The better backhand than forehand fallacy

WilPro

Semi-Pro
Seen many amateurs claiming their backhand is better than their forehand. When it is true it is always because their forehand is crappy. The bad thing is the players suffering from a crappy forehand, are proud as if it was a good thing.

Looked for threads over this forum and seen many claims that there are professional players with better backhand than forehand. Well, actually it is not true. I looked at players like: Wawrinka, Safin, Agassi, Murray, Nalbandian, Djokovic, Connors.

Wawrinka - no, out of question. I picked full matches to refresh my memory. Had to watch a lot of the match to see the first good backhand. Lots of errors with the backhand.
Murray & Connors- they definitely had the crappiest forehands on tour. That's why his backhand is better.
Edberg - pretty bad forehand, not as bad as Murray but still, not a top forehand in the ATP tour. Also his backhand was nothing special.
Safin, Agassi, Nalbandian, Djokovic - Very good backhands but they rely on the forehand for the most of their game. Many inside-out forehands, no inside-out backhand. At least I can't remember any.

When you hit just one backhand for each 50 forehands or so and you still have a better backhand, that means you have serious problems. Saying that they have a better backhand than forehand should offend them. And at least for Nalbandian and Safin I dare say their weak forehand was the reason they didn't get more trophies and higher rankings.

I think Jim Courier also had a very good backhand but his forehand was the weapon.

I do not consider players like Paire, Gasquet, Volandri, Fognini, Seppi, Troicki, etc. who are crappy all together, in all departments.

The conclusion is, if your backhand is better than your forehand you have good reasons to get worried and not proud about it. You should work hard on your forehand. Your forehand should always be your best shot.
 

Standaa

G.O.A.T.
I can't think of many players on tour who have a better backhand than forehand in absolute terms. Maybe Gasquet?
wait so what’re you saying? that Djokovic’s BH is better than his FH in relative terms but his FH is still a better shot? not sure I understand
 

mahesh69a

Semi-Pro
Theoretically, there is nothing wrong if the backhand is better (more stable, reliable) relative to the forehand - but the mechanics and probabilities of the game indicate that a good forehand is mandatory to achieve success.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
I’m not a pro, but I’m in the category of having a better backhand than forehand. I’ve considered changing my style of play to one where I run around my forehand to dictate with the backhand. But this is only worth the trouble against players who already know that my forehand is weaker. Against players I haven’t played before, there is a lot of value in disguising my strengths by missing backhands on purpose in warmup and trying to make my forehand look more confident. This way many opponents will play 90% of shots to my backhand for the entire match. Running around a few backhands to hit inside-out forehands in the first several games reinforces the deception.
 

Jonesy

Legend
Everybody has crappy backhands when compared to their forehands. The only exceptions are Gasquet and Paire because their forehands are just terrible.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Everybody has crappy backhands when compared to their forehands. The only exceptions are Gasquet and Paire because their forehands are just terrible.
Zverev and Coric have better backhands than forehands, but they are from a generation that is just all-around terrible.
 
D

Deleted member 22147

Guest
Seen many amateurs claiming their backhand is better than their forehand. When it is true it is always because their forehand is crappy. The bad thing is the players suffering from a crappy forehand, are proud as if it was a good thing.

Looked for threads over this forum and seen many claims that there are professional players with better backhand than forehand. Well, actually it is not true. I looked at players like: Wawrinka, Safin, Agassi, Murray, Nalbandian, Djokovic, Connors.

Wawrinka - no, out of question. I picked full matches to refresh my memory. Had to watch a lot of the match to see the first good backhand. Lots of errors with the backhand.
Murray & Connors- they definitely had the crappiest forehands on tour. That's why his backhand is better.
Edberg - pretty bad forehand, not as bad as Murray but still, not a top forehand in the ATP tour. Also his backhand was nothing special.
Safin, Agassi, Nalbandian, Djokovic - Very good backhands but they rely on the forehand for the most of their game. Many inside-out forehands, no inside-out backhand. At least I can't remember any.

When you hit just one backhand for each 50 forehands or so and you still have a better backhand, that means you have serious problems. Saying that they have a better backhand than forehand should offend them. And at least for Nalbandian and Safin I dare say their weak forehand was the reason they didn't get more trophies and higher rankings.

