Evolution of the modern 2 hand backhand

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by onehandbh, Oct 9, 2011.

  1. onehandbh

    onehandbh Hall of Fame

    Dec 19, 2005
    There's a lot of talk about the modern forehand, but very little about the
    backhand. Most pros now hit heavy, topspin forehands, and often attack
    the opponent's backhand.

    I think a trend is starting to develop in the game, to counter that strategy:
    The flat, or relatively flat 2hand backhand taken at around shoulder level.
    Two of the best at this shot are Djokovic and Murray. In other words, it's
    not so modern after all.

    Some of the advantages I see are:

    1) The shorter, more compact stroke of the 2 hander makes it easier to time
    hitting on the rise.
    2) Taking the ball around shoulder height (or slightly lower), on a flatter shot,
    gives you more margin for error than if the ball was lower. You can hit it
    flatter and harder.
    3) The mostly linear shot is simpler and more precise, and makes going
    cross court or down-the-line possible.

    The 2 hander will never be able to hit as much topspin as a forehand,
    but this shot is able to neutralize and sometimes turn the tables on a
    typical forehand to backhand exchange by using pace, placement,
    sometimes depth, and by taking time away from your opponent b/c the
    flatter shot travels through the air quicker and will give your opponent less
    time to get to and hit a shot. This same strategy works on return of serves
    as well. You can't hit every shot like this, but you can look for an
    opportunity to hit it and take control of the point.

    IMO, it is a much more difficult shot for a 1 hander to hit with precision.
    For awhile, James Blake was pretty good at it, and as a result did pretty
    well against Nadal.
  2. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

    Sep 28, 2010
    Interesting thought.

    I generally try to hit my 2hbh with a "C" swing path and get some topspin on the ball. As the OP says, I can't get the same amount of topspin on my backhand as I can on my forehand, but I work to get a decent amount of topspin on my backhand to improve consistency.

    But I am a child of the 70's and I watched Connors play for years. Like him and just like the OP said, when I get a ball that I'm going to take on the rise, I'll take it higher and the swing path will be straighter, right through the ball really. The shot tends to be flat, or sometimes even with some backspin. It's very Connors-esque.

    I haven't studied this particular stroke with the current pros. It works well for me and can be effective at high levels (if I hit it well), so I go with it.

    What do others do?
  3. onehandbh

    onehandbh Hall of Fame

    Dec 19, 2005
    I wouldn't recommend hitting with slight backspin as this will make it more
    difficult to hit angles. Like all backhands, getting your hip/torso rotation
    into the shot is crucial. When taking it early and cutting off the angle
    on a crosscourt shot, it can be a more compact stroke, but if you're
    pulled wide and deep into the backcourt you'll have to take a longer
    stroke. Hitting crosscourt in this situation is good b/c you are hitting
    flatter and you'll have more margin for error. This isn't the only shot, though.
    Mixing in some looping crosscourt shots is good as well.

    btw, this is all my opinion. I actually hit a one hand backhand.
  4. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

    Sep 28, 2010
    The backspin is a result of the swing path and the fact that the ball is being taken on the rise. The shot is basically flat. This shot, of driving straight through the ball with a very straight swing on a ball on the rise, is truly a 2hbh shot. You really can't hit it with a 1hbh because you need both hands on the racquet to get the stability that you need. There are other responses that a 1hbh player has available to hit a similar type of ball. A one-hander would either chip this ball or whip the racquet head over the top of the ball (not an easy shot, but I see pros hit it all the time).

    This shot really needs to be hit with your weight going forward. If I'm being pulled wide and deep then I won't hit this shot. I agree that you need a longer stroke in this situation. I'll go for more racquet head speed because I'm not getting free pace from the ball coming up into my racquet as my weight falls into the ball. I've actually been working a bit on hitting open stance 2hbh in this "pulled wide" situation. It's an important defensive shot to be able to hit for a 2-hander.
  5. Mikeadelic

    Mikeadelic New User

    Apr 17, 2010
    Yup. This is the way most top juniors, including my 2hbh students, are being taught. Shots out wide, unless absolutely unreachable, are generally defended using an open stance 2-hander, not a slice (although the slice is now, more than ever, a critical shot to learn).

    OP, you are very astute in your observations. Essentially, the modern 2hbh is being taught as a left-sided forehand now, only it happens to use two hands. The footwork, stances, and elbow/arm extension are all starting to mimic the modern forehand in terms of aggressiveness. Djokovic is among the most prominent in terms of how aggressively he hits on his BH side.
  6. Power Player

    Power Player Talk Tennis Guru

    Sep 2, 2008
    On my iPhone
    I was posting this before and some old schoolers were acting like I was crazy.

