The Lendl Backhand: How good did he hit it?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by Mansewerz, Dec 6, 2008.

  1. Mansewerz

    Mansewerz Legend

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    Pretty much what the title says.
     
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  2. helloworld

    helloworld Hall of Fame

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    He has a solid backhand, but not as good as his forehand of course. I'd say his backhand is more reliable than Federer's.
     
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  3. Mansewerz

    Mansewerz Legend

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    How well could handle the high ball and what grip did he use? Eastern bh grip?
     
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  4. helloworld

    helloworld Hall of Fame

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    I'm not a big Lendl fan, so I won't tell you about that sort of details as I could be wrong. Perhaps you should ask Borgforever. He seems to be the biggest Lendl fan around here.
     
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  5. 380pistol

    380pistol Banned

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    Agreed.

    Semi western(extreme eastern) I believe, but not 100%. Somebody will confirm or deny it. Lendl was tall (6'2" and lean) and also had long limbs, so that helped with high balls
     
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  6. Winners or Errors

    Winners or Errors Professional

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    I have a copy of his book "Power Tennis," and it's semi-western. I don't recall Lendl having trouble with high backhands, though he did have a great slice backhand which was the result of having no topspin backhand to speak of when he emerged on the scene. ;-)
     
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  7. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Better than solid, IMO. Big topspin. Good crosscourt, even better down the line--earned him many winners.

    Later he even developed an effective slice backhand.
     
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  8. RoddickAce

    RoddickAce Hall of Fame

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    I second that.
     
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  9. vsdtrek

    vsdtrek Semi-Pro

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    I thought Lendl originally only used to hit topspin backhands and then learned to use the slice with Roche. Does the book speak to this at all?

    Obviously it has been a long time since I saw one of his matches (and I do miss them). :)
     
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  10. Matt Riordan

    Matt Riordan New User

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  11. Mansewerz

    Mansewerz Legend

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    Wait, was his BH grip semiwestern?
     
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  12. CEvertFan

    CEvertFan Hall of Fame

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    I always thought he had a great topspin backhand, considering the small headed racquet he used. He later developed a very good slice backhand as well. I particularly loved his down the line backhand, which he hit VERY well. It's true that his forehand was stronger but his backhand was more than just solid and steady.
     
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  13. madhavan

    madhavan New User

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    lendl's topspin backhand was superb on groundstrokes and passing shots. It looked
    like a really heavy shot.
    His return was somewhat streaky though (esp against Edberg's high kicking serve).
     
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  14. Winners or Errors

    Winners or Errors Professional

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    I don't recall how the book addressed it and I can't find it at the moment, but I remember it because I copied all of his grips at the time - and really still do, though I can't hit with as much topspin off the backhand side as he did. As a junior, he had no topspin backhand and a weak slice backhand he used defensively just to stay in points and set up the forehand. It speaks volumes about Lendl that his forehand was good enough to win that way. As he transitioned from a junior to a professional, he learned the topspin backhand.

    I believe Roche taught him how to use the slice backhand as more of an offensive weapon. As I recall, everyone thought the reason he hired Roche was his desire to win at Wimbledon.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2008
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  15. vsdtrek

    vsdtrek Semi-Pro

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    I think you are right about Roche - it was the chip that he really started to use effectively.

    Man that forehand was something to watch!
     
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  16. iamke55

    iamke55 Professional

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    Incredible how weak the field must have been to be dominated by someone who couldn't hit a backhand until he was out of the juniors.
     
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  17. wyutani

    wyutani Hall of Fame

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    i hear that he has a funny backhand which he can slice and hit at the same time. i think its the western grip, i dunno, but his dh was one of the greatest behind connors.
     
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  18. lendledbergfan

    lendledbergfan Rookie

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    See the FO '87 finals against Wilander. Mats was continuously passing Ivan high looping balls to his backhand, and Lendl was returning very nicely.

    Lendl's backhand is one of the best of all times I would say. Probably behind Edberg.
     
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  19. CyBorg

    CyBorg Legend

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    What are you talking about? Do mental hospitals have internet access now?
     
