Intricacies of the Forehand Backswing

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In the forehand fundamentals section of the website, we talked about taking your tennis racket back but we really didn’t get into specifics. We said that once you complete the pivot and shoulder turn, the racket simply comes back. We were purposely vague because there are a number of different ways you can take your tennis racket back.

If you’ve ever watched pro tennis, you’ve probably noticed a lot of variety in how they take their rackets back. For example, Andy Roddick cocks his tennis racket and hitting-arm elbow up high, Fernando Gonzales even more so. Someone like Andre Agassi had a very simple and compact backswing. The key to the backswing is that no matter what it looks like, it must allow the player to get to the proper hitting-arm position when they drop the racket down and prepare to swing forward.

This is a bit of a simplification, but you can do pretty much anything you want to get the tennis racket back, so long as it allows you to comfortably get to your hitting-arm position and you aren’t constricting yourself in any way.

If you are having trouble with your backswing, here are two tips that may help you. First, your elbow should lead on the backswing. All of the pros I just talked about have a backswing where the elbow leads during the take back. Second, make sure that your palm stays facing down towards the tennis court as you bring the racket back. Fernando Gonzales is a notable exception to this, but I don’t recommend copying his style.

Two major exceptions to these suggestions that you will see on the Pro Tour are Venus and Serena Williams. Their backswings are very non-traditional. The tennis racket head leads the elbow back, and they barely even pivot and turn their shoulders before they use their arms to get the racket back. The Williams sisters are tremendous athletes, however, and they can overcome this less-than-ideal technique. If you are looking for a pro’s backswing to copy for yourself, I would recommend Andre Agassi’s. His backswing was compact and extremely simple, and he pounded the ball with some of the best groundstrokes the game has ever seen. If you are looking for a more contemporary example, Roger Federer is another guy with a compact take back. Keep the backswing simple.

  • Jfawcette

    Isn’t a goal to hit all your serves from the same toss so your opponent can’t read what you’re going to do before you even hit the ball? (Witness Sampras, Federer?)

    Second, you say that you “time your pronation differently”. How? Does one pronate LATER in the swing on the slice serve than the flat serve?

  • Carlos alverto

    I can´t get any videos, what´s the problem?

  • Canukjames

    More Johnny Mac!!

  • http://www.seoprofessionalsonline.com professional seo

    I come across a blog that’s both informative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Your blog is important; the issue is something that not enough people are talking intelligently about.

  • anonymous tennis player

    this was incredibly helpful. If you could make a right handed version all you’d have to do was flip the screenshots horizontally the same guy could still be serving.

  • Jay

    Slice serve: You said to toss the ball a little more to your right (for a right-hander). Do you mean a little more to the right of your shoulder (for a right-hander)?

    Should you try to brush your racquet strings against the ball at the number 9 position (on a clock) to make the ball spin counter clockwise?

  • Jeffrobb1234

    Okay, I get it. You need to generate ad revenue.

  • Tribui

    where is the video on Slice serve?

  • Andre

    How does pronating after contact help your serve?

  • Andre

    How does pronating after contact help your serve?

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  • Robert

    Hi, I am trying to keep my palm facing down on my forehand but just befor my backswing changes to forward it tilts my racket and palm open. Do you have any drill to fix that.