Physics of the Backhands

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Jonny S&V, Feb 5, 2009.

  1. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    Ok, I've done searches but I'm horrible at searching, so I'll just ask. I'm 99% sure that the one-handed backhand has the ability to hit more topspin and pace, but can someone explain the physics of it to me?
     
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  2. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    more top and pace than what?
    Than a two hander, well, you got more reach, so more leverage, and more room to backswing.
    Than a forehand...well that's debatable. I think the potential to hit harder is there, but in reality, the forehand is pretty strong because it's practiced more and most guys have pretty strong pecks, good form, and it's the "knockout" punch.
    The forehand is usually hit only one way, topspin.
    Most one handed backhands have slice, top, cut, drop, and lobs off the same grip. Lotsa variety, but less practice for each.
     
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  3. junbumkim

    junbumkim Professional

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    It would be player's skill with his / her backhand that determines how much pace / spin s/he can put on with the backhand.

    There are some players with big 2 handed backhand as well as a big 1 handed backhand.
     
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  4. GPB

    GPB Professional

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    I think your assessment is only true IF you assume that the shots (1hbh, 2hbh) have an equal amount of muscle behind them. It seems to me that though the 1hbh has a larger swing arc (and therefore more reach, so more leverage; thanks LeeD) the 2hbh has twice the muscle going into the shot. Perhaps it has more than twice, if you assume (as LeeD did) that guys have stronger pecs than "backhand muscles" (for lack of anatomy), and adding the second hand to the backhand shot then turns it into a weak-side forehand with support.

    Let's relate the air to water (since they're both fluids, this is a reasonable extension of the problem we face here). More specifically, let's picture ourselves moving a pool-skimmer through a pool. If you've even cleaned junk off the bottom of a pool with the skimmer, you know it's no easy task. Moving it with a 1hbh motion will be VERY hard, due to [1] underdeveloped muscles in the back of the shoulder, and [2] trying to supinate your arm with all that resistance. As soon as you add your other arm, you alleviate both of these problems: [1] now you add much more muscle into the job, and it's easier to use your whole body, and [2] it's much easier to twist an object with two hands than with one, since instead of supinating one arm, you can simply push/pull the hands in opposite directions.

    This is all off the top of my head and open to criticism. I should note that I hit with a 1hbh because of the versatility of the shot, though I get much more pace/spin off a 2hbh shot. Now you know my background and can make your own decision on how my analysis may or may not be biased. This should be an interesting discussion!
     
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  5. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Here's some physics for you, Einstein. Learn both and make the call for yourself afterward. :)

    Matt
     
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  6. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    How much pace/spin one can hit with a 1-hander vs a 2-hander will be dependent on technique & timing. Some people can generate more speeds & spin with the dbl-handed BH than they can with the single handed BH. The 2-handed BH can possibly derive more power from the greater torso/body rotation emloyed.

    However, I believe that your assumption is correct -- properly executed, the 1-hander has a greater potential for speed & spin. I can generate greater racket head speeds with a 1-hander than with the 2-hander (even tho' I have shoulder/rotator issues which make my dominant arm noticeably slower than my non-racket arm). This is possible because a tennis player can hold the grip closer to the butt (end) of the racket with 1 hand than with 2.

    Exlanation #1: This lower hand position results in a longer lever arm which yields greater torque. With the 2nd hand on the grip, the lever arm is shorter which results in less torque. This explanation assumes that racket pivots primarily at the handle where the hand(s) is/(are) holding the racket.

    Explanation #2: The primary pivot point for the 1-hander is at the shoulder rather than at the handle. This represents a very long lever arm. For some part of the 2-handed swing, the pivot point may be between the 2 hands. If this is the case, then a shorter lever arm would result.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lever_arm
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torque#Explanation


    Explanation #3: With 2 hands on the grip (handle), the combination of the racket + 2 arms has a greater moment of inertia (angular mass) than the racket w/1 arm. The moment of inertia is a measure of an object's resistance to changes in its rotation rate. This difference could result in a slower angular acceleration and a lower angular velocity at impact for the 2-hander.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moment_of_inertia
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angular_acceleration
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angular_velocity

    Expanation #4: Assume, if you will, that the angular velocities of the 1-hander and the 2-hander is about the same. If the axis of rotation (or the lever arm) is greater for the single-handed BH than it is for the 2-hander, the tangential velocity of the impact point on the stringbed of the 1-hander will be greater than the double-hander.

