Forehand backswing: Men vs. women

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by GNIHT, Jun 26, 2007.

  1. GNIHT

    GNIHT New User

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  2. tricky

    tricky Hall of Fame

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    Men use a "pulling" FH stroke (more topspin, overall heavier shot.) Women use a "pushing" FH stroke (more pure racquet head speed, flatter shot.)

    To use a "pushing" FH stroke, at unit turn, set up your racquet tip point perpendicular to the ground. You should feel a mild stretch under the thumb. When you take it back, it'll feel really different, and you'll want to take the racquet head behind your body.

    Torso rotation is not as important with this stroke as with the men's. Mostly you use your hips in order to create a straighter or more linear swing arc. Most of the racquet speed comes from the feet, particularly with the weight transfer. This is why so many of the women look like they're lunging or jumping into the shots.

    The different mechanics really spell out why the ATP and WTA games are so different. The women have impressive power nowadays relative to previous generations, and they're unusually good at playing true power baseline even with high-bounce surfaces like clay. BUT, they seem to generate much higher error rates because the spin they create with their shots isn't naturally as high as the men's WW stroke.

    Heck, even the grunting contextually makes sense. A pushing stroke is a bit like the bench press; it starts out "hard" and then gets easier as the racquet travels forward.
     
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  3. GuyClinch

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  4. boojay

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    Justine has man strokes though. She's so awesome.
     
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  5. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Sharapova is actually noted for her suspect forehand though. It breaks down if you can pound at it like Justine can. The problem is Robert Landsdorf screwed her up teaching her old school style strokes, IMHO. She has some power but technique wise its a decade behind guys like Nadal, Federer or Justine.

    Pete
     
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  6. krz

    krz Professional

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    you picked the player with arguably the ugliest strokes in tennis not to mention she hits an extremely flat ball and nadal is the total opposite, but that would account for the difference in the swing styles.

    Justine does play like man, thats probably why shes so good.
     
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  7. boojay

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    Justine's just ridiculously good though. I wonder how she would do on the men's tour. In terms of stroke mechanics, she's far above anyone in the WTA, and even compared to many players on the ATP, her shots are more technically sound, even if they're not as powerful.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2007
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  8. The Gorilla

    The Gorilla Banned

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    I wouldn't agree with that, robert lansdorp has developed davenport, austin, sampras and now sharapova.

    From scratch.

    I think the man knows what he's talking about.

    I don't see what the point is in hitting with so much spin when your driving the ball to the corner is anyway, it just reduces the amount of mph's the ball travel's at.I maen, it's different if you want to hit an angled shot, but even then you can just use a reverse forehand

    Sampras used 'WTA' strokes, and he had a huuuuuge forehand, not one ounce of effort wasted.He had the vertical take back too, just like davenport and sharapova.I mean, have you ever sat back and looked at how ridiculously powerful Sharapova's groundstrokes are?They're definitly travelling at similar mph to almost any of the men.


    Here's a question for tricky, johnyandell, tennismastery et al.The consensus seems to be that
    'spin x velocity = heaviness'
    Or something like that, here's something I can't understand;

    Ken rosewall's backhand has been described by countless retired pro's as the heaviest shot they'd ever faced, but every backhand he hit was sliced.It was actually spinning backwards when it hit the ground, so it would have picked up very little topspin after making contact with the court, and this in the era of laver.So doesn't this kind of put a spanner in the works of this theory?
     
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  9. krz

    krz Professional

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    Well being more mechanically sound than most of the men I can agree with as anybody who hits as hard as she can being that small is pretty impressive. But, comparing power between men and women, well there is no comparison.
     
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  10. Mountain Ghost

    Mountain Ghost Semi-Pro

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    All Screwed Up

    Robert Lansdorp (not Landsdorf) must be terrible. I wonder how many women would feel all screwed up if they were only #2 in the world.

    MG
     
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  11. lolsmash

    lolsmash Rookie

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    well, im pretty sure spin still equals spin regardless of whether it is topspin or not. If you meant that there is less topspin once it bounces, the sidespin and underspin might still be there, and the sidespin might be greater than the topspin on some shots after the bounce. Anyway, the equipment used back then might have made it heavier as well because of the lack of shock reduction.
     
