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.