted backhand.
A reliable backhand is an absolutely vital component to a solid baseline game that can withstand pressure on all surfaces.
As well as as important form of defence, a strong two-handed backhand can be a great weapon on the return of serve (particularly off second serves), when counter-punching and when you need a big passing shot.
A decent two-fisted backhand also gives you an advantage when disguising your reply, smaller and younger players will be able to hit with a bit more power (particularly off difficult, high-bouncing balls) and it’s easier to hit controlled topspin lobs with two hands as well.
Having said that, players that use two hands to hit topspin backhands MUST learn a one-handed slice to increase their repertoire and options under pressure – and on different surfaces.
1. Start in the classic ready position and watch the ball closely. Stand around a metre behind the baseline to prepare for your opponent’s shot. Yasmin is waiting with a forehand grip as the non-dominant hand makes it easier to go from forehand to backhand than the other way around. She performs a slight split step, then either steps towards the ball or, if it’s deep, she will hit in an open stance.
2. Preparation. Try to react as early as possible to the direction of your opponent’s shot. You must aim to prepare before your opponent’s shot has crossed to your side of the net. Reacting quickly to your opponent’s shot gives you time to play a smooth stroke.
3. She takes the racket back by making a shoulder turn. She watches the ball with intensity.
4. Yasmin has used small, quick steps to get into the perfect hitting position waist high and about a racket’s length away from her body. The racket comes from below the height of the ball and the strings brush up the back of the ball to create topspin.
5. She makes contact in front and in the middle of the strings. She transfers her bodyweight into the shot.
6. She hits through the ball with good acceleration of the racket head.
7. Yasmin completely finishes the stroke before starting her recovery.
Where you aim your groundstrokes is vital to your success.
1. Hit at least one metre above net height.
2. Hit most of your shots cross-court, especially if you are pushed wide because the net is lower in the middle and the court is longer. The court is 82.5 feet long across the diagonal but only 78 feet if you hit down the line. And if you aim cross-court you’ll hit with width, making your opponent run further.
A couple of golden rules. Watching the ball closely is key. Second, don’t run into the ball and then get cramped playing the shot. When you run to the ball allow enough space to execute the shot. And remember top players don’t stop dead to make the strike. You should be moving as you play the shot.