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  12. boojay

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    I think Gorilla's trying to point out that it's possible to hit heavy shots regardless of the type of shot (i.e. topspin, slice, flat, etc.), so the formula of "heaviness" being a combination of speed, power, and spin might not hold true.

    Personally, I've only ever faced heavy topspin shots and maybe a heavy flat shot (I don't know many people who can do this, just one actually) so a heavy slice is news to me.
     
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  13. The Gorilla

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    The underspin and sidespin are lost when the ball lands.The ball spins in the direction in which it lands.
     
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  14. GNIHT

    GNIHT New User

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    It's important to note

    Without one exception, I have never seen a junior player age 11 or less keep the racket head in front of them on the backswing. They are all copying Sharapova (taking the head behind them).

    I'm talking about every single eleven year-old girl AND boy I've seen at the highest levels of junior competition (ages 5-11). HOWEVER, the boys are clearly being trained (at some point) to keep the racket head in front of them. The girls, however, are not.
     
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  15. The Gorilla

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    Who has a bigger forehand than Sharapova?
     
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  16. GNIHT

    GNIHT New User

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    I was the one who started this thread --- and my question was NOT "Who has the better forehand" --- it was ----> Why do men keep the racket head in front of them, and women take it behind them?

    Henin is an exception, of course.

    I also wanted to note that universally, all young competitive juniors are taking the racket head behind them.
     
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  17. The Gorilla

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    well, men tend to whip there wrist,,(forearm really), from forward to back to down to up in a circular motion which is a verys teep down to up vertical angle whilst still moving the hitting arm straight through the ball.
     
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  18. GuyClinch

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    Justine's is bigger - and seeing she is so much smaller obviously Sharapova's form is not perfect. Also i don't care that Landsdorf developed some old time greats. The game changes - what was once the best technique is not always the best. People make changes and they improve. Time does not stand still.

    As for being #2 in the world - I didn't say the rest of Sharapova's game is hopeless - just that her forehand is not representative of the very best in woman's tennis.

    Pete
     
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  19. mucat

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    Because topspin allows a low ball to go fast and still has time to dip into the court. Even for high ball, it allows for higher margin of error. Also, a heavily topspin shot is very difficult for the opponent to attack. Topspin only reduces the amount of mph when the user is not strong enough (ie. usually WTA players).


    I agree with the bold portion.


    You never play against heavy slice before? Hit with players 1+ level above you, you will know. The ball just literally sticks to your racket.
     
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  20. JohnYandell

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    First, my thoughts on the racket direction. It's less where the racket points at the start and more how the motion is built. Justine has a really really strong turn with the left arm stretched across her body.

    And that's correct about the "man" thing. Her coach Carlos R. reworked her forehand along these lines, on purpose.

    I was honored because he used the high speed footage of Agassi that we gave him as a model here. I also had the privilege of meeting Justine a couple of years ago at Indian Wells and doing some filming for them there looking at these issues.

    You can see the same thing with the bigger stronger turn working now with Vaidisova, Jankovic and others.

    Very different than Maria or Venus.

    By the way, I filmed Maria when she was first working with Robert and he didn't build her forehand. He was already dealing with the existing problems at age 13 or so. And yeah her forehand's not that bad either. Just problematic at times for various reasons.

    That's a whole long different story, but if you look at it technically it's very different from the Justine/Agassi model.
     
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  21. ChiefAce

    ChiefAce Semi-Pro

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    The difference is the men are more linear compared to the women that swing like Sharapova (circular). The men get a heavier and more efficient ball. The stroke technique of Sharapova is dated and flawed. In the womens game however you can get away with playing flat balls and still be ranked highly because the women are worse in covering the court and tracking down balls. It's actually easier for many of them to force an error with flat balls or hit winners because of the differences in court coverage between men and women. That's why you see nearly all the men now hitting a heavy ball as opposed to flatter strokes like Hrbaty, Martin, Agassi, Korda etc. etc. Spin ratios on the forehand have definitely gone up for the men considerably at the highest rankings levels over the last 5-10 years.
     
