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Keys for hitting the elusive backhand ground stroke

Excerpt taken from Coaching Youth Tennis by American Sport Education Program (ASEP)


The backhand ground stroke is a neutral or defensive stroke used on the nonracket side of the body after the ball bounces. As mentioned previously in the forehand ground stroke section, players at the baseline will hit most shots with ground strokes, either backhand or forehand, depending on whether the ball is hit to the right or left side of the body. Players can execute the backhand ground stroke using either one hand or two.

Two-Handed Backhand Ground Stroke

When preparing to hit a two-handed backhand ground stroke, the player assumes a ready position just behind the baseline at the center mark (see figure 7.19a). The ready position is a balanced body position in which the feet are about shoulder-width apart with the knees flexed and the back straight. The player’s weight is forward with the feet and body facing toward the opponent, and the player’s eyes are fixed on the ball. The racket should be held loosely between the waist and shoulders. Both hands are held close together on the grip of the racket with the top hand (the nondominant hand) in a semi-western grip position and the bottom hand (the dominant hand) in a continental grip.

Once the opponent strikes the ball and the player determines the direction of the shot, she initiates a unit turn in which her body, racket, and feet all turn sideways to the net at the same time to face the backhand side (see figure 7.19b). After the turn, the player should move immediately to the contact point where the ball will be hit. Ideally, the player will be in a good position before the ball lands on the court and will have time to take a few quick, short adjustment steps if necessary. When moving into a position to hit the ball, the player should take the racket back so it points to the back fence and is below the contact point, allowing it to move forward in a low-to-high swing pattern (see figure 7.19c). The player’s weight should be loaded on the back foot.

The player’s forward motion begins with a step toward the net with the front foot, transferring the weight from the back to the front foot and turning the hips and shoulders so that the body faces the net (see figure 7.19d). At the same time, the racket accelerates through the contact point, which is waist high and even with the front foot (see figure 7.19e). The arms are slightly bent at the elbows. The nondominant top hand will be on the same plane as the racket face and should be directed at the target on the opponent’s side of the net. At contact, the racket face and top hand extend through the contact point, and the racket follows through over the opposite shoulder. As the stroke ends, the body weight shifts to the forward foot.

One-Handed Backhand Ground Stroke

When preparing to hit a one-handed backhand ground stroke, the player assumes a ready position just behind the baseline at the center mark. The ready position is a balanced body position in which the feet are about shoulder-width apart with the knees flexed and the back straight (see figure 7.20a). The player’s weight is forward with the feet and body facing toward the opponent, and the player’s eyes are fixed on the ball. The racket should be held loosely between the waist and shoulders using whatever forehand grip the player prefers (eastern, semi-western, or western as described on pages 70-72). The weight of the racket should be supported in the nondominant hand, which is positioned near the throat of the racket.

Once the opponent strikes the ball and the player determines the direction of the shot, the player initiates a unit turn in which he takes the racket back with his nondominant hand and his body, racket, and feet all turn sideways to the net at the same time to face the backhand side (see figure 7.20b). During the unit turn, the player changes from the forehand grip to the eastern backhand grip. After the turn, the player should move immediately to the contact point where the ball will be hit. Ideally, the player will be in a good position before the ball lands on the court and will have time to take a few quick, short adjustment steps if necessary. When moving into a position to hit the ball, the player should take the racket back so it points to the back fence and below the contact point, allowing it to move forward in a low-to-high swing pattern (see figure 7.20c). The player’s weight should be loaded on the back foot.

The forward motion begins with a step toward the net with the front foot, transferring the player’s weight from the back to the front foot. The nondominant hand releases the racket and stays back during the forward weight transfer and swing. This will prevent the hips and shoulders from turning so they face the net. The power in a one-handed backhand comes from the legs and the weight transfer from the back foot to the forward foot (see figure 7.20d). At the same time, the racket swings from below the contact point to the contact point, which is in front of the forward foot and waist high. The hitting arm is fully extended and straight. The nondominant arm stays back, and the body remains facing sideways at the hit. At contact, for a topspin backhand, the racket face points to the target and the arm and racket move through the ball and finish high so the hand is at head level and the racket is pointing at the sky (see figure 7.20e). Note that for a backspin backhand, the racket begins above the contact point and swings in a high-to-level pattern with the racket face slightly open at the contact point.

Backhand Ground Stroke Drill

To have your players practice backhand ground strokes, divide them into groups of four, with two players positioned at each service line. To begin the drill, one player from one of the groups drop feeds a foam ball over the net using a backhand ground stroke and immediately moves out of the way so that a partner can be ready to hit the return shot. One of the players on the opposite line returns the ball using a backhand ground stroke and also moves out of the way so that a partner can then be ready to return the ball when it comes back. Players continue to alternate and hit crosscourt backhand ground strokes until they have made 20 consecutive hits. At that point they move back to a position between the service line and baseline and hit until they have hit 20 consecutive crosscourt backhand ground strokes using low-compression balls. At that point they move back to the baseline for 20 consecutive crosscourt backhand ground strokes using regular tennis balls.

This is an excerpt from Coaching Youth Tennis, 4th Edition.

 



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