In the modern era of tennis, two-handed backhands have become popular. Most junior and college players at clinics, camps and facilities are being taught to use the two-handed backhand. Top players on the tour are using two-hand backhands. However, the one handed backhand is still around. It did not die like the wooden or metal racket by the 1990s.
Players like Roger Federer, Stanalinis Wawrinka, Feliciano Lopez, James Blake, Richard Gasquet, Justine Henin, Francesca Schiavone are some of the few professional tennis players who use the one handed backhand.
Players like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, John Isner, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Maria Kirilenko are among the majority of professional tennis players today who use the two handed backhand.
At Cooper Tennis Complex and Drury University, I have been approached by many players who ask what is the better stroke: the one handed or two handed backhand? I have taught people to use both, but I mainly teach the two handed backhand. Personally, I prefer the two handed backhand. I prefer it because it is a powerful, diverse and stable shot.
The following is an analysis of the one handed backhand vs the two handed backhand:
First and foremost, when one is watching tennis today, the one-handed backhand is an impressive, inspiring, eye-catching and sublime shot. Antonio Van Grichen, a coach of some of top women tennis players in the world, thinks the one-hander is “the more artistic of the two backhands…..because it is smoother, more fluid, and less constricting than the two-hander” (onthebaseline.com).
It is a great shot, but one of the most difficult strokes to teach. The motion is more simple than the two handed backhand (as shown in the videos below), but the footwork is more difficult. From my experience, recreational players focus on the motion of the arm rather than the footwork. This is a great pitfall to the one handed backhand – footwork.
At the college and professional level, there are some players who use the one handed backhand. But this is because of many dedicated hours in perfecting the stroke from footwork to the arm swing. The one handed backhand is not a natural stroke. It requires hundreds of hours of dedication in learning its technique.
The other key to the one handed back is the grip. Most players use Eastern Backhand grip. The following is a diagram of the grip:
Here are keys to the one-handed backhand (from essentialtennisinstruction.com):
- Eastern backhand grip enables and promotes topspin
- Topspin contact well in front
- Continental grip enables and promotes under spin – Rosewall
- Under spin contact less in front than topspin
- Continental grip helps this player build a solid backhand volley
- Stance can be closed, square or open, but players must try to step in
- Preparation turns the back to the net
- During the swing the non dominant arm stays back, keeps the player sideways
- Strokes are flowing and smooth
- Challenge occurs with high bounding balls
One Handed Backhand Instructional Videos
Coach Kyril Video
Video of Professional Tennis Player - James Blake Hitting One Handed Backhand
James Blake is a top American tennis player.
The two handed backhand is the backhand shot taught today. According to Justin Gimelstob, ATP player and current WTA commentator, says that “it’s just pure math. You get a lot more stability, balance, and ability to offset incoming speed with the two-hander” (onthebaseline.com).
Antonio Van Grichen agrees, “the two-handed backhand is great to return serve because you can shorten the swing and better neutralize your opponent’s power, thanks to the help of the non-dominant arm,” he says. “With the one hander you will only have your dominant arm, and that requires more strength” (onthebaseline.com).
I agree with the two professionals because it requires not only strength, but more coordination and focus. At the junior level and recreational level of play, tennis players do not have the technique or strength necessary for the one handed backhand. The two handed backhand is a more reliable shot, something that younger players need. It is also a more natural stroke and therefore easier to teach. Footwork is still important, but at an introductory level, the lack of footwork can be compensated for the use of two hands swinging the racket.
At the professional level, one handed backhand tennis players (with the exception of Roger Federer), are now being overpowered by players with the two handed backhand. Novak Djokovic, has dominated the men’s tour because his two handed backhand is as strong as his forehand. One the women’s side, Francesca Schiavone is virtually the only player with a one handed backhand. The one handed backhand is basically gone from professional women’s tennis.
The following is a diagram of the grip for the two handed backhand:
Keys to the two handed backhand (from essentialtennisinstruction.com):
- Eastern forehand grip for the non-dominant arm – promotes topspin
- Stance must be square or open to allow the hips to turn into the stroke
- Preparation is more sideways than the one hander with back to the net
- During the swing the dominant arm pulls up to impact, and the non-dominant arm takes over from contact to follow thru
- Strokes are strong and firm
- Challenge occurs when volleying or approaching
Two Handed Backhand Intructional Videos
Video of Professional Tennis Player – Rafael Nadal Hitting Two Handed Backhand
Rafael Nadal is currently the #2 Men’s Tennis Player in the world.
Similarities among the two strokes (essentialtennisinstruction.com)
- Play the ball in front
- Swing up for topspin
- Keep your eyes still
- Prepare with your weight on the back foot
Differences between the two strokes (essentialtennisinstruction.com)
- If you like the baseline - build a two hander
- If you move forward and like to volley – build a one hander
- If high bouncing balls bother you – build a two hander
- If you like to approach or play on grass courts – go with the one hander
Overall, the two handed backhand is the way to go. It is reliable, strong and balanced.