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  22. JohnYandell

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    As for the heavy thing. It's a mystery! Except that you know the ball is heavy when it knocks the racket out of your hands.

    Not sure about Ken, but a friend of mine who played both Pete and Rusedski said that although the mph was similar, the feel of the ball was completely different. This guy had a few points so I think he knows what he is talking about, and he said he just felt he could not control Pete's ball even when he got it dead center.

    So you've got speed, spin, type of spin, trajectory, what that spin does to trajectory, differences in the bounce due to spin and trajectory...

    No one has really put together a full picture that explains it, although we were able to quantify a higher topspin component in Pete's serve and what that did to the ball after the bounce.

    If on your serve you can maintain a certain speed level and have a higher topspin component that'll work. BUT the danger is trading too much speed for spin and creating a nice high bouncing duck. It's relative and research must go on...
     
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  23. Off The Wall

    Off The Wall Semi-Pro

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    Heaviness

    The definition of "heavy" has morphed. It used to be (and I've seen it defined on this board) 'unexpected pace.' That is, a player looks like he/she is applying a certain amount of power, but it's on you before you think it should have.

    Now it means 'lots of topspin.'
     
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  24. jasoncho92

    jasoncho92 Professional

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    I doubt any junior actually tries to copy sharapova if they are a boy. And ive seen plenty of people in the higher levels pull their racket behind them
     
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  25. jasoncho92

    jasoncho92 Professional

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    On heavy slices ive seen the ball still have backspin after it lands
     
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  26. Slazenger

    Slazenger Professional

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    Stats???
    I seriously doubt Justine's forehand is bigger than Sharapova's. I'm still looking up the numbers but I'm pretty sure Sharapova hits a bigger forehand and hits a consistently bigger ball too.

    Now on the first serve, strangely, Justine serves slightly bigger than Maria. This I don't get.
     
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  27. Slazenger

    Slazenger Professional

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    Yes Gorilla missed the ball on that one too. A heavily backspun ball will retain some of it's underspin after the bounce.
     
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  28. JohnYandell

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    On the slice after the bounce, that's been tested. It takes more underspin that even the top players produce to retain that direction of rotation after the bounce.
     
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  29. jasoncho92

    jasoncho92 Professional

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    Well it wasnt even a decent amount, it was like .5 rts
     
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  30. tricky

    tricky Hall of Fame

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    It dictates the kinetic chain that you'll use for your stroke, again whether the FH will be a pulling stroke or a pushing stroke. I can't emphasize this point enough, because the motion of your backswing is dictated by the kinetic chain you use. The pushing model is what's espoused over at easitennis, and if you look at the frame shots used there, it's very different than what the men do. The pulling model is what's espoused at jco's hi-tech tennis site. If you try using one paradigm to explain the other, it'll completely confuse you. But it begins with the racquet head/tip.

    The pushing stroke is actually the more powerful one. You end up using the same muscles that you would with a bench press (i.e. the triceps are an active part.) Also the optimal contact zone is much higher; even with an Eastern grip, you can pound a ball that's at eye level. Also, the way the torso and legs work is differently. In the ATP model, a lot of racquet speed is contributed by torso rotation, because the energy from twisting your body can be directly transfered into the pulling of the arm. However, in the WTA model, it's the legs that contribute this power; the pushing off the backfoot transfers energy into the pushing of the arm through the forward swing. Finally, though their backswing is very circular, the actual forward swing arc is inherently more linear than the men's. It's because as you press forward, your elbow will always go into your body. You don't need to slot your stroke. As soon as it can't go anymore, than the racquet comes around the body.

    There's however three big caveats with the pushing stroke, and it's reflected in the WTA power game.

    1) First, you get much, much less natural forearm pronation. With this chain, it's difficult for your forearm to supinate a whole lot in the backswing without the racquet opening up too much. So, you're going to get a flatter stroke.

    2) Second, the contact zone is also very high. Even with a true Eastern grip, you'll want to hit balls near your sternum, not at the waist. For that reason, most of the women learn very early to stay very low to the ground and inititate from a sitting position. But if you're a Sharapova and 6 foot, you have a very difficult time dealing with somebody else who can hit low, flat shots consistently below your zone. Which is her problem, if somebody keeps dishing out power, her errors go up and her legs eventually fail.