I think Jim Courier also had a very good backhand but his forehand was the weapon.

I do not consider players like Paire, Gasquet, Volandri, Fognini, Seppi, Troicki, etc. who are crappy all together, in all departments.

The conclusion is, if your backhand is better than your forehand you have good reasons to get worried and not proud about it. You should work hard on your forehand. Your forehand should always be your best shot.
Safin did not rely on his forehand. That is an absolutely ludicrous statement. Safin did everything better with his backhand and also hit far more winners from the baseline off the backhand. Following his knee injury in 2005, his forehand was a disaster and he only relied on his backhand even more.
 

chic

Professional
I mean I'm definitely I the better backhand crowd (although my forehand has been seeing lots of growth recently!)

My backhand is less prone to unforced errors, and I have somewhat better directional control off it.
But really I think the biggest qualifier that matters when saying I have a better bh than fh is just that against most opponents I want to force bh2bh rallies rather than fh2fh. If someone "attacks my backhand" which is a common strategy, they're actually just helping me set up my preferred game.
 

Jonesy

Legend
Zverev and Coric have better backhands than forehands, but they are from a generation that is just all-around terrible.
I might agree on Coric because i have no idea what his game is like but i have 3 WTF matches against 56 slams where Zverev forehand was pretty damn good. When his forehand is on you simply can't deny its his best stroke. Just because everybody has crappy backhands doesn't mean a guy with a good backhand have it better than his own forehand. I say Paire and Gasquet are the exception because i think they would be better off if they just sliced the ball on their forehand sides.
 
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tudwell

Legend
Safin did not rely on his forehand. That is an absolutely ludicrous statement. Safin did everything better with his backhand and also hit far more winners from the baseline off the backhand. Following his knee injury in 2005, his forehand was a disaster and he only relied on his backhand even more.
Yeah, I probably wouldn’t say Safin relied on his forehand. Plenty of times when he got a ball up the middle he would step around to hit a backhand instead of a forehand. He just seemed more comfortable with that stroke. But I think you’re mistaken saying he hit more winners with his backhand. There was the occasional match where that’s true, but in general he hit more winners and fewer errors with his forehand. It’s just the mechanics of the stroke. More spin, more pace, more margin for error. The modern male pro who genuinely hits a higher-quality ball, on average, with his backhand than he does with his forehand is virtually nonexistent. I think Gasquet is the closest.
 

King No1e

G.O.A.T.
wait so what’re you saying? that Djokovic’s BH is better than his FH in relative terms but his FH is still a better shot? not sure I understand
Djokovic BH, or anyone else with a great BH, is better relative to other BH's, but their "win condition" is usually their FH.
Very few top players would prefer hitting more BHs than FHs, except Gasquet or Zverev, whose FHs are huge liabilities.
 

King No1e

G.O.A.T.
I still don’t understand what was @jm1980 trying to convey.
"In absolute terms" meaning they'd hit more winners, be more aggressive, and generally be more comfortable hitting BHs than FHs. Even Djokovic, who has the GOAT BH and only an above-average FH, will still be a little more comfortable hitting FHs than BHs.

Basically they have different functions. The BH is not supposed to be a dominant shot. If you can dictate play with your BH, it's a great BH. If you can't dictate play with your FH, it's a bad FH.
 

King No1e

G.O.A.T.
Safin did not rely on his forehand. That is an absolutely ludicrous statement. Safin did everything better with his backhand and also hit far more winners from the baseline off the backhand. Following his knee injury in 2005, his forehand was a disaster and he only relied on his backhand even more.
I still wouldn't quite say it was "better". He may have won more baseline rallies with his BH, but we have to take into account short balls, serve + 1 points, etc which everyone, even Safin, prefers their FH.
For their respective functions, Safin's BH was miles better than his FH. But you still won't see him run around his FH to his a BH.
 

smalahove

Hall of Fame
It depends how you frame the question.

«Better BH» might imply that you make less UEs on the BH than the FH. That’s not the same thing as your BH being your «best» shot, as in epic 100+ mph winners.

