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View Full Version : Do modern clay courters often hit off their backfoot?


Clay lover
11-23-2009, 05:26 PM
I have this interesting observation that clay courters like Nadal, Coria and Gaudio (to name a few) often hit off their backfoot. The pace of the modern pro game (albeit with clay being the slowest surface) combined with the slippery clay surface seems to always force one to hit off balance shots i.e. off the back foot and fall back afterwards. A good example is Nadal, who uitilizes his backfoot reverse forehand to its maximum potential. If you hit off the backfoot, it puts more pressure on you body, and does not allow you to drive through the ball as much. However, it allows you to recover quicker and generate spin from off balance positions, both of which are very important in clay court tennis.

Is my observation correct? Or is hitting off the backfoot jsut a byproduct of bad technique and late timing?

LeeD
11-23-2009, 06:29 PM
Byproduct of the OTHER GUY making an unexpectedly deep for forcing shot.
Takes TWO to play tennis.
When Nadal gets a short ball up the middle, he doesn't hit off his back foot, he moves in and into the shot aiming for an open court.

tennisguy5
11-23-2009, 07:05 PM
^ this is correct. Although it may seem like nadal and other clay-courters hit off of their back foot on purpose, most of the time this is not the case. The only time pros hit off of their back foot is on recovery shots when they just need a deep shot to give them time to prepare for the next one.
Although, If given the oppertunity, they will take advantage of any weak shots by hitting through the ball (likewise hitting on front foot). It may seem like nadal hits off of his back foot alot, and this is true; but he only does this because he is on the defensive end of the point 90% of the time.

Clay lover
11-23-2009, 07:11 PM
Well I am scarcely talking about hitting the ball the RIGHT way, I am talking about how they hit the ball most of the TIME. The probability of you getting a weak shot in pro tennis seems much lower than you getting a deep and powerful one. So, in other words, my observation isn't incorrect, no?

GuyClinch
11-23-2009, 10:33 PM
I think you are correct. I interpret it a bit different though. The average pro player is loading up on their outside foot - which is often the "back" foot as they usually stand semi-open.

Check out FYB to see what I am talking about..

Blake0
11-23-2009, 11:04 PM
I sometimes hit off the back foot..as in load in the backfoot and transfer weight up which causes my left foot, and sometimes my right too to go off the ground to hit a heavier ball with more spin (i usually hit flatter). When i want to drive the ball or hit it harder though, no doubt i'll step in and pound on the ball.

tennisguy5
11-24-2009, 04:58 AM
FYB does have some good info on the subject. In a normal swing you DO load up on your back foot, but also swing through the ball and end up on your front foot. You would try to stay on your back foot through the course of the stroke if you were trying to generate topspin.

chico9166
11-24-2009, 05:15 AM
I have this interesting observation that clay courters like Nadal, Coria and Gaudio (to name a few) often hit off their backfoot. The pace of the modern pro game (albeit with clay being the slowest surface) combined with the slippery clay surface seems to always force one to hit off balance shots i.e. off the back foot and fall back afterwards. A good example is Nadal, who uitilizes his backfoot reverse forehand to its maximum potential. If you hit off the backfoot, it puts more pressure on you body, and does not allow you to drive through the ball as much. However, it allows you to recover quicker and generate spin from off balance positions, both of which are very important in clay court tennis.

Is my observation correct? Or is hitting off the backfoot jsut a byproduct of bad technique and late timing?

By "back foot hitting" do you mean more open stanced hitting? If so, I view it as them just being a bi-product of their developmental environment. Higher bouncing balls, which require players to elevate and play with more underneath grips. Both of these factors lend itself to more open stanced, sit and lift hitting.

Pet
11-24-2009, 05:27 AM
Yes, because them get more topspin with the weight on back foot.

Clay lover
11-24-2009, 06:01 AM
By "back foot hitting" do you mean more open stanced hitting? If so, I view it as them just being a bi-product of their developmental environment. Higher bouncing balls, which require players to elevate and play with more underneath grips. Both of these factors lend itself to more open stanced, sit and lift hitting.

Yeah, after I posted this I thought about this as well. You are making a valid point. More extreme grips seem to cause players to hit with a more open stance and as a result hit more off their backfoot.

darthpwner
11-24-2009, 06:52 AM
Yea, when you r moving backwards, its easier to take a vertical swing pattern and make the ball bounce higher with heavier spin

chico9166
11-24-2009, 08:41 AM
Yeah, after I posted this I thought about this as well. You are making a valid point. More extreme grips seem to cause players to hit with a more open stance and as a result hit more off their backfoot.

Yup, open stance is just more rotational and elevation friendly. Those that grew up on clay, would quickly realize this, dealing with a higher bouncing ball.