    3) Third, the down-to-up motion is inherently limited with this stroke, since you really can't swing at waist level. Therefore, much less topspin. As a result, it's more difficult to play defensive shots on high bounce surfaces, unless you change up your grip. But if you change up your grip, your already high contact zone goes even higher.

    There's however advantages to this stroke:

    1) A lot of power comes from movement. Meaning, if you're running around, your power automatically goes up, and you don't need to set up with a big unit turn to smoke the ball. Which is what Sharapova and Venus Williams can do.

    2) You can keep building more and more power by increasing your lower body strength. Having powerful legs like a Kim Clijsters or Serena Williams, enables you to explode into your shot. Now, it's true that you may have problems reigning your shot into the court.

    3) Because torso rotation is not as important with this stroke, timing isn't as important. Once you've figured out the trajectory of the ball, just get your feet to go and aim.

    IMO, both men and women are modern. One thing, though, is that the women tend to keep their racquets on edge more often than the men. Only a few like Serena, Venus and of course Henin have a relaxed wrist, which gives them more topspin and power in their shots with less effort.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2007
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  31. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Your wrong. Read this
    http://blogcritics.org/archives/2006/08/13/071043.php

    What's not to get? You never recieved a serve from a guy bigger then you with less power? It's called TECHNIQUE and Sharapova while BIGGER then Henin (like twice as big) doesn't have as pure a technique.

    There is no excuse for these players to let the little Henin beat them IMHO. She is taking advantage of the crappy form of many of the female players.. Henin should NEVER beat a 6'3" inch woman with her tiny 5'6" frame.

    Pete
     
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  32. The Gorilla

    The Gorilla Banned

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    thanks for replying, very interesting subject.


    Perhaps a slow motion video of an opponent trying to return a heavy ball would clear up exactly what's occuring when the ball makes contact with the racquet and what it's doing to the racquet face exactly.I realise Pete's retired but perhaps a video of someone trying to return the nadal forehand on clay?
     
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  33. boojay

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    The top junior in our province hits heavy balls even during mini-tennis!

    Always, always, my stroke is rushed when I rally with him. Everyone else's ball trajectory is pretty uniform, but his shots just jump toward me after the bounce, causing me to speed up my forward swing. It's always fun adjusting, but man, I wish I could hit like that.
     
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  34. The Gorilla

    The Gorilla Banned

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    owned



    The ball would have to bounce backwards for it to retain any of it's backspin.
     
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  35. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Alright tricky - so the question is how do we make sure that we hit like a man (and Justine) and not like Sharapova. I don't really get the whole racket pointing towards the front thing - why that makes the huge difference. Where are guys supposed to feel the stretch?!

    You explained how to hit the not heavy Sharapova ball - but who cares about that. I am big strong guy. :p

    Pete
     
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  36. The Gorilla

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    tricky- would you agree that sampras used a 'WTA' stroke?
     
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  37. pushing_wins

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    how certain are u of this?

    i m thinking the exact opposite
     
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  38. pushing_wins

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    tricky,

    talking about the men. if you purely pull your racquet with hips and torso rotation, you will be pulling the racquet across your body. there wont be any extention. you will be cutting acroos the back of the ball. mostly side spin.

    at some point in the stroke (for the men), the right side has to "push" forward to get proper racquet extension.

    its "pull" then "push"

    it also depends a lot on the shot they are hitting. if they get a short low ball for an approach shot, there is hardly any body rotation. hips are square before and after the shot. they take off and land on their front feet. linear momentum.

    i completely disagree with what you advocate in your post. IMO, it is very misleading.

    IMO the men have much better extension on their forehand. which can only be achieve by pushing through the ball.
     
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  39. GNIHT

    GNIHT New User

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    Tricky is breaking ground here

    Tricky has broken some ground here and given me a lot to think about.

    I await a reaction from Yandell, who said that the fundamental difference between WTA and ATP is "less (to do with) where the racket points at the start" of the backswing and "more (to do with) how the motion is built."

