It is always a pleasure to watch this man play tennis. One of my favorites to watch! His onehanded backhand IMO is one of the best in the game. Not only that, it is one of the easiest to duplicate. So here is my take on his onehanded backhand. PREPARATION If I had one word to describe his preparation and takeback, I would choose the word "SIMPLE". Tommy uses his bodies natural movements to get his racquet back into position and ready for the drop and the forward swing. There are several thiings to notice in his backswing: 1. Grip is set: Tommy uses his non-dominant hand to turn the racquet and set the grip BEFORE the racquet reaches the complete backswing. This is an area club players underestimate in their preparation during the backswing. Turning the grip and completing the backswing is essential for a onehanded backhand player mainly because you need to get the forward part of your swing moving sooner than a twohanded player. The grip change should be part of the takeback and set before any motion forward is initiated. 2. Shoulder is set under the chin: In order to know when you have a sufficient backswing and shoulder turn, use the chin and shoulder as a reference. The shoulder and hip turn should be made together so that the body is ready for a forward step to the ball. You can also see that Tommy has relaxed his front shoulder so it can stretch to be pulled under the chin with the help of his non-dominant hand. 3. Front shoulder points and is lined up to the contact point: We all know that it is important to turn the shoulders but it is equally impoprtant to line up the contact point as well. The shoulder joint needs to remain relaxed and ready to engage the arm into the forward swing. By allowing his front shoulder to line up, Tommy is ready to rotate his shoulders and the front of his body to face the 45 degree angle at contact. 4. Racquet is above the hand and near the body: This serves to provide an important benefit. Since the non-dominant hand is involved in lifting the head of the racquet near and above his shoulder, with his non-dominant hand active (providing sensory input), the brain has a very easy way of calculating where the racquet head is when it is behind the eyes. The non-dominant hand provides the feedback and the brain is released to perform other functions. 5. Hand position is between the shoulders: Tommy's hitting hand is between the shoulders enabling him to maintain control of the racquet and improve his timing for a ball that will be hit more out in front. Some club players take the racquet hand too far back and away from the body. This increases the distance for the hand to travel forward and thus increases the chance to mis-time the ball. This is one of the most important elements in Tommy's backswing to notice and duplicate. Keep the hitting hand between the width of the body. 6. A bunch of 90 degree angles: Look at all those 90 degree angles. The main thing that Tommy is doing here is gaining a solid feel for his racquet on the takeback in preparation of the forward swing. This helps him produce the power and force that will go into his swing. You can see when he is done with the takeback that the 90 degree angles exist with his wrist, elbow, and racquet to shoulder. The 90 degree angle at the elbow will assist Tommy's arm to gain momentum on the down swing right before he has his swing move forward and up to the ball. 7. Eyes: When Tommy makes his shoulder turn/racquet takeback, he manages to maintain both eyes on the ball. Most club players do not hit a onehanded backhand with both eyes on the ball. This can produce all kinds of problems and go undetected for a long time. The main contributor to this is using a closed stance or too much crossover and a big backswing. You normally do not know you are turning your head too much because it is normal to do so. If anyone has seen Gugas backswing, you would realize it is a huge backswing. However, you also may have noticed Gugas incredible neck flexibility allowing him to get both eyes on the ball for good 3D vision. Club players do not see this part. They only see the backswing and start to imitate it without seeing WHY Guga can have a large backswing and still maintain good timing. When the head is turned too much to the side, the bridge of the nose blocks the back eye from tracking the ball. This goes unnoticed. Do this exercise, while keeping your eyes focused on your computer screen turn your head to the side. Now close your front eye. You will see that the bridge of your nose has completely blocked this eye from seeing the screen. The same thing happens on the backhand shot more so than the forehand. The back eye is the most important eye to maintain an unobstructed view to the ball because it provides the depth perception you need to judge how far or how close the ball is to your contact zone at each moment. Without the back eye on the ball, you will most likely swing too soon thinking the ball is closer than you think. 8. Non-dominant hand: Tommy's non-dominant hand is also contributing to the takeback, helping the brain easily calculate where the racquet head is, and helps with turning the grip as described above. A lot of onehanders do not use this arm/hand in their swings as much as they should. As you can see, pros use this hand to balance the hitting arm and help with effortless movement and racquet control. LEGS AND FOOTWORK If I had one word to describe Tommy Haas's footwork and balance, I would choose the word "EFFICIENT". Tommy displays beautiful footwork which is the foundation of his swing. No wonder he has such an excellent swing when he hits the ball. His lower body provides him the ability to execute a smooth swing. 