    Expanation #5: The Power delivered to the ball will be greater for the 1-handed shot if either the torque or the angular speed is greater than the 2-hander (for the reasons given above).

    Relationship between torque, power & energy

    Please feel free to debunk any of these explanations if so inclined.
    .
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2009
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  7. Tempest344

    Tempest344 Professional

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    I wouldn't know the physics but I can do both 1h and 2h
    and I would say 1h when you have time can generate a lot more spin and pace

    2 hander is more awkward to generate pace
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2009
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  8. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Range of motion and leverage

    I hope you guys know each other or something...

    Jonny S&V - I've come up with a couple of thoughts on this even though I did better with geometry than physics. When I swing a 1hbh practice stroke without hitting a ball, I can definitely make the racquet "whoosh" through the hitting zone more quickly than when I try it two-handed. There's more of a radius to the one-handed swing, so that makes the racquet go faster when I swing at a comfortable tempo, but in this example, I'm not trying to time the swing to an incoming ball - it's just the motion itself.

    Think about what's going on with the two-hander. With both hands on the grip, the racquet speed is somewhat limited by how quickly the shoulders can turn through the stroke - there's sort of a triangle formed by the two arms and the third "side" is formed by the line through the shoulders. With a one-hander, the racquet and swinging arm can pretty much accelerate past the shoulders because there's no trailing arm attached to the racquet to hold it back. I get the impression that the 2hbh only has some freedom of motion in the area in front of my torso where the range of motion for my left and right arms overlap. Too far to either side and the stretching arm restricts much further motion.

    For me, the geometry of the 2hbh gives it strength and stability. Turn the shoulders and the rest of that strong triangle have to go with it. There's enough leverage on tap for quicker acceleration, but not the range of motion or radius to match the racquet speed of a one-hander with the same tempo in the execution. That's my take on it.
     
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  9. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Take note of the smiley, FN. It's important.
     
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  10. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    If you are comparing this to a twohanded backhand, it really depends on how you hit the ball. It also varies from player to player. Twohanders with that tophand can really spin that ball if their technique is good. Players with a twohanded backhand can move their tophand into an SW position to really spin the ball. However, again, this depends on the players ability to do so and his ability to execute good racquet head speed.

    Onehanded players also can generate lots of topspin by adding a "Wiper" motion to their swing. However, this does come with a price in consistency. This also depends on the grip, the ability of the player to increase racquet head speed and how they make contact with the ball.

    I dont know if you can say what stroke is more capable in hitting lots of topspin, because the racquet doesnt swing itself. The player that swings it has a lot to do with how much topspin can be generated.

    For instance, some players have flatter swings than others.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2009
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  11. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    Just to clarify, yes, I'm comparing the one-handed backhand and the two-handed backhand. I meant which backhand has the more potential for power and spin (which SystemicAnomaly so kindly explained to me, so thank you! :) ). That being said, which backhand can hit the more "heavier" ball (my definition of heavy is the best ratio of spin-power)? I again assume the one-hander, but then I might be wrong... :-?
     
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  12. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Yeah, I was goofing, too...
     
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  13. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    One hander, if you have time and some technique.
    Two hander, if you don't have time to prepare and you have technique.
    Anything lightweight, one hander, like frisbee.
    Anything heavy, like clubs and bats, you use two hands.
    Kinda depends whether you think a racket is light or heavy.:):)
     
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  14. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    LeeD where are you getting this stuff.
     
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  15. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    Umm, no... :roll:

    I don't want to know personally...
     
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  16. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Once again, you're wrong?
    Oh, NO! What kind of answer is dat?
    We're talking theory here, right? In squash, badminton, racketball, all lighter rackets, everyone uses ONE hand.
    In baseball, medicineball throw, hammer, we use two hands.
    Simple as dat. Discus and shot is required to use ONE hand, no option there.
    As someone above posted, you can swing the racket head faster with ONE hand.
    You can get lots of weight into the shot with two hands, but we're talking pure faster swing, not a knockout punch into someone's gut.
    Sorry JSV, like some others here, you are not correct until you explain yourself.
    But I don't really care, you don't have to explain yourself.:shock:
     
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  17. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    I'm not talking theory, pure physics actually. Heavier racquet = more power and spin. Lighter racquet = far less.
     
