The tennis forehand is a popular stroke and the most frequently used strokes in the game. Learning the basic tennis forehand shot is thus necessary in learning to play tennis.
This article gives an overview of the tennis forehand shot.
The tennis forehand is a stroke in which the inner side of the palm of the dominant hand that is holding the racket faces forward. Essentially, the tennis forehand is made by swinging the racket across one’s body in the direction of where one wants to land the ball.
And, though it might not be as engaging to watch as, for instance, a single-handed backhand, it’s definitely effective. It’s the favorite and most powerful stroke for many of the biggest hitters in tennis — and, a great way to compensate for a weak backhand.
There are four main grips for executing the tennis forehand: the Western, the semi-Western, the Eastern, and the Continental. The Eastern forehand grip is the preferred grip for tennis players first learning the basic tennis forehand. (Many advanced players also use the Eastern forehand grip for their tennis forehand.)
Eastern Forehand Grip
To achieve this grip for your tennis forehand shots, place your hand flat on the racket strings, and then slide your hand down to the handle. Wrap your fingers around the racket. Your first finger should be forward slightly as if you were holding the trigger of a gun. Keep all tensions out of your fingers. The eastern forehand grip is often called the “shake hands” grip — in essence, you are shaking hands with the racket.
Use the Eastern forehand grip for your tennis forehand drive and the majority of your shots. Its benefits are many: it allows for stroke variation, as well as the development of flat power and pinpoint accuracy. It’s also easy to change grips from the Eastern grip, quickly moving from your tennis forehand to another stroke.
Once you’ve assumed the proper grip, the next key element for beginners in learning a basic tennis forehand is achieving eye contact with the oncoming ball. Concentrating on the ball ensures that your tennis forehand will include consistent, solid contact between the racket and the ball. So, with the tennis forehand, you watch the approaching ball from the moment it springs from your opponent’s racket.
With your eyes following the ball, maintaining continuous eye contact, you will be able to approximate the ball’s direction, its speed, and its angle of approach; thus, you are best able to take actions which allow you to return the ball squarely. For instance, step forward if the ball appears like it will be landing short; step backwards if the ball appears like it will be landing long.
Concentrating on the ball — as discussed — will assist you in adding more power to your tennis forehand swings by helping you strike that ball in the center of your racket; that is, in its “sweet spot”.
Proper Forehand Footwork
Proper footwork is also crucial in achieving a basic tennis forehand. The success of your tennis forehand truly depends upon how you incorporate footwork into your game; in other words, footwork is the foundation for making better tennis forehand strokes. Firstly, your position in relation to the ball when you make your tennis forehand swing is of paramount importance.
The importance of anticipation
You gain an immediate advantage over your opponent if you develop the ability to anticipate the ball, and consequently get to the ball faster, and get in correct position faster. If the ball is too close or too far away from your body, then the power from your swing will be compromised. Ideally, with the tennis forehand, you will make contact with the ball when it’s two to three feet to the side of your body, and six to twelve inches in front of your body. Hitting the ball when it’s behind you or too far in front of you will negatively affect your swing; it will lose power and direction will be altered.
So — the ball has left the opponent’s racket and you’ve move into position, recognizing that the ball is going to your tennis forehand side. Now comes the tennis forehand swing. Release your non-dominant hand from the racket and hold it in front of you, thus strengthening balance. Your dominant hand and elbow should now move back and lower, the racket pointing away from the intended target. Your dominant arm should be held straightly, but not locked; and your racket should be at waist level. Your shoulders and hips should be, in essence, winding back. Keep in mind that in hitting a powerful tennis forehand, your entire body must be involved.
Now you’re ready to establish the final position for hitting the tennis forehand shot: keep space between your body and the ball; and, if necessary, move your body — bending your knees if required — so that you’ll be hitting the ball at waist level. (And, if you bend at the knees before you strike the ball, you can push up during contact to add more strength to your tennis forehand.)
With an open stance, you’ll now swing, contacting the ball when it is descending from its apex and is at waist level. When you make this tennis forehand swing, you’ll want to accelerate the racket towards the ball. Rotate your shoulders and hips toward the ball. Transfer your weight toward your opponent. Remember — at all times during this tennis forehand stroke, your vision should be directed on the ball.
The face of your racket should be square to the ball at contact. Continue to rotate your shoulders and hips through contact, finishing with shoulders and hips facing the net; this will allow you to keep your racket face moving in the direction of your intended target.
Forehand Follow through
The tennis forehand follow-through is also crucial; it ensures that your forehand shot lands in the desired location on your opponent’s side of the net. The proper follow-through for the tennis forehand stroke is an arcing motion that rises from the point of contact with the ball to just above your non-dominant shoulder.
During the follow through, there should be adequate shoulder rotation, with the chest facing towards your intended target. Your racket should finish near your opposite shoulder. In some cases, your racket will end up wrapped around your back. This is dependent on the force of your swing as well as the rotational energy and your flexibility. The smooth execution of this tennis forehand follow-through ensures a powerful shot.
Finally, a powerful, accurate, and consistent tennis forehand requires practice. Consider hitting a ball against a concrete wall, over and over again, until you’ve honed your tennis forehand. You’ll then find yourself using this reliable stroke to open up the court, hit sharp angles, and overpower your opponent.
Benefits of a Topspin Forehand
A FINAL TIP: With the use of a topspin forehand, you can strike your tennis forehand harder and increase your probability of hitting your desired spot across the net. When you hit a tennis forehand with topspin, the topspin on the ball spins away from your opponent ; causing the ball to drop in the court quicker, even when contact is particularly forceful. (Occasionally, for example, when hitting an approach shot, a player can opt to hit with backspin instead of topspin, which is called a slice.)
To add topspin to your tennis forehand, alter your swing so that your racket moves in a low to high manner, while keeping the racket face perpendicular to the ground. Practice your forehand with topspin and soon you’ll be building your main tennis strategies around your powerful tennis forehand.
Proper tennis technique is the most effective way to add power and to attain accuracy on your shots. Here is a guide on how to improve your shots in terms of power and accuracy.
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