Do all the women in your tennis league play your backhand because it’s your weakest shot? Well, it’s time to turn your backhand into a weapon. One way to do this is to learn a one-handed backhand with a Western backhand grip. This grip might be a little more advanced, but it allows you to hit with a lot of topspin -- not an easy ball to return. It may take several months of practice before you own this shot, but when you do, you’ll likely see more balls coming to your forehand.
Finding the Western Backhand Grip
Hold your racket with the strings perpendicular to the court with its head pointing away from you. Look at the end of the butt cap and notice its shape -- an octagon with eight sides, also called bevels.
Think of the top bevel as No. 1, the next one, clockwise, as No. 2 and so forth all the way around to No. 8. You'll use this numbering system to find the grip.
Look at the palm of your dominant hand to locate two hand reference points also used to find the grip. These are the base knuckle of your index finger and the heel pad of your hand.
Place both hand reference points on bevel No. 8. You are now holding your racket with a Western backhand grip. If you play with a Semi-Western forehand grip, your hand is already in position. Simply flip your hand and racket, like a windshield wiper, to your backhand side and you have the Western backhand grip.
One-Handed Backhand Technique
Pivot, turn your hips and shoulders sideways away from the net, and move toward the incoming ball -- and of course you'll use the Western backhand grip. Hold the throat of your racket with your left hand before you start your backswing.
Pull your racket back quickly behind your body, with your left hand. You can take your racket straight back or with a loop motion -- try them both to see which works best for you. As you do, turn your torso enough so the back of your right shoulder points toward the net.
Step toward the ball with your right foot -- forward and slightly toward the left side of the court. Keep a slight bend in your knees and transfer your weight onto your right foot. Drop the racket head below the level of the incoming ball as you start your forward swing.
Remove your left hand from the racket and move your left arm backward, for balance, as your right arm moves forward. To generate some "oomph" behind your shot, uncoil your body toward the net -- first your hips, then your torso and then your shoulders. Swing your right arm and racket forward as a unit.
Time your forward swing so you contact the ball off to the side and slightly ahead of your right leg. Keep your head still and eyes focused on the ball when you make contact. Practice a low-to-high swing path, using the strings to brush up the back of the ball. This helps put topspin on the ball.
Maintain the momentum of your swing through the point of contact. Extend your hitting arm and racket in the direction of your target during the follow through. Finish high with your hitting hand and the racket above your head.
- If you're a leftie, simply reverse the directional references.
- Poor backhand stroke mechanics can lead to tennis elbow. If you are unclear about the technique, take a lesson from a tennis professional.
- Nick Bollettieri Classic Tennis Handbook; Nick Bollettieri
- Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images