Bungalo Bill
11-24-2009, 08:57 AM
I have this interesting observation that clay courters like Nadal, Coria and Gaudio (to name a few) often hit off their backfoot. The pace of the modern pro game (albeit with clay being the slowest surface) combined with the slippery clay surface seems to always force one to hit off balance shots i.e. off the back foot and fall back afterwards.

But the pace of the modern game is slowed down on clay. If your insight were true, you would see more of your observation on hard court and grass more than any other place.

By careful what you "want" to see on TV. The mind has a tendency to be selective in what it wants to see and the TV folks oblige with off balance highlight shots because they attract attention. They want you to see the "wow, how did he do that" shot."

When a pro is in trouble or misreads the ball, they will obviously have to adjust quickly. And at times, because the opponent is also very good, they will not have time to get a good setup and rotate back into the ball. So, they are gonna have to do something and they do. They hit off their back foot.

However, a pros normal setup to the ball is not going to be off their back foot. If a pro has a chance to setup, load over the back leg and then rotate up or up and slightly forward, they will.

For your enjoyment, I have this clip to show you both a shot with a normal finish and one with a reverse finish.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aHrjQPzAnE&feature=related

A good example is Nadal, who uitilizes his backfoot reverse forehand to its maximum potential. If you hit off the backfoot, it puts more pressure on you body, and does not allow you to drive through the ball as much. However, it allows you to recover quicker and generate spin from off balance positions, both of which are very important in clay court tennis.

Well, the reverse forehand exists but Nadal also hits a ball with a reverse finish. In the sequence above, Nadal hits both a normal and a reverse finish shot with momentum going upward on the reverse finish. And yes, sometimes he does hit this off his back foot, however, his balance is stablized over this foot as well. He isn't just falling backwards.

Is my observation correct? Or is hitting off the backfoot jsut a byproduct of bad technique and late timing?

It can be a byproduct bad technique or just slow movement and setup. However, when doing these kind of shots as a developing player, I would much rather see you master the fundamentals before you move on to more advanced type shots that need fundamentals in place to help you perform them.

chico9166
11-26-2009, 05:44 AM
To no one in particular,

Yes, ball speed is up. But equally as important, spin rate is up, which raises the average contact height. This promotes more open stanced hitting, which is elevation friendly. Having worked with elite juniors for the past 20 years or so, I know this first hand. The game is played much, much higher off the ground than in years gone by. It's becoming increasingly more difficult, in my case, to get my old *** up enough, in order to keep the ball in my wheelhouse, with these kids. And that's on hardcourts.


Now imagine this scenerio. You're developing your game with the likes of Nadal, Ferrero, or Moya. You're playing on a clay court, which both magnifies the height of the bounce and the unpredictabilty of it. If you think you're going to step up, and keep the ball in your strike zone, against guys that are turning the ball over at a rate of 3000 rpm's, than your nuts. It's impossible. Hence, the open stanced, stronger gripped, elevation style hitting. It's a response, to their developmental environment. On a side note, I'm encouraged that there is now talk about encorporating clay as part of our national junior development program. This is a good thing. It's about time.

LeeD
11-26-2009, 08:24 AM
Is a solidly gripped SLICE off those high balls a possibility, allowing you to stay in the point to get a lower bouncing incoming ball on the next shot? Then, with a ball at the strikezone, you go for a forcing/winner shot.
Or do you think the Haas, Fed, high slices are a thing of the past.

chico9166
11-27-2009, 04:10 AM
Is a solidly gripped SLICE off those high balls a possibility, allowing you to stay in the point to get a lower bouncing incoming ball on the next shot? Then, with a ball at the strikezone, you go for a forcing/winner shot.
Or do you think the Haas, Fed, high slices are a thing of the past.

Lee D,

My post was in response to the OP's observation that clay courters TEND to take on certain stroking characteristics. I.E. more open stanced, heavier topspinned, elevation style hitting. I agree with this observation, because of the higher contact points and unpredictable bounces, associated with clay court tennis. I believe there is a correlation there.

Of course, slice is always an option, but clay courters tend to play back, elevate, and pummel the ball with topspin. It's how they learned to play.

jazzyfunkybluesy
11-27-2009, 04:39 AM
This is why the western grip is so common with clay courters. Wait for the last second to account for bad bounces; and still be able to get under the ball with the western grip.