You need to be able to put pressure and close points from both wings. If you have a week backhand like Johnson or Sock, it doesn’t matter how good your FH is, if you play against decent competition. The same goes for Paire, vice-versa. The reason Paire manages to come up with some good results is his uncanny touch and unpredictable gamestyle. With Gasquet, it’s his spin numbers on serve, bh and fh.

On a recreational level, I’d say the BH’s importance boils down to:

1) being able to withstand a crosscourt duel against a FH
2) being able to close out points when needed (could be short angled putaways)
3) being able to redirect the ball, esp. DTL for a clean winner
 

merwy

G.O.A.T.
I agree with the gist of what you’re saying l: I do think Wawrinka and Djokovic would rather play a forehand than a backhand in general. Although especially Wawrinka can hit some mean winners with his bh that you just don’t see coming, which he doesn’t do as much with his forehand.

On an amateur level I would agree that having a better backhand than a forehand kind of points to your forehand being a weak shot. But still there are probably exceptions to this rule where someone just has an amazing backhand.
 

Standaa

G.O.A.T.
"In absolute terms" meaning they'd hit more winners, be more aggressive, and generally be more comfortable hitting BHs than FHs. Even Djokovic, who has the GOAT BH and only an above-average FH, will still be a little more comfortable hitting FHs than BHs.

Basically they have different functions. The BH is not supposed to be a dominant shot. If you can dictate play with your BH, it's a great BH. If you can't dictate play with your FH, it's a bad FH.
am I understading it right that what you’re saying is Djokovic would do better having his FH on both sides rather than his BH on both sides because he could dictate play better?
 

King No1e

G.O.A.T.
am I understading it right that what you’re saying is Djokovic would do better having his FH on both sides rather than his BH on both sides because he could dictate play better?
Yes, but he wouldn't benefit nearly as much from it as the average player.
 
D

Deleted member 22147

Guest
Yeah, I probably wouldn’t say Safin relied on his forehand. Plenty of times when he got a ball up the middle he would step around to hit a backhand instead of a forehand. He just seemed more comfortable with that stroke. But I think you’re mistaken saying he hit more winners with his backhand. There was the occasional match where that’s true, but in general he hit more winners and fewer errors with his forehand. It’s just the mechanics of the stroke. More spin, more pace, more margin for error. The modern male pro who genuinely hits a higher-quality ball, on average, with his backhand than he does with his forehand is virtually nonexistent. I think Gasquet is the closest.
You're talking to someone who watched almost every Safin match from the year 2002 onward (I have a lot of his matches on my satin youtube channel). You say fewer errors with the forehand - that is simply ludicrous, bud. Safin's backhand was as solid as a rock and his forehand was as leaky as a broken boiler a lot of the time.

You also say "more spin", as if Safin wanted to hit with some kind of spin. His backhand was flatter, yes, which made is much better. Despite it being flatter, he had far less errors off that side. When he was "on", he was able to flatten out his forehand, so he did not deliberately add some kind of spin to make the shot more effective. His forehand was at its spiniest when he was at his weakest.
 
D

Deleted member 22147

Guest
I still wouldn't quite say it was "better". He may have won more baseline rallies with his BH, but we have to take into account short balls, serve + 1 points, etc which everyone, even Safin, prefers their FH.
For their respective functions, Safin's BH was miles better than his FH. But you still won't see him run around his FH to his a BH.
Yes, you would. Watch his famous inside out backhand vs Seppi in the first set tiebreak at Wimbledon 2008. There are many examples of this.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
You're talking to someone who watched almost every Safin match from the year 2002 onward (I have a lot of his matches on my satin youtube channel). You say fewer errors with the forehand - that is simply ludicrous, bud. Safin's backhand was as solid as a rock and his forehand was as leaky as a broken boiler a lot of the time.

