How to Hit a Backhand in Tennis: 4 Easy to Follow Steps

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It’s rare to come across someone who plays tennis that doesn’t have a shot that they favor the most.

It’s also not that much of a stretch to say that most of the people probably favor their forehands over their backhands.

Stop! Hold on! Wait a minute! Put your pitchforks down for a minute!

We’re not saying that there aren’t backhand lovers out there! We here at Mind the Racket love the backhand and the variety that the shot can provide.

However! If you were to take a poll, we wager that a lot of players would tell you that they feel more comfortable hitting their forehands. It’s not particularly hard to see why either, what with the forehand being a more natural swing across your body with your more dominant arm.

Having said that, the very fact that forehands are generally seen as the preferred shot by players is all the more reason to learn a good backhand technique. With time, we can work towards it being a benefit, rather than a weakness.

With that said and clarified, we’ve put together a list on how to hit a backhand in tennis. Take a break from hitting those inside-out forehand passing shots and come sit with us awhile!

One Handed Vs Two Handed Backhands

The backhand is – generally speaking! – the only shot in tennis that there are two distinct versions of, both of which have defined positives and negatives that go alongside them. When you first pick up a racket, you’re going to need to decide what feels more comfortable for you.

how to backhand in tennis

One Handed Backhand 

This is your original backhand, the one you’ll see if you watch an old black and white tennis match from back when the players used wooden rackets. Back then, the game of tennis looked and felt very different from what it is today and one handed backhands were the norm.

Flash-forward to now and we see a very different tennis landscape, filled with metal rackets and heightened string technology. Through it all, however, the one handed backhand has persevered. Many professionals still swing with one arm, the most notable of which is the 20 time Grand Slam winner, Roger Federer!

There are a few positives to using a one handed backhand. It’s a versatile shot, allowing you to flick and stretch from both defensive and attacking positions. You can also create an angle by swinging across your body, resulting in tight shots that will bring your opponent out wide. On top of that, slicing and volleying will come more naturally as a result of choosing to use a one handed backhand.

Pros:

  • Good on the stretch
  • Easy to control angles
  • Strengthens the slice and volley
  • It looks pretty awesome

Cons:

  • Inconsistent
  • Can be difficult to control
  • Generally harder to pull off
how to backhand in tennis

Two Handed Backhand

Now here’s the modern backhand, the one that’s only really recently came to prominence in the last few decades. Metal rackets and strings brought with them more of a focus on power and strength and that’s where the two handed backhand really shines.

At first a unique oddity amongst professional players, the two hander became massive as the prominence of the ones that chose to use it steadily grew. 

With two handers getting more and more of the limelight, it was far more common to see youngsters using them. That leads us up to now where the two hander is seen very regularly on the junior, senior, and professional levels of the sport. One of the most famous two-handed backhands belongs to 23 time Grand Slam winner, Serena Williams!

Many coaches see the two hander as having more benefits than the one hander. Using two hands allows you the stability and power to press through shots easily, while also giving you the chance to direct your shots cleanly. 

You can also drive volley securely and take balls from a high bounce without the worry of mistiming your swing as much. It’s undeniably a more consistent shot than the one hander.

Pros:

  • Solid power
  • Stable and consistent
  • Easy to hit angles and directions
  • Cam add or take away topspin easily

Cons:

  • Doesn’t look as awesome
  • You’ll still need a one hander

With that all said, we here at Mind the Racket implore you to try both versions of the backhand when you’re starting out. Both are brilliant options that should be experimented with.

How to Hit a Backhand in Tennis: 4 Easy Steps

Step 1: The Grip

This is as good a starting point as any. You don’t want to be swinging your racket for a backhand and find it slipping from your grasp as you try and execute the shot!

For both the one handed backhand grip and two handed backhand grip, you’re going to want to take your dominant hand and wrap it around the bottom of the racket handle in what’s known as a Continental grip or the chopper grip as it’s also known.

Pick the racket up and hold it with the frame at a perpendicular angle with the ground. The racket should feel like a weighted hammer or axe in your hand, which is where the chopper moniker comes from! This grip is going to allow you to sweep the racket through the air easily and comfortably.

For the two handed backhand, simply clasp the handle with your other hand just above your dominant hand in an Eastern-forehand grip. This will require you to put your non-dominant hand securely around the other side of the handle. Keep your hands close but don’t sit them right on top of each other! This isn’t a golf club and you’ll need your top hand to have room to maneuver the racket.