LeeD
11-27-2009, 09:25 AM
It's what claycourters are doing NOW. Don't you guys ever think about the fact you cannot pass the car in front of you by following that car?
Tennis and all sports is about innovation, then a counter, then a modified innovation, then counters.
Currently, it's the topspin high bouncer craze. You think it's all the fad and everything from ground zero to utopia. Believe it, someone will come up with a counter and you all will embrace this new idea.
The fact that current tennis favors staying behind the baseline just opens up the hard, chin high slice to work again. That slice, hit hard and fast for a slice, barely clears the net and SKIDS low with a deadball bounce. AND, it takes simplier preparation and stroke, than the current high bouncing superhigh RPM, high bouncing topspin strokes.
And as every old fart will tell you, it saves energy.:shock:

chico9166
11-28-2009, 06:28 AM
It's what claycourters are doing NOW. Don't you guys ever think about the fact you cannot pass the car in front of you by following that car?
Tennis and all sports is about innovation, then a counter, then a modified innovation, then counters.
Currently, it's the topspin high bouncer craze. You think it's all the fad and everything from ground zero to utopia. Believe it, someone will come up with a counter and you all will embrace this new idea.
The fact that current tennis favors staying behind the baseline just opens up the hard, chin high slice to work again. That slice, hit hard and fast for a slice, barely clears the net and SKIDS low with a deadball bounce. AND, it takes simplier preparation and stroke, than the current high bouncing superhigh RPM, high bouncing topspin strokes.
And as every old fart will tell you, it saves energy.:shock:

I do know that you are nostalgic type of guy.:) But I can assure you that the way you handle the higher bouncing ball or Bobby Riggs did in the 50's has little to do with what's going on out there on tour. And certainly, not the wave of the future.

Have you noticed the not-so-subtle trend of the 6'3/6'4 ATP prototype? Guys that can tomahawk dunk a basketball, and who posess sprinter speed? This is simple evolution, and in response to the increased speed and HEIGHT of the game. They're simply getting taller and faster. Talller, in order to increase the vertical strike zone(so they can take a whack at the ball and not have to slice so much) and faster, to combat the incredible speed of the game.(again, so they don't have to slice) The answer is not to slice more, which is a neutral shot at best, at that level. Ask Federer, how much he likes exchanging crosscourt slices with Nadal's forehand on clay.

LeeD
11-28-2009, 08:41 AM
I can certainly see taller and more athletic guys coming onto the tour.
Let's say you're playing a conglomerate of JoachinJohanson, DePorto, Querry, Karlovic, and Isner. Some athletic (DP), some real movement challeged stiffs (Kman), all big serving, hard topspinning high bouncer guys who CAN handle your highest bounces, since it's not high to them. You being say.... 6' tall.
Would you want to trade topspin groundies with them?
Would you want to trade big first serves with them?
I'd think, a combo of topspins, slices, short angles, some sidespin skidders, and VARIETY is the only chance (albeit a poor one) I'd have to get a few points.
And talking serves, low sidespin skidders, short angles, some right at the body, but certainly not the serves you'd use against "normal" sized guy.
Not saying I would get a point off those guys, this is just theory here....
And when you play vs Nadal, would you trade heavy topspinning groundies with HIM?

chico9166
12-02-2009, 04:05 AM
I can certainly see taller and more athletic guys coming onto the tour.
Let's say you're playing a conglomerate of JoachinJohanson, DePorto, Querry, Karlovic, and Isner. Some athletic (DP), some real movement challeged stiffs (Kman), all big serving, hard topspinning high bouncer guys who CAN handle your highest bounces, since it's not high to them. You being say.... 6' tall.
Would you want to trade topspin groundies with them?
Would you want to trade big first serves with them?
I'd think, a combo of topspins, slices, short angles, some sidespin skidders, and VARIETY is the only chance (albeit a poor one) I'd have to get a few points.
And talking serves, low sidespin skidders, short angles, some right at the body, but certainly not the serves you'd use against "normal" sized guy.
Not saying I would get a point off those guys, this is just theory here....
[CODE][QUOTE]And when you play vs Nadal, would you trade heavy topspinning groundies with HIM?[/QUOTE[/CODE

What would I do against Nadal? You're a funny guy LeeD. Hmm.... lose. Quit. Throw in the towel. Seriously, I'd probably have a better chance of scaling the south side of Everest in only a man-thong, than beating Nadal on clay.

But that's a little off topic, wouldn't you say? The OP simply made the observation that clay courters, tend to employ more open-stanced, elevation style hitting. I agreed. It's very difficult to stand close and pick the ball up on the baseline, on clay. The ball is exploding up and out of the strike zone very quickly, and the bounce is unpredictable. There is a reason you don't see games like Rafter's developed in Barcelona.

Clay courter's learn to play back behind the baseline, which tends to lead to higher contact points, which lead to stronger grips, which lead to more vertically oriented COM movements and swing paths, which lead to more open stanced hitting. These factors are all more or less interconnected.