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  20. Charlzz

    Charlzz Rookie

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    David Foster Wallace, the author of Infinite Jest, and once a tennis junior attributes the start of power tennis not to Borg but to Lendl, and I believe he is correct.

    Lendl excelled at several shots. He was one of the earliest players to go for winners from the baseline. He was incredibly accurate with the down-the-line shot, both on his forehand and his backhand. He also played a lot of inside-out forehands often running around his backhand.

    For as much power as Lendl had at the time, which was considerable, he was also quite steady. He could trade 20-30 shot rallies with Borg and Wilander. The guy was rock steady.

    It's funny how people say that Lendl developed a slice backhand. Lendl started off with a slice backhand, prior to becoming good. He had no topsin backhand and had to come to net to hide his weakness. Working with Wojtek Fibak, a decently good Polish player, Lendl learned how to hit a topspin backhand and make it a weapon. He hit it quite a bit before he started adding slice to his backhand and added a good crosscourt slice passing shot.

    By today's hitters, Lendl didn't hit quite as aggressively as players today, but he could hit winners which was something few players (mainly players like Connors) could do. We see winners and hard shots hit so often now, it's hard to imagine how hard this was for most players to do, and Lendl did it with a fairly tiny racquet (like 72 sq in), a composite Adidas racquet.

    His forehand was still the better shot, but the backhand was quite good too.
     
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  21. ClarkC

    ClarkC Hall of Fame

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    The bolded sentences seem contradictory. I could take a guess as to what you are trying to say, but maybe you should be more specific in the chronology so that it makes sense.
     
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  22. Mansewerz

    Mansewerz Legend

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    Bump to this.

    Did Edberg use continental? How the hell did he keep the ball from flying?
     
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  23. Gasquetrules

    Gasquetrules Semi-Pro

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    Federer and Lendl very similar

    Lendl reminds me a lot of Roger Federer. Both are/were competent but not great volleyers. Federer has won most of his points at Wimbledon playing from the baseline and hitting winners. Lendl probably came to the net more than Federer does today while playing on the faster grass at Wimbledon 20 years ago. If Lendl had played on the slower grass this decade, he might also have dominated Wimbledon.

    Both players rely/relied on their magnificent forehands to dominate their opponents and finish points. Lendl had the best forehand of the 80s and Federer has had the best forehand this decade.

    Both men had strong serves that won them many points outright and setup the forehand weapon.

    Both men had very solid backhands that could keep them in a rally and also hit the passing or open court winner when needed. Both have/had very useful sliced backhands, too... very accurate.

    Both men are/were very fit, had few injuries in their careers. Both could grind with the best grinders when necessary, yet both prefered to hit power shots from baseline and dominate with power.

    Both men move/moved well on the court: fast with good balance and court sense and excellent stamina.

    Both men played well on all surfaces. Luckily for Lendl, Borg was older than him and retired from the game early in the 80s. Had Borg been younger than Lendl, he might have prevented Lendl from winning at the French much the way Nadal has Federer. To my eye, Borg and Nadal are very much alike.

    Both men dominated their respective decades with very similar games built around a good serve and spectacular forehand.

    Lendl appeared to hit his topspin backhand drive with something between an Eastern and semi-western grip to me, almost pulling the racquet through the stroke rather than pushing it through the way one would with a semi-western to Western grip. I think this was the only weakness in the shot. It could have been even better

    As great and dominate as Lendl was in the 80s, I believe Becker had an even better game: an equally good forehand, a better backhand, a better serve and much better volleys. Becker just wasn't as consistent as Lendl because he just never seemed as focused and dedicated.

    I believe the tennis matches that Becker and Lendl played against each other were among the best tennis ever played, especially the matches on fast indoor surfaces. But their matches on clay were also good. Lendl's two US Open finals against Wilander were also great matches.

    Becker, Sampras, Borg, Federer and Lendl are my top five all-time.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2008
    #23
  24. Tshooter

    Tshooter Hall of Fame

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    His backhand developed into a weapon and it was a heavy shot.

