A world class tennis forehand swing is defined by an efficient, explosive and versatile stroke. Club players aspiring to learn the pro tennis forehand swing must learn the fundamentals of the proper forehand technique.
Learning the correct technique for the tennis forehand swing is a prominent factor in reaching the next level.
Every club players strives to hit a world class forehand swing, but in doing so they often lack the key technical positions of a proper tennis forehand swing. Flaws in stroke production will result in a player being unable to hit a powerful and accurate forehand with topspin.
A professional tennis forehand swing is never rigid or tense. Rather, a proper tennis forehand swing is always where the racket is swung naturally with a loose and relaxed arm. The technicalities behind a proper tennis forehand swing are those that allow the arm and body to swing freely with optimal usage of the kinetic chain during the stroke.
The Professional Tennis Forehand Swing
The top tennis pros all have outstanding strokes. Their best shots can be described as simply perfect in all aspects. These are strokes that they can hit with great power and control in any situation, no matter how much pressure they are under. Their weakest shots, meanwhile, aren’t really weak in the sense that they can’t produce power. Rather, these strokes are the ones that, when the pressure is on and they are feeling less than completely secure, tend to break down more easily than their other shots.
Tennis Forehand Swing: An Explosive Shot
For many pros, the forehand is the most explosive shot. At the same time, it is also the shot that can let a lot of players down when the pressure is great or when they are simply not playing well. A lot of pros live and die by their forehands. For these players, tiny little flaws in their tennis forehand swing path become magnified and result in errant or weak shots. These imperfections may occur at any point in the swing, from the take back to the hit and to the follow through.
No two players are exactly the same and even if they were taught by the same coach, there are differences in their stroke production. The serve is usually the shot with the most idiosyncrasies. But there are also differences in other shots from player to player like the tennis forehand swing. In order to appreciate and analyse the flaws that even some pros develop in their forehands, it would be great to review the technique of pros who count their forehands as their weapons, in particular, the great Roger Federer.
Roger Federer’s Tennis Forehand Swing
Federer’s forehand is hit with a grip that is between eastern and semi-western, though it is a little closer to eastern. Because he is long-limbed, flexible and explosive, he can use this grip to produce a very heavily spun shot or a relatively flatter and faster ball. He has all the options. He also doesn’t grip the racket too tightly, so he can easily shift to a more continental grip at the last moment and junk up the rally by hitting a short slice or drop shot.
Federer holds the racket in his forehand grip with his right hand while the left hand is holding on to the throat of the racket. Once he sees that the ball is coming over to this wing, he immediately turns his shoulders and takes the racket back. His legs are bent and spaced comfortably, usually in a semi-open stance, but he can also hit with all the other stances.
Common Problems Encountered in the Tennis Forehand Swing
The take back is not too high or low. The racket head is about level with his head and his left hand remains at the throat, ensuring full shoulder turn. The wrist is already cocked at this point resulting in a smooth, circular and very consistent take back.
Inconsistencies in the backswing can lead to erratic stroke production. There are players who tend to take a bigger backswing when under pressure, unconsciously thinking that this is the way for them to produce the extra power they need to hit an outright winner. Examples of pros that have this tendency are Fernando Gonzalez and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Unsurprisingly, these two have had very erratic results in their careers.
Tennis Forehand Swing: The Forward Swing
The next part of the tennis forehand swing is the forward swing before the hit. In Federer’s case, this is the time when the ball is fast approaching and he has calculated and adjusted his position correctly already. His racket begins to drop below the level of the ball with the elbow still bent and the forearm pronated.
At this point, he is building up racket head speed which will be unleashed at contact. It is also at this point when Roger’s eyes lock completely on to the ball – and his head freezes until well after contact. There are still no hitches in the swing.
Tennis Forehand Swing: Swing Pattern
Other players will exaggerate the low-to-high trace of their tennis forehand swings because they want to play safe during those important points. These result in shots that, while having a considerable margin for error, frequently land short and do not penetrate and are therefore easy to attack or put away. Rafael Nadal used to be, and is still sometimes guilty of this, as is current top ranked woman Caroline Wozniacki.
When the ball is already in striking range, Federer proceeds to hit it a good and comfortable distance in front of his body. His arm extends out and his wrist keeps the racket face laid back as it slams through the ball at maximum speed.
Right after the hit, the arm continues on extending way out in front as the wrist whips and the forearm pronates. The racket head then comes back over to the left side of his body in a windshield wiper type of finish. He has stayed low and balanced. He has also not looked up too soon to see where his shot is going. These are parts of the swing that also can go wrong for other players.
Tennis Forehand Swing: Common Technique Issues on the Follow Through
Lesser players will change the way they follow through on an important point, thinking that this is the way for them to more accurately place the ball. They’ll decelerate the racket head and find instead that their shots fly way out of bounds.
Daniela Hantuchova is an example of a player with this tendency. Others may maintain the racket head speed but shorten the follow through resulting in a shot that will land meekly halfway up the net. Andy Murray and Dinara Safina have been seen doing this in all their desultory grand slam finals appearances. They did not extend first before wrapping up the swing, especially when they were feeling as tight as they were in those finals.
Tennis Forehand Swing: The Head and Eyes Steady on Impact
Staying low and keeping the head motionless are also very important in producing a consistent tennis forehand swing path. Venus Williams owns one of the strongest forehands ever seen on the women’s tour. But she has a tendency to look up or stand up too soon when she isn’t playing well. This explains a lot of the matches wherein she seems to just spray the ball everywhere.
Novak Djokovic’s Forehand Swing
The correct tennis forehand swing path is smooth and continuous, from the backswing to the hit to the follow through as is the case with Federer. Ideally, there should be no hitches or jerky motions at any point in the swing path. Smoothening out the swing path is one of the keys to the recent run of unparalleled success for new world number one Novak Djokovic. In the past, his forehand swing was frequently described as “complicated.”
It seemed to be made up of a lot of little motions that, by themselves, weren’t really wrong or anything but when taken along with every other part of his swing, resulted in a stroke arc that looked a little disjointed. Today, he has smoothened out the entire swing and it is now as reliable as his deadly double handed backhand. The first glimpse of this technical improvement came in the semi-finals of the 2010 US Open. Down match point twice to no less than Federer himself, Djokovic hit two outrageous forehand winners to recover and win.
Improving the Tennis Forehand Swing
Juan Martin Del Potro is another player who improved parts of his forehand to achieve grand slam success. Before he won the 2009 US Open, his forehand was already a devastatingly powerful shot. But he had a strange-looking way of flicking the racket head on the take back.
This resulted in inconsistent timing which, as expected, led to errors. When he eliminated this and smoothened out his take back, every part of his tennis forehand swing path became perfect now. To date, he remains the only player who has beaten both Roger Federer and Nadal on the way to winning a grand slam title.
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