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  18. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    You know, I think that this is a little like the "which racquet is better" question. Some hitters have a better basic aptitude for one style or the other, so that's where their better potential is... at least that's how I see it.

    In ideal conditions where I have plenty of time, the one-hander is heavier and more powerful, but practicality often forces me to fight off a ball with a two-hander if I need to drive it. Yep, I'm an Einstein who went out and learned both. I like to use a one-handed slice, too.
     
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  19. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    Lol, yeah, I'm talking about a perfect world with perfect technique, no styles included (nor aptitude for one or the other). But thanks for your input! :)
     
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  20. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    LeeD, I guess you can say we are talking about theory. So, based on theory, how do you connect the one backhand over the other with all things being equal in having the most potential to hit a heavier ball or with more topspin with your comment below:

    "Kinda depends whether you think a racket is light or heavy."

    But we are not talking about if a player is weaker than the other they should use a twohanded backhand over the other. We are talking about which stroke has the most potential to generate topspin or hit a heavier ball (pace/spin).

    You introdiced another dimension to all of this which has made this confusing now.

    Can you? I can generate a ton more pace on the bal with my twohander as compared to my onehander. Wouldnt that depend on the physical aspects of the player themselves?

    I didnt think we were talking about who can swing the racquet faster. I thought we were talking about which can hit a heavier ball or which can hit a ball with a lot of topspin.

    You make these rash statements with all of your numbers and so-called facts and you dont think someone wants you to explain yourself? LOL!
     
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  21. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Thank you BBill....
    See, you explain yourself and your opinions..:):) good good.
    For my average size and age, I personally CANNOT hit a hard two hander consistently..... injuries, can't cover court, etc etc.
    But a one hander, saving that 1/2 step, "flinging" the racket head at the ball, I can swing pretty darn faster MOST of the time, when I choose a topspin backhand shot. Dat's just me and MY opinion.
    Now for you....
    Take Nadal...he hits great backhands, but his forehand is faster and heavier.
    Take Dj ... he hits great backhands, but his forehand is faster and "
    Take Roddick "
    Take BORG "
    Take Connors "
    Heck, take ANY top pro.
    Now let's consider some one handers.
    Sampras ... stronger forehand
    Vilas ... stronger BACKHAND
    Lendl ... pretty even, eh?
    Fed ... stronger forehand
    Gonzalez ... not fair, he might have the best forehand in the game

    OK, see where this is headed ????
    NEITHER two hander or one hander is as strong as most top player's FOREHANDS.
    So possibly, it depends on your temperament, your physique, your practice, and your preferences.
    And consider... of the top 200 pros, I'll bet the majority use two handers.
     
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  22. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Okay, so now we are going back to it depends on the player and his physical makeup which I can begin to agree with you on.

    Yes, you can "fling" the racquet whippingly (if there is such a word) very fast. I can fling and fling to my hearts content and generate faster racquet head speed then a twohander. Yup. I agree.

    But let me ask you a question, how much of that speed that I generated is useful? How much of that speed I generated can I actually use to hit a ball and control it so I can hit the ball cleanly and consistently?

    If we are talking about racquet head speed that will never be realized because of diminishing returns on racquet head control and ball control, then by all means, the onehanded backhand wins.

    But wait...maybe not. Maybe the twohanded backhand has more realized racquet head speed than the onehander. Hmmmm...let me think about that one.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2009
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  23. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    You never know, as clearly the last few threads I've posted in have shown. :)
     
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  24. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    OK, I agree wid you there.
    Nothing like a whoosing sound return of second serve, fully topped, and the server has no idea where or how it's going.
    Needs more work, of course.
     
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  25. MordredSJT

    MordredSJT Rookie

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    I think I have a decent frame of reference to address this seeing as I learned hitting one-handed, switched to hitting two handed at age 14, can still hit both strokes competently (though I compete with a two hander), and have a physics degree plus a little biomechanics background.

    SystemicAnomaly presented a lot of good information supporting why a one handed backhand should be capable of greater racquet head speed, and thus greater ball speed and spin. However, there are some things on the flip side that can make the case for the two hander as well...

