Originally Posted by kpktennis
Had two questions about the one handed backhand, for those with a powerful modern 1hb.
1) Would you say the stroke path (lets say the butt cap for the sake of visualization) is following a path that is more like circumscribing a circle or one that is more linear/back to front?
2) I can hit the ball with quite a bit of pace but I find that sometimes this imparts a bit of side spin on the ball, was wondering exactly how the racquet is supposed to squarely approach the ball right before contact? Is it like a slight forearm deviation or...
It's not linear, obviously. When you start you stroke, an opponent facing your should see your whole back and your string bed should appear as well to him. Some people describe this position as pulling a sword like a samurai. The movement should be somewhat eliptic -- it's more circular when you begin it and when you get close to the ball than in the middle, so it's really an elipse.
As for the racket head, it should never be really perpendicular to the ground at contact on any top spin groundstroke. Generating spin is essentially accelerating the edge of of the ball -- you make the edge go fast around the geomatric center of the ball. If you want lots of top spin, you should try to hit the uppder edge so that it spins forward (that's top spin). We get this done by angling or tilting our string bed a bit: we want to make contact while being a little beyond the vertical plane. Some of the spin does come from the vertical action of your swing path, but it's not the most important part... That's why people like Nadal swing around 15 to 16 degrees from the horizontal plane prior ball contact. If you take a video that provides over 200 fps, you may see that before the contact, pro players swing almost horizontally -- after contact, it's an other story.
Other details come into account, but for a simple story, close your racket face a tad (like 10 degrees more than 90 degress rom the ground) at contact and use your swing path to control the ball's height over the net -- in general, the more vertical your swing prior contact, the higher the ball flies before falling. To get a closed face at contact, you need to really close it a lot before you begin to swing. On both the forehand and backhand side, the string bed opens up as you swing forward. To get a slightly closed face, the racket must be really closed. The string bed can be sometimes at less than 30 degress from the horizontal plane -- of course, the more you close, the harder it is to get pace because you'll transfer more energy in spin. However, do not fool around too much with that: get a comfortable setting and get used to it. Pros vary their contact point to vary spin: the lower in the string bed (relative to the ground), the more spin you'll get. A high contact makes for flat shots. Ever seen a video of a pro hitting where the racket opens up after contact? That surely was a winner (or an attempt to hit a winner).
If people disagree, they should visit tennisspeed... The host has a PhD in hard science and he made a very, very impressive research project on the forehand which present rather stunning conclusions. Some of these also apply to the backhand, by the way. I value this sort of effort because that guy bothered checking up if his hypotheses matched realities or if they didn't. He changed his mind on some issues and rejected many things that most coaches still teach today. He also found new interesting stuff.
Usually, top spin is not top spin. We never get a perfectly straight, up-down, kind of spin on the ball... most of the time, there is significant side spin on the ball. What si alarming is not producing side spin; what is alarming is producing mostly or only side spin. If you only get side spin or can even see the ball spin because it spins very slowly, then we have a problem. Even for an amateur, it should spin so fast that you can't read what's written on the ball...
If you have an appropriate contact as I described above and you get the ball to loop in the air with a nice upward swing path, we shouldn't see a slowly spun ball that moves slightly sideways... Of course, I'd rather not bother with how much spin you put on the ball if everything about your form is messed up: you need a great basis to add details like a more closed face and a more horizontal swing path. You can't step up on the gas if you do not yet control the car a bit! I would suggest picking a few pros and try to emulate their backhands and, if possible, you should keep things as simple as possible, especially regarding your take back. This should help you build a better backhand.