Guide to One-Handed & Two-Handed Tennis Backhand
Why Is The Backhand Important?
The backhand is a very important shot in tennis. Without a good backhand, a tennis player cannot reasonably expect to go very far as a tournament or professional player.
When we’re on court and a tennis ball is hit to us, we generally have two choices: either hit it with a forehand or hit it with a backhand. The forehand is a shot hit on our dominant side. Most people find it easier to hit from this side of their body.
For example, if a righty hits a forehand, the ball is struck on the right side of their body. For lefties, it would be the opposite. A left-handed player would strike the ball on the left side of their body. This would be their forehand.
Most players, both at the recreational and professional level, run around their backhands to hit their forehands. This is because more racket speed and power can be generated on the forehand side. But sometimes the ball is hit so hard that we can’t run around our backhands. In this case, we are forced to hit the ball on our weaker side, which is the backhand.
If our backhand is not powerful or consistent, we’re likely to lose a lot of points from that wing. Most good players can sense a weak backhand from their opponents within the first few shots of the match. Once good players start winning points on the opponent’s backhand, they’ll exploit it by hitting a large percentage of shots to it. This is why having a consistent and powerful backhand is so important to play tennis at the higher levels.
Furthermore, on the return of serve, it’s very difficult to run around your backhand. When you face a strong server, you’ll be forced to hit a backhand, so you better know how to keep it in play.
“If you’ve been avoiding practicing your backhand, it’s likely costing you matches. Great players practice the backhand religiously.”
At a bare minimum, you’ll need to be consistent with your backhand. Once that’s gained, you can try to ramp up power.
The best players know how to chip the ball, block it back, slice it, strike with power, and lob – all off the backhand side.
The single-handed backhand was the more popular backhand for the majority of tennis players of former generations. As the game has evolved, the two-handed backhand has become more popular among younger generations. However, the single-handed backhand remains an elegant stroke appreciated by all players. Many champions past and present impress audiences with their single-handed backhand, for example; Federer, Wawrinka, Tsisipas, Edberg, Sampras, Lendl, Becker, Thiem, Dimitrov.
Pros & Cons
The main benefit of the one-handed backhand is the extra reach that the shot has as a result using of the non-dominant hand less. Although the single-handed backhand is a very difficult stroke to learn and master, players tend to have a lot more reach and can hit through the ball easily with a lot of top spin once the stroke is mastered. It is much easier to play attacking shots with the single-handed backhand as the player tends to hit the ball more out in front of the body compared to a double hander, which is highly suitable for an attack minded player who loves to come to the net and finish off points.
Ability To Disguise Shots
Another added advantage of the single-handed backhand is that the player can disguise the backhand slice a lot better, which will constantly keep the opponent guessing and makes them unsure as to how to close out the point. The reason behind this is that a single-handed player has a similar release technique for a flat shot or a slice shot.
Better Feel & Technique
An additional bonus is that since backhand volleys are generally hit with one hand; single-handers tend to have better feel and technique on their volleys which is crucial when it comes to closing out points and for players who play doubles. This is probably the reason why majority of the doubles specialist players play with a single-handed backhand, rather than a double-handed backhand.
Difficult To Learn
The biggest drawback of the single-handed backhand is that it is very difficult for kids at a young age to learn the skill, owing to the difficulty, strength and control required in the hand which kids usually do not possess at a young age.
Less Power & Stability
Compared to the two-handed backhand, the one-handed backhand typically generates less power due to the use of only one hand. This can make it more difficult to hit winners and penetrate through an opponent's defense. Also requires greater balance and stability which can make it more difficult to execute consistently, especially under pressure.
When 17 year-old Chris Evert emerged as the number 3 ranked women’s player in the world, people began to take notice of the mechanics of her two-handed backhand and its role in helping make her a formidable champion. At 18, Chris Evert turned pro and promptly earned over $150,000 her rookie year on tour; a lot of money in 1973! It is with Björn Borg, however, that everything changes. The Swede has dominated world tennis since the mid-1970s for about a decade and plays both straight and backhanded two-handed topspin. It is a small revolution born from a practical need: the wooden racquet he used weighed too much, better to hold it with two hands than with one. But Borg is not alone: even Jimmy Connors - his rival at the time - uses the backhand with two hands. At 20, Connors became one of the youngest American men to be ranked number one (Pancho Gonzalez also was ranked number one twenty-five years earlier).
Players quickly found the two-hand mechanics made for a more stable and repeatable topspin stroke pattern. The use of the off-hand in pulling the racquet up the back of the ball through contact helped considerably not just in developing the topspin stroke itself, but in the increase of potential topspin as players looked to hit the ball harder. And these advantages held true for beginners and advanced players alike.
The 1990s ushered in more and more men and women champions who were using this stroke. These included Jim Courier, Goran Ivanisevic, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Todd Martin among the men and Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, Conchita Martinez, Mary Pierce, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, and Serena and Venus Williams among the women.
Pros & Cons
Stability & Power
Most kids are taught a double handed backhand by tennis coaches owing to the fact that the second hand gives a lot more stability and power to the shot. As a player gets older and stronger, they may choose to switch to a single-handed backhand depending on their style of play. However, in modern day tennis most players tend to stick with a double handed backhand even when they start playing professionally.
Easier to Control
One significant advantage of the double-handed backhand is hitting balls that are above the waist, which are much easier for a double hander as single handers tend to struggle with balls above the waist due to the lack of control. A good player will take advantage of this weakness and tend to hit loopy balls to a single hander, but this tactic will not be useful against a player with a good double handed backhand. With a two-handed backhand, a player tends to get away with a poorly timed shot and recover more easily than a single hander would which is another huge bonus.
The two-handed backhand allows players to create more topspin on their shots, which can help the ball stay in the court and bounce higher, making it more difficult for opponents to return.
Limited Reach On High Shots
With both hands on the grip, players may have difficulty reaching high shots or balls that are above shoulder height.
Vulnerability To Slice Shots
Players using a two-handed backhand may struggle to return slice shots, which can stay low and skid through the court, as the grip may limit their ability to adjust quickly to the ball's movement.