    It didn't compare to his forehand.






    -------
    www.proTennisPhotos.com
     
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  25. swedechris

    swedechris Banned

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    he hit it deep , heavy and with good pace and spin when he used topspin .. his slice was very solid too but he gave it away early , his stance and backswing signaled early he was about to slice the ball.. it was often hit short with the intent to draw his opponent either into the net or to set up his forehand .. steffi graf did this too with huge success.. fed does it now often too.

    on the return of serve he often just blocked off the backhand side.. becker and edberg used to feed off that and close in onto the net and have pretty easy volleys to deal with.

    as a passing shot .. wow.. when he was able to set up ... he whacked it haaaaaaaard.


    lobs of the backhand side were average .. hsi forehand lob was much much better.

    his backhand volley was good. nothing fancy . mechanical but solid. no edberg / becker volley though.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2008
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  26. msunderland71

    msunderland71 New User

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    Great comments. I think what made his topspin backhand different was he seemed to flick the wrist after the racquet made contact with the ball, not during contact like most players. Don't know how he got so much topspin, but he did!

     
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  27. ohlori

    ohlori Rookie

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    John Mcenroe: “I’ve got more talent in my pinkie than Lendl has in the whole of his body".

    You can't be serious.
     
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  28. bet

    bet Banned

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    UGH!!!

    GUYS, Lendl used a CONTINENTAL grip on the backhand (slightly towards the eastern).

    Edberg used a full Eastern.

    I don't know where you guys are getting this. TRUST ME.

    Yes, Lendl's backhand was lethal. He could hit it a heavy but flatter ball than most of the guys today. His passing shot up the line was GOLD. He later developed devastating cross court shots. I think it was to his detriment that he started slicing again more later in his career. Tony Roche had a lot to do with this, he wanted Lendl to have the option of a "chip" backhand and it did help round out the repertoire but Lendl probably started using it too much. In any case, Lendl could roll it with a lot of spin or drive it out very hard, in part BECAUSE he was using a modified continental.
     
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  29. bet

    bet Banned

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    NO! COMPLETELY COMPLETELY INCORRECT.
     
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  30. bet

    bet Banned

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    It's quite apparent to me that Borgforever knows how to cut and paste articles on Borg and that's about it. He makes glaring mistakes about Borg let alone Lendl!
     
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  31. Gasquetrules

    Gasquetrules Semi-Pro

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    Your are probably right about the backhand grip...

    I think you are correct about Lendl's backhand grip. What I am calling a semi-western backhand grip is probably considered Eastern by today's standards. At any rate, I always felt that Lendl's backhand grip -- even on his topspin drive -- was not that far past Continental. That's why, as I noted in my previouis post, Lendl seemed to come close to pulling the racquet through the stroke rather than pushing it through the way one would with the hand twisted further around the racquet grip toward sem-western. It amazed me that he got the topspin he did with this grip and also was able to hit the heavy ball that he did with lots of pace whenever he needed it. His contact point for the shot was not as far in front of the lead foot as one sees today. In comparison Becker's backhand drive was more like what we see today abd to my eye was the better shot.

    But we have to remember that Lendl learned to play the game with a wooden racquet as a junior, and most pros rarely hit a topspin backhand drive before Lendl's time. Most pros were content to slice the backhand and just keep it in play until they had the chance to get to the net and finish the point. Probably nobody before Lendl used any grip beyond Eastern on the one-handed backhand.

    Stroke production has really advanced in men's tennis over the last 20 years. You see so many players today with spectacular one-handed backhands... and these are just journeyman players. I was just watching a DVR recording of Tommy Robredo playing Phillip Kolshrieber at Hamburg this year. Both hese guys have flawless technique on the backhand, with high takeback and perfect preperation and footwork, and long flowing strokes with high follow throughs and able to generate great topspin when neededd.

    Really, any player today with a one-handed backhand who wants to crack into the top 100 must have a techniqually sound backhand. Anything less than flawless technique will not get you out of the minor leagues.
     
