Hitting a Forehand
Think of the forehand as the foundation of your game. Build a strong base with your forehand, and it will support all of the other strokes. It can keep the point going until you are in a position to win it. Use it to move your opponent around the court and to take charge of a point. Your forehand can demoralize an opponent with its consistency, and if it’s strong enough, the forehand can be your finisher—your closer.
You can even use a forehand to hide your weaknesses in other strokes. Is your backhand a problem? Position yourself on the court to hit more forehands. Still working on your serve? Compensate with a big forehand. Not very good at the net (yet)? Stay in the backcourt and pound the ball with forehands.
A good forehand tells your opponent that your forehand is a dangerous place to go. Steps 9 and 10 cover specific tactics for using the forehand in singles and doubles.
The forehand can be struck with a variety of racket angles, similar to the various pitches of golf club heads. Several options are available so that you can you can find a comfort zone and assume some of the responsibility for your playing style. Although most players have a basic forehand grip, they make slight changes in the grip during a point without realizing or remembering.
Every stroke in tennis consists of separate movements—preparation, swing, and follow-through. The goal is to make all of these movements come together in one smooth, efficient motion. The forehand starts with the feet, and good tennis players have good footwork. By getting to the right place on the court and positioning your feet in a way that works for you, you’re setting the stage for a sequence of movements that concludes with a successful shot.
As your feet move to establish a hitting position, your hips and trunk get ready to transfer all that energy to your arm and racket. As you move the bottom half of your body into position, take the racket back approximately 180 degrees from your intended direction—far enough to generate some power when it’s time to hit. In other words, as you set up for the forehand, your whole body is winding up. Sometimes you’ll take a big windup; at other times you can make it short and compact. This sequence of events peaks when you swing to strike the ball, and it finishes with the follow-through (figure 1.1). Starting now, everything you learn about the forehand should eventually help you hit with power, control, and confidence.
Figure 1.1 Forehand
- Quick crossover or shuffle step to get to the ball
- Eastern or semi-Western grip
- Shoulder turn and racket back early
- Square or semiopen stance
- Upward and forward motion
- Low-to-high swing path (waistline to shoulder height)
- Early contact (out in front)
- Through the ball (fingernails point forward toward the net)
- Up, out toward the net, and across (for the Eastern grip)
- Up and across (for the semi-Western or Western grip)