You also say "more spin", as if Safin wanted to hit with some kind of spin. His backhand was flatter, yes, which made is much better. Despite it being flatter, he had far less errors off that side. When he was "on", he was able to flatten out his forehand, so he did not deliberately add some kind of spin to make the shot more effective. His forehand was at its spiniest when he was at his weakest.
Agreed.
 

jm1980

Talk Tennis Guru
I still don’t understand what was @jm1980 trying to convey.
In absolute terms means comparing a player's BH to their FH in complete isolation and assessing their effectiveness. For an example, a player with a better BH than FH in absolute terms may want to run around their FH to hit a BH

This is opposed to looking into shots in relative terms, where we'd assess the shots compared to your average player on tour. Someone with a better BH than FH in relative terms may want to force BH to BH exchanges as opposed to FH to FH

Djokovic has a good BH because his BH is better than the average player's BH (relative), but he'd still prefer to hit a FH if he could choose (absolute)
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Some players run around a ball to hit a forehand rather than hit a backhand just because it takes less energy to set up in a neutral forehand stance than it does to set up the footwork for a 2hb drive. The 2hb is ideally hit with an extra step forward to generate more linear momentum, while a forehand can be hit harder with less energy exertion due to the extra leverage.
 
D

Deleted member 22147

Guest
In absolute terms means comparing a player's BH to their FH in complete isolation and assessing their effectiveness. For an example, a player with a better BH than FH in absolute terms may want to run around their FH to hit a BH

This is opposed to looking into shots in relative terms, where we'd assess the shots compared to your average player on tour. Someone with a better BH than FH in relative terms may want to force BH to BH exchanges as opposed to FH to FH

Djokovic has a good BH because his BH is better than the average player's BH (relative), but he'd still prefer to hit a FH if he could choose (absolute)
This is not necessarily a foolproof argument ,though. For example, most right handed players' movement is weaker and less explosive to their forehand side, so running around their forehand to hit a backhand may be less effective in certain contexts due to reasons like this and not necessarily due to the fact they have a better forehand than backhand.
 

DMP

Professional
This is one of those things where you have to use the eyesight test rather than data. That is because if a player (eg Safin) is known to have a stronger side the opponent will naturally focus on their weaker side ( you would be stupid to feed your opponent's strength!). So the player will hit many more shots from their weaker side, and may even hit more winners over a match.

Equally an opponent will vary their attack to stop the weaker side starting to become 'grooved'.

So you really have to actually watch matches and make a judgement on what you see.
 

skaj

Legend
Seen many amateurs claiming their backhand is better than their forehand. When it is true it is always because their forehand is crappy. The bad thing is the players suffering from a crappy forehand, are proud as if it was a good thing.

Looked for threads over this forum and seen many claims that there are professional players with better backhand than forehand. Well, actually it is not true. I looked at players like: Wawrinka, Safin, Agassi, Murray, Nalbandian, Djokovic, Connors.

Wawrinka - no, out of question. I picked full matches to refresh my memory. Had to watch a lot of the match to see the first good backhand. Lots of errors with the backhand.
Murray & Connors- they definitely had the crappiest forehands on tour. That's why his backhand is better.
Edberg - pretty bad forehand, not as bad as Murray but still, not a top forehand in the ATP tour. Also his backhand was nothing special.
Safin, Agassi, Nalbandian, Djokovic - Very good backhands but they rely on the forehand for the most of their game. Many inside-out forehands, no inside-out backhand. At least I can't remember any.

When you hit just one backhand for each 50 forehands or so and you still have a better backhand, that means you have serious problems. Saying that they have a better backhand than forehand should offend them. And at least for Nalbandian and Safin I dare say their weak forehand was the reason they didn't get more trophies and higher rankings.

I think Jim Courier also had a very good backhand but his forehand was the weapon.

I do not consider players like Paire, Gasquet, Volandri, Fognini, Seppi, Troicki, etc. who are crappy all together, in all departments.

The conclusion is, if your backhand is better than your forehand you have good reasons to get worried and not proud about it. You should work hard on your forehand. Your forehand should always be your best shot.
I think you just misunderstood. Their backhands are just closer to the best backhands on the tour, unlike their forehands.

I didn't get the part about Nalbandian's and Safin's weak forehands.
 

skaj

Legend
"In absolute terms" meaning they'd hit more winners, be more aggressive, and generally be more comfortable hitting BHs than FHs. Even Djokovic, who has the GOAT BH and only an above-average FH, will still be a little more comfortable hitting FHs than BHs.