    However, Tricky has emphasized that the difference between WTA and ATP forehand has EVERYTHING to do with where the racket points at the start of the backswing.
     
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  40. tricky

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    As I see it, it goes hand in hand. If you try to use a WTA-style backswing while having your racquet tip point forward, going well behind the body and not keeping a tight elbow angle, you'll probably swing in a big circle toward the ball. In fact, that's what most people presume the women do because they're matching what they know of the men's double-bend FH with what they see with the women.

    Not really advocating hip/torso rotation, per se. With the men's stroke, hip/torso rotation is important in generating racquet speed. But linear weight transfer is important in straightening out the swing arc, since it helps to mediate how the elbow moves through the forward stroke, so that you drive through the ball. Both go together. That's the mechanical argument for sit and lift.

    It's just with the women, this is all reversed, and it has to do with the mechanics. With the WTA style swing, the more you use your hips, the straighter the swing gets. In fact, many don't really establish their butt cap toward the net or ball when they commence their forward swing. But the power definitely comes from the legs, striding either long or powerfully, to accelerate the racquet. This is what their stroke looks like:

    http://www.easitennis2.com/PowerClinic/StabilityAndPower.htm

    Well I think 95% of the advice here on FH mechanics pretty much is consistent with the ATP WW stroke. If you tried mixed and matching, it'll feel really weird and it's likely you'll end up launching the ball into the other court.

    But it helps to give insight why the women's game is what it is.

    It's actually kinda interesting in that two of my relatives, brother-sister, both went to the same university to play tennis. Started playing around the same time, traveled together to the same clinics. And yet their FH strokes were very, very different, pretty much since their junior high days. And this was consistent when I watched their teammates play; given all the variations, the women still hit a certain style; the men still hit a certain and different style.

    I think his stroke was very much in the men's style, but he just had a more classical style. His style somewhat resembled Lendl's, in that both guys used a figure 8 motion in their strokes. What's remarkable about Sampras's FHs was the degree of shoulder rotation he got given that he wasn't using a "modern" WW style stroke.

    From what I've seen Borg, I actually think he was using the "pushing" variation as his base. With a wooden racquet, you don't really want a lot of hand rotation or forearm pronation through the ball. (That Laver could control the ball consistently with his FH, given the amount of hand rotation that his stroke produced, is rather phenomenal. Speaks to his touch and hand-eye.) Borg had a very strong down-to-up motion, which for most of his peers would have led to fatigue and shots lacking pacing and penetration. But because he used a pushing-style stroke, it gave him two advantages. First, his racquet speed was unusually high, and moreover he had better arm support given his racquet choice. Second, the quality of Borg's movement (and especially on a surface like clay) helped create a constant power system for his strokes. Because he was extremely fast and he could run all day, he could literally hit topspin heavy balls all day without much effort. And when he needed to, he can step in and drill a shot for a winner.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2007
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  41. pushing_wins

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    tricky

    can u please clarify the "racquet tip" position between the push and pull forhand?

    do u agree or disagree? no matter how u initiate the foreward swing, there has to be extention. extention comes from the push. inside out path. if u are still pulling, the path would be outside in.
     
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  42. tricky

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    Pull FH = racquet tip slightly toward net in backswing.
    Push FH = racquet tip standing straight up or slightly toward back fence in backswing.

    It's more accurate to look at the angle between their thumb and left side of wrist. With almost all of the women, it's almost a 180 degrees angle, so that the thumb is almost parallel with the rest of the arm. If you do this yourself and take the racquet back, you'll feel more of a stretch with the shoulder and triceps, and less with the pecs. Also your forward swing will look a little different, where the hand and racquet is above the elbow.

    When

    you pull, this causes your racquet arm to go inside-out. The racquet is ahead of the shoulder. And also why a lot of people initially have problems really driving through the ball with the WW model. People are taught to tuck in the elbow with the rotation of the shoulder and establish the butt cap toward the ball. This causes the racquet to have a more linear path, to control the natural "outward" motion of the swing, so that more rotation can be applied onto the racquet arm prior to it coming around the contact zone.