    First is that having both hands on the racquet allows for a more efficient and direct application of force by the musculature throughout the swing and specifically around the contact point. There are more prime movement muscles that can be brought into the swing, and it is much easier to apply that force effectively while maintaining control of the ball (try hitting a one hander with a full and violent hip and shoulder rotation through the ball and tell me how easy it is to control the stroke). Second is a similar point, but slightly different, in that the lever arm at contact might be shorter but, with proper technique, it can be much better supported. In other words, there can be more mass brought to bear behind the arm, hand, and racquet with a two hander. Far too often we get caught up in the idea that racquet speed equals power. Well...this is a collision and we can't forget that p=mv. We can get more power by increasing v or increasing m, either one will work.

    As for spin, I have always found it easier to add severe topspin with a one handed stroke. It is easier to create a dramatically low to high swing path one handed, and the range of motion of the dominant hand as far as rotation goes is greater with just one hand on the racquet. With two hands the range of motion is not as good, however, as Bungalo Bill pointed out the top hand can add to the rotation in a way similar to a forehand. This motion is mechanically stronger than the motion from a one handed stroke (though again the range of motion is restricted a little with two hands). However, most people will be weaker with the non-dominant hand...so these issues can balance out somewhat. I tend to hit pretty flat two handed because I cannot use my left hand all that well to create spin (that's something that I continually work to improve with my backhand to add more variety on that side). However, someone with a very strong top hand (say a righty who happens to learn to play lefty...) could use that hand to great effect and produce a high amount of spin with a two handed stroke.
     
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  26. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    Umm.... Yeah, we're not talking about whether or not backhands have more pace/heaviness than forehands. Seriously, do you comprehend what this thread is about? I don't think you do...
     
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  27. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    Thank you for the info! That helps me out a little!
     
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  28. Slicendicer

    Slicendicer Guest

    Exhibit A...

    this is not how to coach or help anybody.
     
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  29. Slicendicer

    Slicendicer Guest

    It's hard to say, I can hit pretty good pace with 2HBH and A LOT of topspin. I sometimes play 1HBH, it's not as consistent, but I can hit better angles. I'm not answering your question though... on a waist high neutral ball, I can probably hit the 1HBH harder, but I definitely hit more topspin with 2HBH. Ultimately, all depends on how well YOU strike the tennis ball... the rest is irrelevant.
     
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  30. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    No, I just want to know physics-wise, I already know my one-hander is better, just wanted to know which was better in a perfect world.
     
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  31. julian

    julian Hall of Fame

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    #31
  32. Slicendicer

    Slicendicer Guest

    Ok... how fast is a BH? If you can answer that, you will have your answer.
     
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  33. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    Argh, thats not what I'm wondering! I want to know what laws of physics and what physicalities of the human body allow the one-handed backhand to hit a harder, more spin-laden ball.

    FIN
     
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  34. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    As I said before....
    Physics.... Longer fulcrum. Time is not a problem, you said "perfect world".
    This case, we have all the time to prepare, turn, racketback, know where the ball is going.
    Fulcrum ! Longer creates more rackethead speed, in THEORY, can hit harder and with more spin.

    And for you who didn't understand why I included FOREHAND examples..... Notice all the two handers hit stronger forehands.
    Notice SOME of the one handers hit equal backhands.
    Can you figure it out now, JSV?
    And are you also 14 years old?
     
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  35. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    Thank you (never though I'd say it), but the fulcrum example was exactly what I needed.

    As for the forehand examples, I don't care, sorry...

    To the 14 year old comment, not far off, but far enough to make it laughable. :roll:
     
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  36. GPB

    GPB Professional

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    So it seems like there are two distinct arguments for each shot type seen here:

    (1)- The 1hbh has a longer lever arm and thus should be able to hit a "better" shot.
    (2)- The 2hbh has extra support and more muscle into the shot, and thus should be able to hit a "better" shot.

    Does anybody have anything to add to this? I've already said the 1hbh works FOR ME, but I think that theory leans towards the 2hbh. MordredSJT had a convincing argument about the biomechanics of the shot, and echoed what I tried to say in my first post defending the 2hbh.
     