Basically they have different functions. The BH is not supposed to be a dominant shot. If you can dictate play with your BH, it's a great BH. If you can't dictate play with your FH, it's a bad FH.
You mean the goat backhand in a parallel universe where Nalbandian never existed? ;)
 

1stVolley

Professional
I would not be surprised if Fognini's BH was better than his formidable FH in terms of reliability. He hits it with machine-like reliability and good pace. His FH, when he cranks it up, is somewhat more powerful than his BH but I think he makes more errors with the former, possibly because he's trying to do more with it.
 

Zoid

Hall of Fame
Players who definitely have a better backhand than forehand:

Gasquet
Zverev
Benoit Paire

The rest of the tour genuinely does more damage, will look to run around their backhand consistently and do it well.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Nalbandian's BH is up there but it didn't have quite the consistency or versatility as Djokovic's.
I would disagree. Nalbandian’s bh stroke is cleaner and more versatile than Djokovic’s, but he just didn’t have the agility to get to as many balls, and his forehand and serve were not quite at Djokovic’s level.
 

skaj

Legend
Nalbandian's BH is up there but it didn't have quite the consistency or versatility as Djokovic's.
It was as consistent(the backhand, not the player) and as versatile(again the stroke itself, not including mobility), plus it had more variety as well as more power. Anyways, there is certainly nothing scandalous about calling Djokovic' the goat backhand, but one should do that with some reservation.
 

skaj

Legend
I would disagree. Nalbandian’s bh stroke is cleaner and more versatile than Djokovic’s, but he just didn’t have the agility to get to as many balls, and his forehand and serve were not quite at Djokovic’s level.
I agree about the backhand and the serve, but the forehand no. Nalbandian's is hugely overlooked. Novak's again benefits from his superior fitness and speed but David's was not behind his at all, it was a very solid shot.
 

2ndServe

Hall of Fame
Zverev and Coric have better backhands than forehands, but they are from a generation that is just all-around terrible.
This is false imo basically every top player will dictate with the fh, some are extremely solid on the bh as a counterpunch but the dictating play is always the fh. There is something about the being able to hit the ball from varying heights, low, med, high. having more spin to either swing hard or create more top/angles and the post shot recovery and balance for court coverage and flow into the net if they choose that makes the forehand side much better. The last champion with an odd forehand is Edberg and even he ran around to hit his forehand because if your back is to the court on the backhand it makes it slow to recover.

The only player that might run around his fh and hit a bh is Paire but I don't watch him that much. Plus his forehand looks like rec shot and his backhand is sublime and he covers the court really well.
 
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FatHead250

Professional
having better backhand means you are a very sophisticated and artistic player. for example Paire he has a very expressive nature and i read his interview where he said he loves to watch a movie and cry a lot in darkness. Zverev is a very fragile spirit as well. just think about the amount of double faults he makes. Gasquet .. i dont know anything about gasquet
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
wait so what’re you saying? that Djokovic’s BH is better than his FH in relative terms but his FH is still a better shot? not sure I understand
Basically what he means is that in a hypothetical matchup where Djokovic's FH goes against Djokovic's BH, the FH should win 9/10 times.

However, Djokovic's BH is better than almost everyone else's, while there are players with better FHs than he does.
This is false imo basically every top player will dictate with the fh, some are extremely solid on the bh as a counterpunch but the dictating play is always the fh. There is something about the being able to hit the ball from varying heights, low, med, high. having more spin to either swing hard or create more top/angles and the post shot recovery and balance for court coverage and flow into the net if they choose that makes the forehand side much better. The last champion with an odd forehand is Edberg and even he ran around to hit his forehand because if your back is to the court on the backhand it makes it slow to recover.

The only player that might run around his fh and hit a bh is Paire but I don't watch him that much. Plus his forehand looks like rec shot and his backhand is sublime and he covers the court really well.
Gasquet does this too.
 

WilPro

Semi-Pro
Quoting this so anyone who knows anything about tennis can mock you for all of eternity here.
Let me give you one more. I don't think Nalbandian and Safin were even talented. They are overrated as the players who wasted their talent, which talent is supposed to be great.
I think it was non-existent. They just a strong body and that was all. Nothing less nothing more
 
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