If you’ve watched pro tennis lately you’ve probably heard of the tennis Windshield Wiper Forehand. It’s a specific type of tennis forehand you can hit. The forehand is distinctive because the path the racket travels along during the follow through looks very similar to how a windshield wiper blade moves across a car’s windshield.
Now why would you want to hit a windshield wiper forehand? This type of tennis forehand – the way you hit it – allows you to generate a lot of topspin and still hit very, very hard. That extra spin you get from the windshield wiper motion is important at a higher level of play because most tennis players can already pound the tennis ball so what they’re looking for is consistency. That topspin will pull the ball down into the tennis court and allow you to hit higher over the net – get more margin for error – and that extra topspin will allow you to generate more angles and let you move your opponent around the tennis court more effectively.
How exactly do you hit a windshield wiper forehand? Before we get into that I want to make a brief note about your follow through. The way you follow through for any shot in tennis depends on how you were swinging prior to and at contact. It’s the smoothest way, or at least it should be the smoothest way, to decelerate your tennis racket after you hit. So what you CANNOT do with the windshield wiper is take classic mechanics and then tack on the windshield wiper forehand finish. That doesn’t work and you won’t be hitting a windshield wiper forehand.
In the video I demonstrate how, from contact, I can follow through in a number of ways and how different follow throughs produce different visual results. I start by following through straight at the camera. When I do this you can’t see my racket strings because my racket is on edge. All you see is the side of the frame. However, if I go back to contact and now swing straight up you see the strings the entire time.
If we take this a step further and I hit a classic forehand where I’m coming pretty much through the tennis ball, I hit and the racket ends up more or less on edge as I follow through into the court. From there, I bring the racket up around my shoulder. But now, if I swing up a little bit more (I’m going to swing up as opposed to through the tennis ball), my racket strings will stay facing the camera more than they would if I was hitting a classic forehand. You’ll notice on the finish I’m turning my arm over as opposed to extending up – continuing to extend up – because this is an awkward way to follow through. So after you hit and the ball is well off your strings you’ll turn your arm and the racket over at the shoulder and this allows you more time to decelerate the racket.
At 3:53 in the video we look at my classic forehand and my windshield wiper forehand from the front. We’ve got them split screened here. The forehand to my right is my classic forehand the one to my left is my windshield wiper forehand. As we play these two forehands forward, I make contact and, when I follow through, on the windshield wiper forehand you can see my strings but on my classic forehand the racket ends up on edge you can’t really see my strings too well. Again, that’s because of the direction I’m swinging prior to and at contact.
From the side view, same split-screen relationship, we’ll draw a line between my swing paths prior to and at contact and what you’re going to see when we do that is, clearly on the windshield wiper, I’ve swung up on the tennis ball more. On the classic forehand I’m swinging through it a little bit more. Because of the direction I was swinging, up on the ball, that’s going to cause my follow through to look different than the classic forehand. It’s going to cause my racket to look like a windshield wiper – my racket and my arm – as I follow through and complete my motion.
How do you practice developing an effective windshield wiper forehand? The way I like to think about it is, as I swing up to the tennis ball what I want to do is attack the tennis ball with the top edge of my frame. Assuming I’m hitting the ball to the right (left to the viewer’s perspective), as I swing I attack the ball with the edge of my frame almost like I’m trying to hit it with the frame. That will get me swinging up across the tennis ball, lifting up, when I hit the ball.
When you first start to practice this shot, chances are you’re going to frame a bunch of balls or dump a bunch of balls into the net. There will be more topspin on the ball which will pull the ball down earlier than you expect. So what you’re going to have to do is hit about 10,000 forehands and work the technique. However, if you hit enough balls and use the correct technique it’s only a matter of time and practice before you develop and effective windshield wiper forehand.