Coaching Tip - October 2012

    The Backhand
    One hand or Two  

    What works for you?

    The debate re the use of the one or two handed backhand and which stroke is better has been going on for a number of decades.
    Players such as Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert and Tracey Austin led to the increase in popularity of the two handed backhand during this time so much so that most Men and almost all of the Women at the professional level now use two hands.
    There have been exceptions such as Roger Federer, Justine Henin and Richard Gasquet leading to a slight resurgence of the single hand backhand in more recent times.

    Backhand Grip

    Single or One handed stroke
    Only one hand on the racquet during the stroke

    • Continental grip for slice backhand
    • Eastern or semi western backhand grip for topspin

    Double or Two handed stroke
    Two hands on the racquet during the stroke

    • Main (lower) hand with eastern or semi western backhand grip
    • Second (upper) hand with continental or eastern forehand grip
    • Keep both hands close together on the grip

    Comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the two strokes
    One hand vs. two handed backhand

    The single or one hander
    Pros or Advantages

    • Gives a player the advantage with more reach to return the wider balls so as to stay in the rally longer
    • Allows the player to slice the ball more effectively
    • In addition backhand volleys are as a rule stronger and more effective with one hand
    • The single hand backhand usually has better timing with the one hand producing more rhythm so that the ball flows off the racquet
    • More topspin can be generated with the single hand especially if the semi western or western grip is used

    Cons or Disadvantages

    • Beginners or young players often lack wrist strength and control so find it difficult to hit the single hand backhand  
    • Players of all standards often have trouble returning the faster serves with the one handed stroke so much so that it can become a glaring weakness
    • The single hander often has less power than the two hander probably due to the mechanics involved i.e. two hands are stronger than one

    The two or double hander
    Pros or Advantages
    The biggest advantages for the two handed player are generating more power and better control

    • The return of serve can be more effective with the two hands giving more strength and control
    • The two arms will give you more power particularly if they work together as they should
    • Allows better use of the body in the shot for example the use of the hips and the weight transfer from back to front foot during the stroke
    • Allows greater direction control when hitting the two hander to either side of the court thereby improving your consistency
    • Allows greater strength when defending the deep ball
    • Easier to use the body biomechanics to move from defence to attack during a rally
    • More effective when dealing with the high ball allowing a better defence
    • Gives strength when hitting with a open stance

    Cons or disadvantages

    • Often the bottom hand dominates the backhand stroke with less topspin and control resulting in more errors from the two handed backhand
    • The two arms need to work together with the top hand giving the spin, control and power required to make this an effective stroke
    • Players certainly have less reach with the two hander and often unless they are fit and have good footwork will have to take one hand off to reach wider balls
    • Two handed players often have trouble slicing the ball losing power and control due to poor technique

    This applies to both the backhand groundstroke and volley

    You may be happy with your current backhand but don’t be afraid to take the opportunity to experiment with your non familiar one handed or two handed backhand stroke during your training sessions.

    Many coaches will get you to hit the backhand with two hands from the start particularly if you are younger
    and/or inexperienced as this will give you more control.

    However as your skills develop I believe it is important to learn the single handed slice to expand your defensive and attacking game and at the same time improve your backhand volley.

    These skills can be learned and/or improved by taking some specific backhand skills training sessions with your coach or the Club Professional at your local Tennis Club.

    I hope that you can take note of the advantages and disadvantages of the single handed vs. two handed backhand outlined above and adopt the stroke that works for you.
    It may very well be a mixture of the two backhand options that will help to take your tennis game to the next level.
    Try not to confuse yourself by thinking too much.
    Keep it Simple.
    Relax and let it happen

    Let me know if you can think of any other options to help you achieve a more consistent and effective game.

    Tennis the game of a lifetime

    Contact me by Email if you have any comments or helpful Tennis hints.

    Let me know the things that work for you.

    Coach Steve