    I was taught the open stance 2 hander as well, and I use it anytime I am pulled wide. I was basically told to do that by the coach every time the ball was wide.

    It works real well for me. Gets the ball cross court with a lot of pace instead of offering up a weak slice.
  7. onehandbh

    onehandbh Hall of Fame

    Dec 19, 2005
    I agree, the 2-hander is better at defending without hitting a slice.

    The specific shot that 2 handers sometimes hit that I was referring to
    actually is not hit like a modern forehand. It is more of a straight through,
    in-the-direction of the shot swingpath type of backhand. You can really
    see it on crosscourt return of serves from the ad side (for right handers).
    Here are two examples:


    It's an aggressive shot to take control of the point or go for a winner. Initially, I would have
    thought that this is a very low percentage shot, but for a 2 hander, it appears to be higher
  8. Mikeadelic

    Mikeadelic New User

    Apr 17, 2010
    I see what you mean. I guess I sorta went on a tangent. I'm Gen Y and prone to ADHD, so give me a break :p

    If you mean by the shots where Murray basically has no backswing, and returns back where the ball came from, then it is still part of the "modern forehand", at least IMO. The modern game emphasizes much more on a compact start to the swing, especially among open stance strokes (applies to both FH and 2HBHs). Big backswings like Delpo's & Soderling's are a rarity and, again IMO, going the way of the T-rex. The top coaches in the country are mostly arriving at a consensus that players now should remain in a "tracking" position longer, and a backswing position shorter.

    On serves, which even among U14 boys can reach over 115MPH, the return backswing is something that absolutely must be done away with, because there simply is no time. This is especially the case when these kids want to be aggressive and take the ball early. Most are not biomechanically fast enough to react and have the time to take a huge backswing while hitting the ball at a consistent point of contact. See the following for a perfect example:


    This, I think, translates into an evolving baseline style (especially among pro players) where they apply the open stance/short backswing BHs and FHs that they're used to hitting, and move inside the baseline to take them early.

    All of the above, of course, is merely my theory on teaching. I'm always open to disagreement. It helps me learn and helps my students get better coaching.
  9. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

    Feb 24, 2004
    It sounds like the way Jimmy Connors handled high shots off either side.
  10. onehandbh

    onehandbh Hall of Fame

    Dec 19, 2005
    For the purposes of this discussion, I think should have avoided the
    term modern as there isn't a black and white distinction and more of an
    evolution in technique, with some aspects of previously used technique
    from older generations even being used, so I'll stick more to the technical

    The exception to this is on shots where you are pulled wide on the backhand
    side and are deep in the court. This is where I noticed sometimes two
    handers change their stroke to a longer, much more linear swing and
    hit a deep cross court shot that is much flatter. The distance travelled
    by the ball and being crosscourt makes it more high percentage. I'm
    guessing they sometimes choose to hit it flatter in order to prevent
    the opponent from having time to run around and hit a forehand.

    I think taking a shorter backswing on return of serves has been taught
    for awhile and you're right, it is especially important with everyone
    serving bigger these days.

    I was more interested in the sometimes used technique by two handers
    that is different. One return of serves against a wide kick serve on the
    ad side, I've seen this sort of late hitting, punching/blocking stroke
    by two-handers that sends the ball crosscourt flat. Almost like a volley.
    Even Safin used to do this sometimes. On this type of shot, they move
    in diagonally. It's a short that 1 handers would have a difficult time
    hitting b/c it is hit so late and very stretched out.

    I started this thread b/c oftentimes people think one handers have more
    variety, etc., but actually, it may turn out that 2 handers are capable of
    more variety. Plus they can still hit a one hand slice.
    The second hand on the racquet allows for a bigger window
    of contact points and as a result you can use different types of strokes.
    The more compact stroke of the 2 hander might also give more
    precision in the blocking type of strokes on returns off of kick serves.

    Good one handers can handle high balls without slicing, but it takes
    a longer stroke and the contact point has to be more precise. If you're
    late, forgetaboutit. If you're lunging to your left, you'll be forced to slice.
    A 2 hander can still use a punch-like motion to hit it back flat, but with more

    I tried using a 2 hander when I was a kid, but it never seemed to feel
    natural for me, so I kept my 1 hander, for better or worse.

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