Ah, the forehand!
The quintessential stroke in tennis and the one that most people will learn to hit first. Swung across your body with your dominant arm, the forehand is generally seen by many as the most comfortable of the main tennis shots.
When we look at the majority of great professional players, almost all of them wield what we would call excellent forehands that have helped bring them much of their success. From Roger Federer, to Rafael Nadal, to Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, forehands have led the way for Grand Slam Champions to write their names into the history books.
So why is it so important?
Well, it’s usually the most natural feeling shot, a go-to option in moments of intense pressure to help players deal with lengthy rallies. Since you use your dominant arm and dominant side of your upper body to create the momentum, you have more control and stability on the forehand side. As a result, you can relax more into the swinging motion and work on directing the ball easier.
To summarise, forehands usually allow players that bit more freedom to really concentrate on their games, rather than worry about overthinking their technique.
With that all being said, if you don’t know how to hit one, you’re in trouble.
Luckily, you’re in the right place! Take a seat and have a read of our list of tips and tricks on how to hit a forehand in tennis!
How to Hit a Forehand in Tennis: 8 Easy Steps
Right, let’s get this bit out of the way first!
If you don’t have a secure and comfortable hold of the handle, trying to hit a forehand could well end with you accidentally tossing the racket over the net and bonking your opponent on the head with it… You might win the match due to retirement but you’ll also likely lose friends as a result!
We recommend trying all of these grips to see what one suits you the best. There are more grip options but these are the three key modern forehand ones that will probably help you the most on your quest for greatness!
Eastern Grip – This is only slightly different from the Continental grip that most players use to serve. Holding your racket at a perpendicular angle to the ground as though holding a hammer, bring your hand slightly further around towards the dominant side of the handle and rest your right index knuckle against the side bevel.
The Eastern forehand grip will get your hard and flat shots but leave you looking for spin!
Semi-Western Grip – When learning how to hit a forehand in tennis, the Semi-Western grip is as good a starting point as any. A common grip amongst professional players, it aims to provide the right balance between spin and flat ball-striking. It offers a good mix of the technical elements of the modern game.
Starting with that same Continental serving grip, bring your hand around once more towards the dominant side of the handle. You want to rest your index finger against the bevel below the side one, resulting in only a slightly more extreme grip than the Eastern.
Western Grip – OK, this is where things get slightly more complex. The Western grip should really only be tried by more advanced players who are looking to experiment with a good amount of topspin.
Beginning with the usual Continental serving grip, bring your hand around once again towards your dominant racket handle side and rest your index knuckle against bevel five. Yup, that’s the bottom bevel of the handle that’s facing the ground. This grip is particularly difficult to properly master and will result in some frustration to begin with.
As a result, we here at Mind the Racket suggest that you try the Semi-Western and Eastern grips to begin with before trying any others!
Before hitting a forehand, you want to try and be as much towards the centre of your baseline as you can be. We know this isn’t always the easiest thing to accomplish – especially when in the middle of intense rallies! – but make sure to train yourself to track back towards the middle after every shot. You’ll be better placed to stride out to your forehand.
Keep an open stance, facing your opponent over the net. No need to commit until they’ve hit the ball but keep on your toes and get ready.
When your opponent strikes their shot, remember to take a brief split-step. This will help your legs gain momentum to then move towards your forehand side.
As the ball is coming through the air towards your forehand, turn your body towards your dominant side. Your non-dominant shoulder should now be facing the net. Move your feet into positon and direct your non-dominant arm towards the ball to help aim your swing.
Bending your knees slightly, keep your eyes trained on the ball at all times throughout the process.
Bring your non-dominant foot forward and angle it towards the net to give you a stable base as you bring your racket across your chest and station it ready to swing. Your racket should take a slightly curved route, up and then down and then forward to hit the ball. This will all help with gaining power and spin.
Keeping your non-dominant arm out in front to steady you and your eyes still tracking the ball, be ready to swing forward when the time comes. Don’t overthink and don’t panic.
5. Forward Swing
You want to be aiming to hit the ball around waist height so as soon as the ball bounces, you’re going to want to begin swinging forward.
Following that curved C shape we’ve mentioned up above and using your upper body rotating back towards your non-dominant side to help gain momentum, bring your racket across your chest with your elbow slightly bent to help with the impact.
6. Contact Point
Try and make contact with the ball with the centre of the racket face. This will result in the cleanest sound and the best result in terms of where you’re aiming the shot.
Players often find mistiming their shots difficult and strike their forehands slightly too late or early. This impacts ball control. To avoid this, try and hit the ball when it’s just within your swing path out in front of you.
As a result of the C shape racket route you’ve been swinging on, the face of the racket should be parallel with the net when it makes contact with the ball. The trajectory of the swing will also be going slightly upwards which should help get some of that helpful topspin rotation.
7. Follow Through
For an ideal and smooth transition into your next shot, make sure to finish the swing of your forehand by bringing it up and over your non-dominant shoulder.
Allow your upper-body to naturally bring you around to face the net and be sure to keep your eyes on that ball because if you haven’t hit a winner, you KNOW that it’s about to come back over once again.
Tennis is a game of repetition as we all know!
8. Celebrate a Winner!
If you HAVE hit a winner, go wild and fist-pump or shout “come on!” like all of the professionals do. It looks great when they do it on the lawns of Wimbledon so we’re sure your local club courts is a setting that warrants a bit of celebration as well!
How to Add Top Spin to Your Forehand
As we always say, up and through is the way!
Keep in mind that natural C swing path we’ve talked about throughout this article. This will help you swing slightly upwards and through the ball, causing it to whip forward with topspin over the net before dipping back down into court.
You can add more spin to the ball by simply upping that swing trajectory to a more extreme angle and swiping up the ball quicker.
Forehand Tennis Drills
Finally, let’s run through a handful of forehand tennis drills that you can go away and work on!
Drop Forehand Feeds – This is going to help maximise your ability to generate your own pace and spin. Have your hitting partner feed you nice, simple balls repeatedly and get swinging away at them. Really work on swiping over the ball and getting it to dip down into court before the baseline.
Drop Forehand Feeds Across Body – A variation of the one described above but this time, your hitting partner is going to be toss the ball lightly across your body towards your forehand side. Between every forehand, trace slightly back towards the centre of the court. This will encourage you to naturally do this after every forehand when in a match scenario!
Deep And Short Feeds – Again, another similar feeding exercise. Have your partner toss balls repeatedly, interchanging between a short one and a baseline one. This will mean that you need to move your feet quickly up and back down the court. By the end of this exercise, you’ll have the importance of moving your feet quickly for forehands ingrained in your head.
Drive Volley Forehands Feeds – Probably the hardest drill to master, this requires you to take the ball right out of the air with a drive swing forehand volley. Have your partner feed the balls slightly higher to your forehand side to help settle you into a rhythm.
Once you’ve found your timing, you can change things up by trying a version of this while constantly approaching the net. This will benefit when you need to work on attacking approach shots up the court.
And there we have it!
Ideally, you’ll be feeling slightly more at ease when it comes to knowing how to hit a forehand in tennis. We hope you’ll now have the confidence to take to the courts like Serena and dominate your opponents with aggressive forehand drive swings from the baseline…
If you don’t feel like you’re quite at that stage yet, don’t worry. As with any tennis stroke, working on improving your forehand is a gradual process and nobody is perfect. Even we here at Mind the Racket need to work on our games from time to time… Some of us more than others!
With that all said, feel free to take a look back up the page to help solidify some of our tips and tricks in your head before rolling to the courts to practice.
Whenever you’re ready, we’ll see you out there!