The Andre Agassi Backhand technique will be forever remembered as one of the technical strongest motions in tennis. The gracefulness and consistency behind the Agassi backhand technique allow for an effortless shot that once dominated professional tennis.
Andre Agassi’s Backhand will be forever remembered as a legendary shot because of it’s simplicity and explosiveness as a world class stroke.
Andre Agassi’s backhand is Hall of Fame material not just for the Grand Slam Wins behind the shot, but for the technique and grace behind the shot that once controlled the hierarchy of professional tennis.
Andre Agassi Backhand: Worthy of Hall of Fame
If there was a separate Hall of Fame just for specific tennis strokes, the Andre Agassi backhand would definitely be inducted there. Agassi the player was recently inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in Rhode Island.
Much has been written about how he had transformed himself from a punk-rebel kid with an affinity for the spotlight and a disdainful attitude towards the game to a well-respected elder statesman, philanthropist and dedicated sportsman.
However, considering that he was first and foremost a tennis player, his strokes were the real tools that got him to where he is now. His backhand, like the Pete Sampras serve or the Roger Federer forehand, is a stroke of pure genius.
The Andre Agassi Backhand: Background Behind It’s Development
Andre Agassi was one of the first high-profile players to come out of the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The coaching philosophy in that place was to play aggressive tennis from the baseline. With the modern graphite rackets, players were taught to take the ball early, hit very hard to take immediate control of the point and go for winners whenever possible. This was perfect for the physical gifts that Agassi had. He was blessed with unbelievable hand-eye coordination and balance.
Agassi moved quickly and got into position for just about every shot. From day one, his groundstrokes were technically some of the best in the world. But the shot that stood out most was the Agassi backhand. It was expected that his forehand would be great and it was but the backhand was every bit as good. Also, most players were pretty strong from the forehand already, but few were equally strong from the backhand.
Learning From the Andre Agassi Backhand
andre agassi backhand backswingThe Agassi backhand was hit with great power and precision. Usually, it was a relatively flat and very penetrating shot.
Since he took it quite early, it was very difficult for the opponent to anticipate its direction.
Whenever he needed to, he could also apply heavy topspin and create sharp angles, topspin lobs, change-of-pace looped shots or make it dip quickly over the net when he was facing a net rusher.
Like the rest of his shots, his backhand was very cleanly struck. For this reason, he could go for what would seem like low percentage shots like the backhand down the line and make them with regularity.
Agassi Backhand Technique
The Agassi backhand began with an immediate and complete shoulder and hip turn as he took the racket back. He did this as soon as he knew that the ball was coming over to his left side. He anticipated so well and read the ball so clearly that he could prepare a lot earlier than many other players.
The racket was held with two hands, which is how most Bollettieri students hit their backhands. Agassi’s left hand was in an eastern forehand grip while his right hand was in between an eastern backhand grip and a continental grip. The take back were not too high and his arms were already extended but still relaxed and loose.
His feet were comfortably apart and usually in a closed or semi-open stance, with the weight loaded on the back foot (his left foot). Alternatively, Agassi could also hit from an open stance but he still was able to balance well, turn his shoulders and hips and transfer his weight into the shot.
Agassi Backhand: The Backswing Technique
As the ball approached him, Agassi began his forward swing. He brought the racket down below the level of the ball but not too much, unless he was planning to hit with a lot of topspin. He also didn’t close the racket face but instead kept it perpendicular to the ground.
The butt of the racket pointed toward the ball and he bent his knees according the height of the incoming ball. He kept his back straight and balanced over his legs, which now began to transfer weight from the back leg to the front leg. Then, when the ball was in the hitting zone, he unwound his whole body into the shot.
Agassi Backhand: The Coiling and Uncoiling Effect
Importantly, his right leg didn’t inhibit this uncoiling motion because his foot and knee would pivot and point out toward the net instead of to the side. The hips and shoulders could therefore uncoil without any hindrance and weight could be transferred more smoothly from the back foot to the front foot.He could really step into the shot.
While the lower body and torso uncoiled, the arms straightened out and the racket head slapped the ball hard and squarely from behind with only a slight brushing up motion. On a more topspin-heavy shot, he would exaggerate this brushing up motion but keep the general mechanics of the stroke all the same.
Contact Point of the Andre Agassi Backhand
The exact contact point was in front of his body so that his arms were extended almost fully. Also, his torso was already facing the net at this phase of the stroke. Another significant aspect of the Agassi backhand was the position of his head throughout the shot. It was always very still and his eyes were focused on the ball the whole time.
Another main characteristic of the Agassi backhand was the position of the racket face throughout the stroke. He kept it in a neutral position almost perpendicular to the ground.
He did not close the racket face on the backswing as many other players do and he did not roll over the ball by closing the face on the follow through. The only time he did so was on the occasional heavy topspin backhand.
Agassi’s Ability to Add Variety and Spins to His Backhand
Later in his career, he would use this shot more because he couldn’t rely solely anymore on overpowering his younger rivals like Roger Federer. But in general, he did not use this windshield-wiper type of follow through.
Keeping the racket face consistently in a plane perpendicular to the ground meant that he really drove through the ball. Right after contact, the racket face actually seemed to open up a little.
Agassi’s Topspin Backhand Shot
Actually, he was really just driving through the contact zone and extending out fully before finishing the follow through by wrapping the arms over the left side of his body and bringing the racket head over the right shoulder. The lower body, which had uncoiled fully at contact and had transferred weight completely, now recovered to the ready position, followed immediately by the torso, shoulders and arms.
The Shape of the Andre Agassi Backhand Backswing
The Agassi backhand has been described as a compact stroke, but it really isn’t that compact at all. The backswing may have been shorter than many others but the forward swing was always long and full to provide the necessary power and control. One of the best situations in which he would use this shot was on the return of serve.
Even against the biggest servers, he took the ball early and drove through it with virtually the same motion as on a regular rally shot. He was so quick and his timing was so good in the execution of the entire stroke that he could return a 140 mile per hour serve for a winner.
Some of his most notable grand slam triumphs have been against the biggest servers in the game like the 1992 Wimbledon final over Goran Ivanisevic, the 1994 US Open final over Michael Stich and the 1995 Australian Open final over his greatest rival Pete Sampras.
Agassi’s Backhand Was the Best of Both Worlds
The best thing about having equally strong backhands and forehands is that there is no side for the opponent to attack. Agassi could really control the rallies from the centre of the baseline. By not running around one side or the other, no part of the court was opened up for the opponent to hit his next shot into. Agassi realized this when he was playing points.
He frequently moved the opponent from side to side until he got a short ball that he could put away. Opponents were left reeling in the wake of his punishing baseline blasts from both sides. Aptly, they nicknamed him “The Punisher.”
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