Keep trying with the backhand grip until you feel comfortable. Take as many practice swings as you need until it sticks.

Step 2: Preparation

You’re going to want to keep your eye on the ball as it’s coming towards you. Face down the court and as your opponent hits it, take a small split step to help get yourself ready to move in the direction you’re going to need to go move in

At this time, hold the racket steady with both hands on the racket. Regardless if you decide to go for the one or two hander, you’re still going to need both hands to help get the racket into proper position!

Step 3: Backswing

As soon as you see the ball coming towards you’re backhand side, you’re going to want to begin to get ready to tackle it head-on. As you move into position to be ready to hit the ball, turn your body towards your backhand side with your dominant shoulder facing across the net towards your opponent. Don’t worry. We’re not going to ask you to shoulder barge them.

If you’ve chosen to use a one handed backhand, keep your non-racket hand steady around the throat of the racket as you bring it back behind you and place your dominant leg out in front of you for your hitting stance. You want to bring your racket right the way across your chest in a slightly curved trajectory to be ready to propel forward through the shot.

With a two handed backhand, place your non-dominant hand up above your racket hand on the handle and begin bringing the racket across your chest as well. The good thing about the two handed backhand is that there’s far more opportunity for a shorter backswing if you’d prefer to punch through the shot instead. This is much harder with a one handed backhand.

Regardless of which backhand you’ve chosen, you’ll be standing sideways on, ready to swing your racket forward to meet the ball. Right before swinging, the butt of the racket should be facing forwards towards the net. Keep that strong stance with your dominant foot angled diagonally down the court, bend your knees to allow for momentum and get ready.

Here. It. Comes!

Step 4: Follow Through

When learning how to hit a backhand in tennis, this is the big moment and you don’t want to mistime the shot or frame it… Not to put pressure on you or anything!

For a one handed backhand, lower the racket slightly and let go of the throat of it with your non-dominant hand. You’re going to want to aim to hit the ball at around waist height. As you extend your arm back across your chest with on an upwards trajectory, try and make connection with the ball as it comes into range.

Try and pull the racket up and through the ball when it’s just in front of you to impart some topspin. This will help lift it up and over the net. When you’re making contact, make sure to stretch out behind you with your other arm. For one thing, you’ll look wonderful and for a second thing, it will help with forward momentum and general balance.

When it comes to a two handed backhand, you’re not really going for the same full extension with your arms. Bring the racket forwards with your shoulders slightly bend and push forwards with your upper body to gain the speed needed for impact with the ball.

Swing up and through the ball for that necessary topspin and finish with the racket up over your dominant shoulder for maximum follow-through to end the shot.

The key thing to keep in mind here is that your upper-body is going to be doing a LOT of rotation around towards your forehand side with your arms to be able to help with the momentum needed for hitting power.

All of this is going to sound like a bit much to take in but honestly, just get out there practicing and find your groove. It will eventually come to you, we can reassure you of that.

How to Add Spin to Your Backhand

Up and through! Up and through! Up and through!

That’s what you’re going to be aiming for when trying to impart topspin on the ball. Keep the racket trajectory steady and solid, as a slightly raised angle throughout your swing. This goes for both the one handed and two handed backhands, although it must be said that with two hands, it is generally easier to consistently add spin with the second hand doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

The less spin you want to add, the more directly straight your swing path through the ball is going to be. Keep this in mind when trying to judge how much topspin you want to impart on any given shot.

Backhand Tennis Drills

Let’s quickly cover a good backhand drill for two handed backhand. One handers can do this as well to help strengthen their other arm to help them set up for shots.

Take your non-dominant hand and place it where you would at the top of the racket handle as if you were about to hit two handed backhand. Have someone feed you shots to your backhand side and using only your non-dominant hand at the top of the racket handle, strike the ball up and over the net.

This is going to help you strengthen that wrist to better prepare you for when you’re hitting topspin shots. Keep at it for as long as you feel necessary and then put your other hand on the handle and try striking regular two handed backhands.

Notice the difference?

Final Thoughts

We are all backhanded out!

We’re hopeful that you’re going to leave us here today with a greater sense of what kind of technique is required to how to hit a backhand in tennis.

If you feel even a tiny bit more secure in your understanding of the shot, that’s good enough for us and we’d welcome you to take another look back up the page at any key areas you think you may need to focus on a bit more.

As with any shot, we say that you can’t practice enough in your effort to properly perfect it. Take your time and don’t rush, there’s always one more rally available for you if you need it.

And with that, we’re off to bed, we’re shattered after all that!

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