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  32. bet

    bet Banned

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    I disagree. I do agree that in general the backhand grips have gone further around. There was at time when continental was standard. Nonetheless, Lendl was far from the first and there were many players with grips further around than him. e.g. Vilas. I'm not sure why anybody would describe it as "semi-western"!

    I also don't think stroke mechanics have evolved much at all on the backhand. The grips have gone a bit further around on average which changes the setup and follow-through a bit, that just happens naturally. Most of the fundamental mechanics are exactly the same. The follow-throughs are a bit more pronounced because guy have gone with lighter racquets and higher swing speeds, but that's about it.

    I know people today have a hard time understanding how Lendl got so much topspin out of a continental but its' really not the big deal people make it out to be. The only real difference is that one must have the wrist in a slightly more awkward position to hit with a continental (you may need to a be a bit stronger in the wrist and have more talent to adjust the wrist). The swing changes a shade, but it's a not a big deal!
     
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  33. Charlzz

    Charlzz Rookie

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    Lendl started with a slice, then he played his backhand almost exclusively topspin during the early 80s, before he added the slice back to his game and used it more often in his later career (mid-late 80s, early 90s).
     
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  34. Lendl and Federer Fan

    Lendl and Federer Fan Hall of Fame

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  35. SpaceCadet

    SpaceCadet New User

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    The backhand was Lendl's weaker side, but it was still damn good!

    The book on Lendl used to be: chip low to his backhand, rush the net, and watch for the passing shot down-the-line. Lendl then added a crosscourt backhand passing shot to his arsenal. Matt Riordan's link shows a great example.

    When Roche became Lendl's coach Lendl added a nice chip backhand to his game. While this shot wasn't lethal, it was great setup shot. To me it was like a boxer developing a nice stiff jab.

    I saw it numerous times. Lendl would chip the ball off his backhand. The low, skidding bounce would force his opponent to hit up, and this gave Lendl time to run around the pound the next shot with his sledgehammer forehand (scary!).

    I've often thought that it would serve Roddick well if added a similiar chip backhand to his game.
     
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  36. Lendl and Federer Fan

    Lendl and Federer Fan Hall of Fame

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    Hey AC (AlpineCadet), is this you? :):twisted:
     
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  37. SpaceCadet

    SpaceCadet New User

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    Nope...sorry. :?
     
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  38. stan166

    stan166 New User

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    From Lendl video "Tennis my way", he initially had no topspin backhand and developed it around the time he became professional.

    From McEnroe/Lendl video "Winning Edge", Lendl has eastern b/h and semi-western f/h, while McEnroe Continental on both sides.
     
    #38
  39. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Here's another thread on the calibre of Lendl's backhand for robow7.
     
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  40. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Thanks, hoodjem, enjoyed reading the various posts. Let me ask this, whose backhand would you of rather had, Becker's or Lendl's. Somewhat similar styles of a similar time frame.
     
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  41. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    With his grip and technique, he would have more problems with Nadal's forehand than Federer.

    On regular shots in his wheelhouse, he has a simpler motion, so it would be more "reliable." But Federer can hit his harder and create more angles. Fed has a great backhand, people underestimate it because the greatest lefty forehand in tennis history can break it down on clay.
     
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  42. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    Just as I argued with you that Agassi could NOT his his forehand harder than Lendl, Federer most definitely does NOT have more power than Lendl on the backhand. Furthermore, Lendl has hit every angle that Federer has.
     
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  43. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    If you look at the thread, I took great pains to say that I thought Agassi hit harder groundstrokes than Lendl. Backhand and forehand combined and averaged out. At 100%, in my first post I said Lendl's forehand may have been harder. Another poster reminisced that Lendl flat out said Agassi hit harder than him. Of course, hitting the ball and playing tennis are two different things, and in the beginning Lendl was the superior player for sure.
    Fed has more power off both sides. Lendl has hit some crazy angles (watched a point recently where he took Mecir way off the court) but Fed can do it more routinely and with more pace.
     
