Mastery of the Backhand for Beginners


Imagine this. You are out on the tennis court. It is match point, and your opponent glares daggers at you between pulls on his Gatorade bottle. You stare coolly back. You have studied his technique and now know what his game lacks. And you are ready. When the chair umpire signals for the match to resume, your opponent rears back and fires a line-drive serve directly to your left side. He thinks he has won, for you are a right-handed player and there appears to be no possible way you will reach the ball in time. He is mistaken. Your racquet suddenly flashes over across your body to your left side, and you retaliate with a vicious hit from the back side of the racquet. To your opponent’s amazement, the ball rockets over the net and lands cleanly about 5 feet to the left, out of his reach. The match is yours.

Tennis Racket and Ball on Court

Backhand Overview

So what just happened? Well, you have just been introduced to the tennis shot known as “The Backhand”. Put simply, this shot functions as a means of retrieving shots that land on your less dominant side. It is executed by bringing the racquet across the body to your less dominant side, then swinging back to the dominant side upon making contact with the ball with the back side of your racquet head.While the backhand is often a secondary skill for most players, there is no denying its efficacy as a strategy on the court. You will often be able to tell quickly when your opponent has little to no backhand, as the scenario above depicts. If you know your opponent has no backhand, you can take advantage of that and change the outcome of the match.Difficult though it may be to master the backhand, it will prove to be an invaluable ally once you do. Let’s look at some of the steps you can take in order to develop the most feared backhand in the land!

Ways the Backhand is Done

When first learning, one must understand the various ways of executing this shot. The backhand is performed with either one hand or with both hands. While the one-handed backhand is considered preferable, the two-handed style has enjoyed a recent increase in popularity, particularly with the pros. Hitting with two hands provides more control and power, and this method is frequently used by children new to the game. Here are some easy steps that will show you how it is done!

  • Bring racquet across your chest to less-dominant side
  • Have the racquet pointed at a slightly downward angle
  • To hit, bring the other side of the head back to the dominant side. Make sure when you do this, you are always swinging in a “low to high” motion.

Getting Started

I would recommend starting with the two-handed method even if you aren’t a child, because it still gets you used to the motion and executing the shot with power and control. Do not be discouraged if you are not able to generate enough power on the hit for a while. This is normal, and will pass in due time. I suggest using the Wilson Tour Slam forthose having difficulties,as many users reported that this racquet’s size and weight seemed to improve their technique dramatically. Once you are strong with two-hands, you may progress to using just one hand. It is a little more challenging, but practice makes perfect!

Steps That Will Help You Master the Backhand

  • Focus on is the motion. With your racquet, practice bringing it across your chest and back again. As meaningless as this may seem at first, knowing the mechanics of the shot is half the battle. You can do this little exercise in your room at home, while watching TV, or anywhere else you know you won’t feel self-conscious noodling around with a tennis racquet by yourself.
  • Once you feel you’ve gotten the hang of the motion, it’s time to put it to the test. With a friend, go out to the tennis courts and have them hit balls to you on your less-dominant side. Make a note of how hard you are hitting, if you are hitting with control, and how comfortable you are with the execution.
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to do this exercise on your own if needed. Simply find a wall and hit the ball to yourself. Practice returning it each time with a backhand. This is a little more challenging, but it’s good to do if you do not have a tennis partner.
  • Evaluate the racquet you are currently using. There are many great racquet options to choose from, so find the one that best suits you and your playing style.

Postgame Wrap Up

As mentioned above, it would probably work best if you start with two hands first.  Once you are familiar with the technique, you may switch to the more-challenging one hand. If learned effectively, your shot should have a lot of backspin, and you will find that you are able to cover a lot more of the court while having to run less to retrieve your opponent’s shots. Good luck out there!