1. Wide stance: The main thing to notice is Tommy's wide base when he steps into the ball. This provides tremendous leverage and balance when making contact. Getting set quickly and moving your feet the right way can help a player get set sooner and initiate the forward step when they are suppose to. Because Tommy uses a simple backswing, most of the preparation is happening right here - on the ground. 2. Knees are bent: Not much to say here except take note! Bending the knees does more than get you lower to allow you to have a good low to high swing, it also allows your body joints (knees, hips on up) to swivel and move properly throughout a dynamic swing. You might want to try stiffening your legs the next time you're out on the court and see how fluid your body moves - it doesnt. Bent knees also allows Tommy to use a lot of lift from his legs for topspin and net clearance. He does not need to use his wrists or arm to help do this. It is his legs that provide this in his swing. 3. Backfoot plants: You can see clearly that his back foot is what initates the forward movement. It is not a sideways movement. It is forward towards the 45 degree angle. The back foot push allows this talented onehander to move to the front foot where the ball and main thrust of the swing will be made from. 4. Front foot/leg: Every part of the players preparation for the onehanded backhand is to prepare the arm swing to be initiated on the front foot. Tommy Haas demonstrates this very well. The forward swing does not begin until Tommy loads and transfers his wieght onto his front foot. It is from there that Tommy will time his forward swing into the ball. Having a knee bend is critical in this junction to help eliminate a premature forward swing. 5. Front leg lift: Topspin and ball lift come from a well executed rising center of gravity. For the onehander this is accomplished by rising when your forward swing has reached its lowest point from the backswing and begins to go up to the ball. If you rise too soon, you make mistakes, if you rise too late, you dont get enough lift and the arm has to do it. This is not a jump or a hop it is a slow lift that is in sync with the forward part of the swing. You need to stay low and down right up until you are ready to move the racquet up to the contact point. In order to get the feel of when to lift in snyc with the swing forward, you can do the chair drill that I have posted on many times. Vic Braden refers to this as a lesson worth a million dollars. Timing the lift is part skill and part feel so it has to be practiced. THE SWING If I had one word to describe Tommy Haas's swing, I would choose the word "SMOOTH". Nothing fancy here in this swing. Just goes right through the ball. 1. Racquet preparation: Tommy prepares the racquet to go forward by first eliminating two 90 degree angles. The first one is eliminated as his arm straightens at the elbow. The second, is eliminated as his wrist rolls straight while his racquet drops (Nick B. followers will note that this is contrary to Nicks Bollistic Backhand Video). This all happens BEFORE he rotates his shoulders back INTO the ball and BEFORE he starts the forward swing! You will also notice that Tommy drops his racquet with the help of the non-dominate hand and positions the racquet for the forward swing as if his racquet was a sword in its sheath ready to be pulled out. If a lot of you understand tennis instruction for the onehanded backhand, you will remember that this is usually the starting position for beginners as they learn the onehanded backhand. Tommy will pull the racquet out of the sheath and draw his sword (tip of the racquet head) towards the target. Touche! Additonally, Tommy doesn't do a thing with his swing forward except begin the wieght transfer to the forward leg and drop the racquet into position. He prepares his arm angles before he goes forward. 2. Rotation: The central thrust of Tommys swing and power comes from a solid shoulder rotation INTO the contact zone. You can learn a lot from here. First, the shoulders move forward and into the contact zone from his wieght transfer along the 45 degree line and they are rotating at the same time. Second, his non-dominant arm is used to "brake" the shoulders (look at the extension he gets with that arm) at the 45 degree angle to allow the arm to accelerate through. His head, shoulders, and body all move forward into the 45 degree angle as the shoulders prepare the racquet BEFORE he swings the arm out towards the target. Because he does not have a premature arm release, his arm does not jump the gun and cause the shoulders to overrotate or under rotate in the shot. The front shoulder is driving this and his weight transfer which will soon launch the arm forward. 3. Arm swing: Finally! The natural momentum of a flexible but firm arm is what you see in this clip. There is no forceful movement of the wrist or forearm. It is a natural rotation of the arm (as the shoulders rotate) to bring the racquet head into the ball. You will also notice that Tommy maintains that 45 degree angle and goes through the zone up until his hand on the followthrough is right about near his opposite shoulder, then he opens up and the backfoot comes around for recovery. A very disciplined stroke. You can also see how much "pop" is being sent to his arm which just hammers the ball effortlessly. In fact his arm and racquet head coming around resembles a hammer that is hammering a nail but sideways. This is typical Nick B. teaching. Also, Tommy has gained so much leverage from all the previous preparations, the arm has no choice but to smack that ball without tensing up or adding anything that could damage this beautiful backhand. 4. Recovery: In a nutshell, smooth and awesome. Something to practice for all of us. His recovery step is a natural consequence of his natural lift into the ball with his legs. Very smooth. Have fun studying it further!