Pivot and Shoulder Turn
The first thing that professional tennis players do when they hit a forehand is pivot with their outside foot and turn their shoulders sideways. We call this motion the pivot and shoulder turn. It is also commonly referred to as the unit turn because the entire body is turning sideways.
To execute the pivot and shoulder turn, pivot with your outside foot and transfer your weight to that foot. Get the heel of your inside foot up. At the same time, turn you shoulders sideways. Pivoting with your outside foot opens up your hips. This makes it easier to turn your shoulders sideways.
The pivot and shoulder turn starts your racket takeback. Your arms DO NOT DO ANYTHING during this step. Both hands should stay on the tennis racket and your arms should not move side-to-side. The racket starts to come back because your shoulders are turning sideways. Just to be absolulely clear, it is a BIG and VERY COMMON mistake to use your arms to take the racket back during this step.
1:00 minute into the video we go to the FYB TV screen and watch Sacha Jones pivot and turn her shoulders. She is an up-and-coming New Zealand tennis player who recently turned pro and these clips are from a July 2008 Washington Kastles World Team Tennis match. To start her forehand, Sacha pivots with her outside foot, transfers her weight to that foot and gets the heel of her inside foot up. At the same time, her shoulders turn sideways and her racket starts to come back. At 1:20 we clip to the back perspective to emphasize that her racket is coming back by virute of her shoulder turn and NOT because her arms are moving side-to-side.
At 1:45 in the video we look at some pictures of Frenchman Gael Monfils pivoting and turning his shoulders. These pictures are from the 2007 Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC. In 2008 Monfils made it to the semifinals of the French Open and has the record for the hardest forehand every hit at around 120 mph. In the first picture Monfils is in the air, halfway through his split step. In the second picture, Monfils has pivoted and turned his shoulders. We move in on his feet to see that the has pivoted with his outside foot, transferred his weight ot that foot and gotten the heel of his inside foot up. Scrolling up the picture, we see that that footwork has opened up his hips, allowing him to turn his shoulders sideways more easily.
Pulling back to look at the whole picture we can see that because his shoulders have turned sideways the tennis racket has started to come back even though he hasn’t used his arms yet. They are still in line with his body. It’s also very important to note that both his hands are still on the tennis racket.