There is a global misconception that learning technique that tour professional players use is something that is unobtainable for the average player and something that novice players should not attempt.
We believe that it is the teaching methods used to show the strokes that are difficult and that is what makes the strokes of the professionals unobtainable.
Actually, the technique that the tour professionals use is the most efficient and easiest technique to learn. But it does require a thorough understanding and very clear instruction.
Today we will prove this to you how easy it is to learn the same exact two-handed backhand technique that almost every top two-handed backhand in the world uses. After you have completed this article you will also have a thorough understanding of exactly what fundamental common reference points to focus upon of which you can then immediately apply to your own two-handed backhand.
We will break the technique down into three phases:
- The preparation
- The hitting zone
- The ending
We then derive similar fundamental reference points from these phases for you to learn from and apply to your own game. So let’s get to it.
Step One- The Preparation
notice the similarity In both players preparation
The first step we will look at is the preparation phase of the stroke. Both players take the racquet back by coiling the hips and the upper torso. This assures that the racquet is taken back consistently to the same location each and every time and will allow for more storage of kinetic energy to be released upon the ball. The four fundamental commonality reference points to mimic in the final preparation position of the backhands of Safin and Nalbandian are:
(observe the reference points to mimic in the preparation phase)
- The 1st reference point to mimic is to place the hands near chest height as illustrated in the above pictures when taking the racquet back into the final preparation position. Placing the hands at this height allows the players to generate more racquet head speed before making contact with the ball compared to that of a lowered hand position or straight back racquet take back.
- The 2nd reference point to note is that both players racquets point upward toward the sky in the final preparation position before they start their downswing. By pointing the racquet up high like this, the player’s take advantage of the use of gravity and centrifugal force. From this high position, the racquet will gain maximum momentum before contact without having to use as much of their own energy to strike the ball as opposed to a straight or down low take back classical style two-handed backhand used predominantly not too long ago. I encourage all players, whether recreational players or competition level to try this high take back preparation.
- By making this minor adjustment to your current backhand preparation, it will naturally give one more power.
- The 3rd reference point to mimic is to make sure when you reach your final preparation position that you have a slight bend in the left elbow as you see Safin demonstrate clearly in the above pictures. Every top backhand on tour incorporates this fundamental commonality.
- The 4th reference point to observe and mimic is that the player’s weight should be completely loaded onto the left leg (assuming you are right-handed).
So now make a split step and coil your upper body and take your racquet back into your final preparation position. Stop once you get to your final preparation position and then observe to see if you met all four reference points listed above. Do this over and over in order to create proper muscle memory until you can do it with your eyes closed and still meet your reference points. This is the fastest way to learn technique and if you create muscle memory before you walk on the court to practice a new technique then you will get much faster results. Now let’s move onto step two – the hitting zone.
The Hitting Zone (Contact Point)
(Observe the hands drop below the ball here before approaching contact)
In step two there are six specific reference points that you should mimic that both Safin and Nalbandian employ throughout the hitting zone phase of the backhand:
- The first reference point to note is the dropping of the hands below the level of the ball just before contact. This action is vital to creating topspin and it also helps induce rhythm during the stroke.
- The second reference point to mimic is the collapse of the left leg just as the racquet drops into the hitting zone (assuming you are right-handed). Collapsing the left leg assists in getting the racquet head below the ball more easily.
- The third reference point to note is that both players weight has begun to transfer from their left leg forward to their right leg.
- The fourth reference point to note it that at contact the head should remain completely motionless or quiet. This will increase your visual acuity, help your balance, which leads to more consistency.
(both players make contact out in front of their body at the right foot with the left arm fully extended)
- The fifth reference point to mimic and the most important one is the position of the left arm at the contact point. Note that the left arm is completely extended or straight at ball impact. This is the most important kinetic cue for you to feel for when actually striking the backhand. Simply if your left arm is not straight at contact then you did it wrong.
- The sixth reference point to mimic is to make contact out in front of the body at the right foot at waist height.
To practice the contact point, start by dropping a ball on the ground and simply hit the ball waist height. Drop the ball out in front of your body at the right foot, put two hands on the racquet and strike the ball with two hands making sure the left arm remains straight at and through contact. Do this over and over paying special attention that you meet your reference points.
(both players make contact out in front of their body with the left arm fully extended at contact)
Once you get these reference points down in the hitting zone you will quickly find your backhand landing deeper in the court more consistently than ever before. Try it I guarantee you will be amazed. All the great backhands possess these fundamental commonalities. So if you forget any part of this article please don’t forget to achieve waist height contact and get the left arm straight by the time you make contact. Now let’s move on to the ending.
Step Three- The Ending
(Both players left arms remain extended well after contact and deep into their finish)
In step three we will give you three reference points to focus upon:
- The first reference point to mimic and the most important one of the ending is to finish with the left arm across the chest with an extended or straight arm.
( Tuck the left shoulder under the chin for a kinetic reference point demonstrated here by both players)
- The second reference point to note of which is a great visual and kinetic cue for you to feel for is to tuck the left shoulder under the chin. Both players demonstrate this in the photos above.
- The third reference point to note is to simply complete the transfer of weight all the way to the right leg as you see demonstrated by Safin and Nalbandian above.
This is the purest ending form of all backhand techniques. The simpler something is the less that can go wrong with it. This backhand technique is very straightforward. literally. These guys for the most part simply use a loop back swing and swing straight through the ball with great extension toward their intended target. Due to the linear motion and extension through the hitting zone, the strings follow the target longer than any other backhand form. Consequently, the ball stays on the strings longer than other backhand techniques. This gives a player more directional control of the ball as well as greater depth of shot.
We teach this ending quite frequently and I have had great success with both professional players as well as with juniors. This technique is very easy to learn if you follow and apply the reference points in this article
So there you have it. I have broken down the backhand technique of two of the best backhand ball strikers in the game today and put it neatly into an easy to understand step-by-step system for you to follow. Now it is your turn to go practice the three steps and master the reference points one by one. Once you have done that you will have added one more weapon to your repertoire of shots.
Keep us posted on how it goes.