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The Forehand Swing Debate in Tennis

Sep 5, 2008
There are many coaching styles out there which is what makes our game of tennis so unique. All you have to do is see the various beliefs and methods of coaches and you often find that the way they coach is a direct result of the way that they were taught.

The modern game of tennis has seen the introduction of the "Big" forehand which is used by players such as Roddick, Williams, Sharapova and Federer to intimidate their opponents and be able to crunch winners from all over the court.

The forehand today is often taught with the player having a slight bend at the elbow and allowing the racket to loop around completing a circle before making contact with the ball. The traditional forehand was where the player turn side on to the ball, move the racket straight back behind them with arm extended between the hip and the knee. The closed stance prevailed during this swing.

The Negative aspect with this type of swing from a biomechanical perspective is that the athletes does not generate the fluid swing involved with a continuous swing nor do they allow the elbow to play a major role in the generation of racket head speed. When you take the racket straight back you are indeed able to generate better racket preparation, however, you inhibit your momentum by having the racket complete a stop or pause at the "turn around" point of the back swing. The continuous loop swing prevents this from happening.

I have often found many younger players developing the bad habit of using too much "wrist" during their loop on their backswing which ultimately leads to poor racket preparation and a slapping of the ball due to the player having to rush through the racket to meet the ball out in front.

With these players I have found that starting off with the straight racket back swing eliminates this problem and i then progress to the loop once they have taken the wrist out of their swing.

As with most tennis theories, we should follow the basics but also be willing to make adjustments for individuals using various techniques to correct their own bad habits.

The loop swing allows the player to maintain a continuous motion and allowing this racket head speed to continue as the racket drops below the ball just prior to impact thus generating the "brushing motion behind the ball" leading to topspin.

In summary, we should try to teach the players a loop swing but may need to follow different stages of progression with those players who show poor technique on their back swing. Teaching early racket preparation is the key to developing a great forehand and not waiting until the ball has bounced before we start our backswing. The power and spins used in today's game will get you in trouble and will cause problems with timing.

Federer is a great example of great forehand technique where as Roddick has his own unique style involving explosive power that is difficult to teach to younger players as they don't have the footwork or intensity to hit that ball like Roddick at their age.

Remember that tennis is an individual sport and you must use your experience and skills to help players get to a point where they still have their own natural style while maintaining sound and correct technique. Trying to copy the exact patterns or swing of a professional goes against the natural given talents of each individual.

Tennis is constantly evolving due to racket technology, improved physical conditioning of the athletes and the invention by certain players of new grips and swings. Tennis has become a power based sport and as a result we need to teach the younger players the right way from the start so that they have the opportunity later on to develop a big forehand weapon.
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