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  37. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Exhibit B: The judgmental, hypocritical, slanderous, presumptuous, christian.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2009
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  38. Kevo

    Kevo Hall of Fame

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    It seems to me that there are limitations of the body that would need to be taken into account. I think if you have long arms, a 2HBH is going to be better for you, and if you have normal or shorter arms a 1HBH could be better. Everyone is built similarly, but there are enough differences in bone and muscle structure to where I could imagine that there isn't a single answer to this question. I think it will vary based on the individual player.
     
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  39. Sublime

    Sublime Semi-Pro

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    Not that this would be the end of the discussion, but...

    What's the tour record speed for a BH? Was it hit 1 handed or 2?

    This isn't rhetorical... I have no idea.
     
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  40. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    After watching a few pro matches....
    Forehands consistently come back faster than backhands.
    Backhands can come back more often without a mistake.
    As to actual speeds, I'm sure over 100, but not by much. And that would be like once every 400 forehands, when the player is confident and loose.
     
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  41. GPB

    GPB Professional

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    I'm sorry.. I *really* don't want to get into this again, but why do you bring up forehands so much? I understand before, when you compared some pros' forehands to their backhands and showed that all 2hbh hitters had better forehands, while some 1hbh hitters had better/equal backhands. I saw the point to that post.

    This post... I think we all know that most people have better forehands. Why bring up the obvious?

    The only connection I can make is that the 2hbh is more similar to the forehand stroke, and you're trying to build a case for the 2-handed stroke. But you're on the 1hbh side, right? I don't get it. Please explain further. :)
     
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  42. Jonny S&V

    Jonny S&V Hall of Fame

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    I DON'T CARE!!! This thread isn't about forehands, quit bringing them up!!!

    I don't get him either...
     
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  43. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Uhhhh, no. I dont see where this is headed. We are comparing backhands to backhands not forehands to backhands.

    I think I said this already. I think you said it again. Then I think I said it again.

    Now, you said it again...:mad:

    I bet you are right. :)

    Now, can we compare a onehanded backhand to a twohanded backhand? Thanks.
     
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  44. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Sometimes, you gotta read between the lines.
    If per se, someone lists 5 players with doublehands, and 5 players with singlehanded backhands, but two out of 5 single handed backhands are at least as powerful as their REKNOWN forehands, then maybe..........
    But if you are a literal reader, like a coach who only follows exactly what's he told, then between the lines is just a blank space....:cry::cry:
     
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  45. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    lol come on Lee, we dont have time to read between the lines. We arent comparing forehands to backhands at all.

    And what do you mean by literal reader? Or a coach that only follows what he is told? LeeD, this is the type of stuff that gets you in trouble.

    This is a pretty simple conversation going on about the "PHYSICS OF BACKHANDS."

    You got to explain yourself better LeeD.
     
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  46. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    OK...
    Vilas has a great forehand, strong, consistent, forcing. Everyone says his backhand is better, so it's possible to have a stronger ONE HANDED backhand than forehand, meaning it's also better than possible two handers....
    Lendl same ding, but right handed. Great forehand, no doubt. But once again, everyone said his one handed backhand is better, stronger, more consistent than his great forehand, meaning.....
    NO player with two handers are reputed to have stronger, harder hitting two handed backhands. Simple dat...
     
    #46
  47. Kevo

    Kevo Hall of Fame

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    I've had people tell me my backhand is better than my forehand too, but I don't think that. I can hit the forehand harder most of the time, and even though I do sometimes hit spectacular 1H shots, it's still not my stronger side. I don't think very many players actually have better backhands than forehands. Maybe Gasquet. I couldn't comment on Vilas he was before my time, but I didn't think anyone considered Lendls backhand better than his forehand. He used to really punish people with that forehand. Consistency is a tough thing to consider in a theoretical discussion of strokes. Maybe Lendl was more consistent with his backhand because he didn't feel like he could use it as a huge weapon like his forehand.

    In any case, I think the answer, even theoretically, can be answered only on a case by case basis for the physiology of each player.
     
    #47
  48. Tomek_tennis

    Tomek_tennis New User

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    #48
  49. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, we understand this. We are not comparing this. We are simply isolating the conversation to backhands.
     
    #49
  50. GPB

    GPB Professional

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    #50

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