There are two ways you can position your feet, two types of stances, when you go to hit a forehand: The open stance and the neutral stance. Before we talk about the particulars of these stances, let’s first talk about my feet.
If I’m right-handed and I’m hitting a forehand, my right leg is going to be called my outside leg and my left leg will be called my inside leg. If I’m left-handed, it is the opposite. My left leg will be my outside leg and my right leg will be my inside leg.
The open stance is where my inside and outside feet form a line that is parallel with the baseline. If I then position myself so that the line between my feet is perpendicular to the baseline, i.e. pointing at the net, I am now in the neutral stance.
Let’s first take a look at Andy Roddick hitting a forehand. Because Andy is right-handed, that makes his right foot his outside foot and his left foot his inside foot when he is hitting a forehand. You can see in this picture that if we draw a line between his feet, that line is parallel with the baseline, making this an open-stance forehand.
In this second picture, you can see that Andy has now positioned his feet a little differently. His front foot, his inside foot, is now further into the court. You can see that when we draw a line between his feet, that line is no longer parallel with the baseline, but is angled more into the court. This is about halfway between an open stance and a neutral stance, but most people would still consider this shot to be an open stance. A lot of times, you will see tennis pros hitting forehands in a stance that is somewhere in between totally open or totally neutral.
Let’s now look at Gael Monfils in hitting a completely neutral-stance forehand. Again, if we draw a line between his feet, that line is perpendicular to, or forms a right angle with, the baseline. If Gael were to step further across his body with his inside foot, so that his inside foot crossed in front of his outside foot, we would then call it a closed stance forehand.
We’ve shown a picture here of Hyung Taik-Lee hitting a closed-stance forehand. His inside foot is across his outside foot. It is very, very rare to see a closed stance forehand at the professional level. Hyung Taik-Lee does not normally hit his forehand with a closed stance. In this picture, he is forced into the closed stance forehand because he was out of position and had to run to the tennis ball. You should never try to hit a forehand in a closed stance if it is possible to avoid doing so.
There is one exception to this general rule. On the return of serve it is perfectly OK to hit with a closed stance on the forehand side. There are several reasons for this which we have covered in the tennis return of serve section.