Two Handed Backhanders: Take Note


Hall of Fame

The Sunday TimesSeptember 10, 2006
Power game has players fighting for fitness

The increased use of the double-fisted backhand in the past 30 years is behind a worrying rash of injuries that has afflicted many top players. By Barry Flatman

EVOLUTION always takes its toll. As long as tennis has been played, the joints most susceptible to injury have been the shoulder, elbow and wrist of the racket arm, but changing techniques and developments in technology have produced a worryingly persistent new problem. The high incidence of players using the double-handed backhand, along with the increasing demand for power and less forgiving rackets, means more players on both tours are suffering wrist injuries to their “other” arm.
Venus Williams contested only four tournaments in the first six months of 2006 and has been a spectator since Wimbledon because of tendonitis in her left wrist. Two days before the start of this year’s US Open, 1998 winner Lindsay Davenport was forced to retire during the final of the warm-up event in New Haven with a similar complaint. Davenport had endured two previous lay-offs for a similar problem and was forced to adapt her technique. Only months before winning her long-overdue first Grand Slam title a year ago, Kim Clijsters faced the possibility of her career being brought to a premature end by chronic problems with her left wrist.
NI_MPU('middle');;h=v8/3467/0/0/%2a/i;27835150;0-0;0;13187955;4307-300/250;15122467/15140363/1;;~sscs=%3f men have also suffered. Marat Safin’s progress after winning in New York in 2000 at the age of 20 was hampered by problems in his left wrist. Mardy Fish, a silver medallist at the Athens Olympics, has required two operations.
Andy Murray employs a similar technique to Safin and Fish, and the concerns are obvious. “I am not surprised all these injuries happen after seeing the sort of torque and pressure that is put on the other wrist,” said Murray’s former coach Mark Petchey. “I was brought up to play a single-handed backhand and you played through the ball in one sweeping movement. But with the double-hander nowadays, particularly when the player is looking to hit the ball cross-court, there is a pivot at the end of the stroke that can be excruciating to watch. The wrist twists and contorts itself, so when the impact of the ball is not quite sweet, it can be very painful.”
Single-handed backhanders are a rarity. Only five figure in the top 20 on the ATP Tour, and just three in the leading 20 women on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Numbers are even more emphatic in junior circles. Just a handful of players in the boys’ and girls’ singles events at Flushing Meadows this month have employed single-handed backhands.
“It’s just the way players have been taught to play over the past 25 years,” said former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash. “With the increased size of rackets, children could not control the ball with a single-handed backhand, and once they get into the habit of playing double-fisted, few want to change. There are exceptions, but by and large double-fisted is the norm. Because the new synthetic strings are less forgiving, the balls are generally heavier and power is all-important, these injuries are always going to happen.”
The double-handed backhand is not new. Australians Vivian McGrath and John Bromwich pioneered the technique in the 1930s, but it was Chris Evert, Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors who proved that it could win the biggest prizes during the 1970s.
Evolution has produced modifications. Whereas Borg and Connors used to play the stroke side-on, today’s players are happier to hit the ball with their entire body facing the net, putting extra pressure on the wrists.
David Dines, the ATP’s head physician, explained: “The wrist has become vulnerable because of the difference in stroke production at all levels. The problem with taking this upward rotational torque is that the wrist flexes and extends, but also rotates. These injuries occur on the outside of the wrist and involve a complex matrix of tendons, casings and cartilage. They are caused by acute trauma from mis-hits or joint-jarring returns, not from repetitive stress. Sometimes they require surgery and the recovery can involve up to eight weeks of immobilisation.”
Kathleen Stroia, the WTA Tour’s vice-president of sports science and medicine, said most wrist injuries nowadays occured on the non-dominant hand. “As the ball is coming so quickly to the player, there is less time to get the feet in position, resulting in the wrists having to take a greater load,” she said. “The non-dominant wrist plays a major role in absorbing the impact force of the ball and controlling the direction.”



Hall of Fame
nice read....however, the article is saying the players are only experiencing pain because they're contorting their left wrist on the hit....right?


I actually posted something similar to this (link posted below) and from my article, it was saying that the modern two hander encourages the left hand to lead(assuming you're a righthander) Swing with the left, lead with it, instead of focusing more on the right. Apparently this will cause injuries, so a change of technique can help.
I have recently started hitting a two hander because all I was doing was slicing. I have noticed a little pain opposite the elbow in my left arm. Does anyone know if this is just because of how I am hitting the ball or does my left arm just need get the muscle memory back?
I use a 2HBH but I realized the problems that can occur, so I've taken time to allow myself to put less stress on my left wrist... kinda having a 1HBH but with the 2nd hand only acting as a guide and slight factor in the power gain.


Hall of Fame
My view is that the heavy topspin forehand likewise causes plenty of injuries. Any time you put that much repetitive stress on a small joint you are asking for trouble.

Federer will last, but Nadal will struggle with niggling injuries for these and other reasons. An economical, and fluid style is the one that will last. I would not be surprised to see this heavy topspin and two-handed backhand trend modified in part.



Poly can be very hard on wrists..a few years ago, no polys were being used to speak of, now tons of poly is being used on the pro tour.