    When you push, this causes your racquet arm to go outside-in. It's like a right hand hook. This is why the women don't have to establish their caps toward the net or consciously tuck in their elbow. It's a natural product of their stroke, and so at least theoretically, it's a less technical swing than the men's.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2007
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  43. pushing_wins

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    thanks

    but do u agree there is a push element in the ATp forehand? from contact to onwards.
     
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  44. tricky

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    In the sense that you most definitely need to drive through the ball. Most people are fixated with swinging the racquet really, really quickly, but most of the technique is about creating a more "linear" swing. In fact, the whole thing about the straight-arm FH shot we're seeing more often is that it creates a very straight swing, so that a person can really use his body into the shot and still hit the ball accurately.
     
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  45. pushing_wins

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    when you pull from what position?

    at what point do u pull?

    if u pull something, anything, it comes closer to you. when u push, it goes further away from you.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2007
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  46. tricky

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    Hmm, you know what, I think I know where the confusion is. Yeah, when you drive toward the ball, with the elbow going forward, racquet well ahead of hand, and your shoulder rotating, it definitely looks like you're pushing through the ball. When you initiate the forward swing, it's like drawing or pulling the racquet out of a slot. The drill for that is pulling a towel out of somebody's hand.

    When you pull something behind and near you, the elbow naturally moves away from the body. When you push from behind your body, the elbow naturally moves into your body. In both cases, as the hand travels from behind to in front of your body, the swing motion is in-out-in.
     
    #46
  47. pushing_wins

    pushing_wins Hall of Fame

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    thanks, much appreciated. i've been struggling with this for many years.

    i think the problem with me is that i dont complete the unit turn. so when i pull, my racquets pulls across the front of my body.
     
    #47
  48. Ross K

    Ross K Legend

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    I'd be interested to hear a few more precise details or key points regarding what precisely constitutes this men's (you mentioned Agassi earlier) fh motion exactly... what were Henin's 'issues' in altering styles?... what specific 'mechanics' or whatever are we talking about here as regards Agassi (and the likes of Henin and Jankovich, etc)?
     
    #48
  49. J011yroger

    J011yroger G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
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    All pull all the time on my FH buddy.

    I start out with the tip of the racquet pointing towards the net with the hittng face resting on my knuckle of my left hand. Big heavy shoulder turn, racquet comes up off my knuckle, and out. At the end of my backswing, where the racquet stops going up and back and starts going down and forward, the hitting face of the racquet is pointing towards the back fence.

    From there I drop the racquet, and begin pulling forward. The hitting face is towards the ground for much of the forehand stroke as I am coming forward, and doesn't square up with the ball until the racquet head is about two feet in front of me.

    There is absolutely no pushing in my stroke, I am pulling the racquet all the way through until I decelerate on the followthrough. The extension comes from the racquet dragging my hand away because of its momentum. With my stroke if I let go of the racquet during my forward stroke, it would fly off to my right.

    Think of swinging a grappling hook in a circle above your head, letting out more rope as it picks up momentum. There is NO pushing the momentum gets the rope to extend, all you do is pull and let go, pull and let go, to build up momentum. Then at the right moment you stop pulling and release the hook.

    Same thing with the racquet, you pull all the way through the stroke, until just before you contact the ball when you stop pulling which has the effect of cracking the whip. Your racquet comes through your wrist rolls over whipping the racquet up the back of the ball for your "Windshield Wiper" effect, and then you follow through smoothly decelerating either across your body or over your shoulder depending on the type of shot.

    Look for some forehand video in the next week or two in my stroke inventory, it should help you understand what I am talking about.

    J
     
    #49
  50. JohnYandell

    JohnYandell Hall of Fame

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    In response to the request above, the difference between the men and some of the women is in how far across the left arm goes at the completion of the turn. And what happens in the forward swing.

    The men generally straighten out the arm completely--it's a stretch--the is usually parallel to the baseline and points at the side fence. Henin comes pretty close to the same position. A lot of the women don't--the elbow stays somewhat bent.

    When the left arm comes back the other way, the men tend to tuck the elbow in sooner and so the arm folds in close to the left side.

    Some of the women--Lindsay, Maria, Venus--let the left arm fly out much further from the body during this part of the swing.
     
    #50

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