The double handed backhand has gone from novelty to standard operating procedure in the past several decades.
Years ago, almost no one gripped the racquet with two hands when turning to the backhand side; today, very few players hold their racquet with just one hand when they execute the backhand. In fact, the evolution of the backhand has been one of the biggest changes to occur in tennis over the past 30+ years.
Many players have adopted the double handed backhand because when they first started playing the game at a young age, they were too weak to hit the ball effectively with just one arm on the backhand side. Others use two hands because they were taught that stroke from day one as they learned the game. Still others are somewhat ambidextrous and it feels fairly natural to use both hands on the backhand side.
Whatever the reason, there are pros and cons to using the double handed backhand:
Pros of the Double Handed Backhand
Two hands on the racquet ensure greater control on the shot because it is far easier to generate topspin on the ball, giving better accuracy.
Many high balls are hit more easily with a double handed backhand.
More power is generated on the stroke, to the point that it might even surpass the forehand for speed.
The double handed backhand can be hit with a more open stance, reducing the amount of footwork needed to get into position to hit the backhand.
Cons of the Double Handed Backhand
The reach of a double handed backhand is significantly less than the one-handed backhand.
Low balls are a problem for the double handed backhand as well. Those that are struck are not hit with much pace.
After hitting a double handed backhand, it can be more difficult to advance to the net because the shot yields much less forward momentum than the single-handed backhand. The player with the double handed backhand also will be tempted to use both hands on volleys at the net, which should be avoided.
All in all, like many strokes in tennis, the individual player will need to decide what feels most comfortable. If one has learned the one handed backhand and becomes dissatisfied with it, the switch to double handed backhand is not too difficult. To change from double handed to one handed backhand, however, will take much practice.
As you watch professionals play at the highest level, you will marvel at the wizardry of Roger Federer’s one handed backhand, but you also can’t help but be awed by the power of the Williams sisters’ double handed backhand, a lethal shot that can score points from anywhere on the court. double handed backhands usually have more power than their single-handed cousins.
Fundamentals of Double Handed Backhand Technique
Let’s discuss the technique of the double handed backhand, which can be broken down into four movements:
Pivot and Shoulder Turn—
To first get into position to hit a double handed backhand, pivot with your outside foot and transfer your weight to that foot. Simultaneously, turn your shoulders sideways, which will cause your racquet to come back. Your arms should not get involved in bringing the racquet back just yet. Thus, the first three words that should enter your mind as you practice this movement are “Pivot and turn.”
Take the Racquet Back—
After pivoting and turning your shoulders, use both arms and a continued shoulder turn to position the racquet behind you. At the end of this step, the racquet should be completely behind you in a full backswing, ready to power forward and meet the ball. You should be looking at the ball over your front shoulder at this point as your body is moved at least sideways to the net, possibly more.
You are cocked and ready to fire now. One mistake that players often make at this point is not taking the racquet completely back, past a point parallel to the baseline. Many players think that with two hands on the job, they can rely on that added power to effectively execute the shot, sacrificing good technique in the process. Be sure that you do not stop with the shoulder turn; use your arms to complete your racquet preparation and get it back at least 45 degrees past the baseline.
Three elements comprise this step: 1) push off your outside foot; 2) rotate your body toward the net; 3) drop the racquet down and swing forward. These three movements should all occur at about the same time. Don’t neglect to rotate your body, it will add much-needed power to your shot.
On the double handed backhand, you can often sense the “unscrewing” of your body as you strike the ball much more profoundly than on the forehand. That is because both hands and arms are reared back. As you come out of the cocked position you will feel the rotation more precisely than on the forehand.
If you don’t feel any uncoiling, then you have not rotated enough and your shot will be weak because you have not created enough torque. Your contact point should be about waist high, slightly in front of your body. If you are making contact behind your body, you are late!
Here we have by far the most neglected part of the double handed backhand stroke. Even players that follow through beautifully on their forehands often neglect to do the same after hitting a double handed backhand. Perhaps it is because both hands are on the racquet for a long time and the follow through feels a bit stiff and awkward.
Whatever the reason, do not fail to follow through on your double handed backhand! Bend your elbows and allow the racquet to finish over your front shoulder in a relaxed motion. The follow through is often not done because, again, perhaps the player thinks logically that with two hands powering the stroke, good form is not as necessary to ensure a well-struck ball full of pace. This is not the case, however.
A sound follow through will ensure that maximum power has been delivered to the ball and you are now ready to move as needed for the next shot. At the end of your follow through, your body should be facing the net and your feet ready to move.
Developing Sound Double Handed Backhand Technique
These four elements of double handed backhand technique might sound simple enough, but many club players do not execute all of them with each stroke. They then wonder why their backhand is never as strong as their forehand. It is no mystery!
With the advent of the double handed backhand, players often use their hands and wrists more than their torsos to generate power. They think “Two is greater than one, so I must be generating far more power than with a one-handed stroke.” Yes and No.
Yes, two is in fact greater than one, but if racquet preparation is sacrificed, the body does not turn back, then forward and no follow through is generated. In other words, two might actually become less than one.
Importance of Double Handed Backhand Technique
Just because you are using two hands on your backhand, do not think for an instant that you can neglect sound technique, namely the ready position with racquet back and torso turned, and the follow through, with racquet over the shoulder and body unscrewed towards the net. Excellent technique plus two equals tremendous power, in most cases greater than one.
Although Roger Federer and Justine Henin might disagree, two hands are often better than one on the backhand. They can turn a “weak” side into a strength as the ball is consistently clubbed with force and your opponent begins to realize that picking on your backhand side was a grave error.
Pivot and turn, take your racquet back, swing forward and follow through to victory. The double handed backhand might become your weapon of choice on the court.
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