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  44. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Professional

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    +1 one of the best of all time.
     
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  45. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    Uh, yes, and then I pointed out all the experts/players who said Agassi hit as hard as Lendl, and that Agassi himself pointed at others who hit harder...and some other posters agreed.

    NOPE. Although, in your world, I'm sure Agassi brought tennis to an unseen level of power, and then Federer surpassed that, so he must be completely non-comparable to Lendl. Well, we obviously disagree. One thing that is almost certain is that he doesn't serve harder than Lendl, if you think his maximum power off both forehand and backhand is greater...well....uh....sure....I saw something quite different.
     
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  46. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    I think "I saw" is the problem. There are videos all over the internet, yet a lot of people rely solely on their recollections and will explain away all the footage online. I said Lendl's hardest forehand might have been faster than Agassi's hardest, but no way with Federer. Federer's biggest forehands are among the very fastest ever hit.

    Anyway, yeah, I think beginning with Becker, guys emerged who could hit harder than Lendl. And the tour has steadily become more powerful over the years to the present day. Lendl was powerful enough that even at the end of his career, he was still a respectable power player, but he was no longer among the foremost power players. Federer is still one of the most powerful players today, and a few years ago, I probably would have considered him the most complete power player in the game.

    It happens to everybody. No big deal. In the US Open finals, Del Potro was hitting considerably harder than Federer by the end. I've said several times on these boards Lendl is the most under-appreciated player of the open era. No knock on him, but there have been many bigger hitters since he arrived on the tour, and Federer is just one of many.

    On the serve, their mph's are probably comparable. They both hit mostly in the mid to high 120's. I would bet that Federer's all time top speed is faster than Lendl's (somebody online claims Fed's top speed is 135, clocked at 2006 AO against Haas), and I think Roger has a much heavier serve. But yeah, their speeds are comparable. But really, like Sampras, I feel like Federer is more of a spot server who could actually be hitting harder on average.

    Anyway, trying to find Roche comparing Lendl to Federer, but all I could find was this:
    And:
    Hey, Datacipher, so you think Lendl hits and serves harder than Federer, so what exactly does Roger do better than Lendl? What does he have that makes him GOAT to many whereas Lendl is never mentioned?
     
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  47. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    when lendl was in the juniors and in his first few years as a pro he only hit slice backhands. he literally could not come over the ball consistently. once he started working with fibek, he really developed a lethal topspin backhand that he could do pretty much anything with. during his last few years, he went back to the slice (due IMO to his back problems). he also used the slice very effectively against connors weak low forehand.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieTWAg7X0nQ

    check out this video. at 1:36 he hits an on the run backhand winner. he also hit one of these against pat cash in the 5th set tiebreaker in the us open semis. watch his slice at the very end of the video. very deep and steady. keep in mind that this was at 6-5 in the 5th set tiebreaker! one of the all time great points that nobody talks about.

    lendl hit virtually only topspin backhands on clay and only slice (unless it was a passing shot) on grass. he mixed it up on hard.

    lendl's backhand is better than federer's in all aspects (except the volley). off the ground, there isn't one part of federer's backhand that is better (and i'm a huge fed fan): power, consistentcy, topspin, slice, flat, handling high balls, etc.
     
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  48. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    lendl's edges are consistency and handling of high balls, fed's slice is better, power on an average is more or less the same, I'd say fed's is very slightly higher , fed's variety on the BH side is pretty much more than anyone and he has clearly more variety when compared to lendl
     
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  49. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    disagree. lendl is certainly ahead in power. federer rarely drives the ball with extreme power off the backhand. one-handers like gasquet, haas, calleri, ljubicic, etc have more sheer power on their backhand. variety? lendl hit the slice and topspin extremely well. he could do it all off the backhand. not sure how you argue variety.
     
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  50. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    But lendl is not gasquet, haas,calleri,ljubicic etc ....

    umm, those flick BH shots ?? dropshots ?? half-volley pickups from the baseline ??? ....

    also he creates more sicker angles than lendl could ( who himself did quite well )
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2009
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