The inside out forehand in tennis is similar to baseball, as you go “the opposite way.” as baseball batters do with a similar approach to hitting the ball.
The inside out forehand has come into vogue as fans witness the artistry of Roger Federer, who uses the shot quite often to win crucial points on the court.
Basically, the shot involves you standing on the backhand side of the court and pointing your feet towards the opposite backhand side, then ripping a forehand cross court (the inside out portion of the shot) and watching your opponent flail at the ball as he or she is shocked to see you go that way with a forehand.
The Inside Out Forehand in Tennis – Also Called the “Runaround Forehand”
The inside out forehand is also called the “runaround forehand” because you will have to shuffle your feet quickly to get into position to hit it. That is because the shot is most frequently used in backhand-to-backhand rallies.
As you and your opponent trade backhands (he or she senses that your backhand is weaker than your forehand, so he or she pounds that side), you spot a shot coming a bit slower than normal and decide to “run around” the backhand and now hit the ball from your forehand side.
You can make this decision based on the speed of the shot and the likelihood that you can get into position for this stroke, or you can simply decide that you are tired of trading backhands and want to both surprise your opponent and perhaps hit the ball a bit harder.
If your forehand is more accurate and reliable than your backhand (true for most players), then the inside out forehand can be a great stroke to utilize in the often-numbing backhand-to-backhand exchanges that can slow down any match.
Using the Inside Out Forehand as a Strategic Tennis Play
Let’s be honest: you also might want to use this stroke to spit in the face of your opponent’s strategy, who obviously has decided that your backhand is somewhat weak and he or she is going to take full advantage of that.
Rather than succumb to this strategy and play into your adversary’s hands, an inside out forehand delivers the message as follows: “You think that you can keep pounding that side of the court, but I have a delicious surprise for you.
I’m going to run around my backhand from time to time and snap a forehand crosscourt that will end this rally once and for all, thereby totally nullifying your plan A. My plan A beats your plan A, so I win. And your next tactic?”
Hitting the Inside Out Forehand to Avoid a Weak Backhand Shot
Another great time to use this stroke is when your opponent similarly decides to try and feast on your backhand as he or she serves to the non-ad court. Perhaps he or she has gotten away with spinning several serves to your backhand on that side, earning weak returns that have resulted in quick points. Time to break out the inside out forehand!
As the serve spins into that far corner, you shuffle quickly to the far left and smack an inside out forehand cross court, forcing the server to hit a backhand that is a tough shot when he or she was anticipating yet another weak backhand return. he or she will be forced to backpedal for a moment and you will get the weak backhand that he or she sought.
Benefits of Using the Inside Out Forehand Shot in Tennis
Again, it is a thumbed nose to the strategy of your opponent. He or she thought that they could feast on your backhand for a couple of hours and make you submit. Surprise, surprise! The inside out forehand has introduced a new element to the contest and nullified the plan A of your opponent. Many players have a very difficult time devising a plan B on the run, in the course of a match. The inside out forehand could be your key to dumbfounding your foe and perhaps winning a match that you normally would not.
Two other advantages quickly become apparent with the inside out forehand:
- The shot will have a trajectory that will cross over the lower portions of the net, towards the center line.
- Most players have greater control of their forehands and can thus hit the ball at an angle that is nearly impossible for the opponent to retrieve. This shot does not even have to be executed with a lot of power. If it is hit at a difficult angle, your challenger will never be able to return it.
Inside Out Forehand Technique
Now that we have gotten you psyched up about using this great, strategic shot, let’s review the technique needed to master this extremely effective stroke:
Position yourself further to the corner of the court, away from the center line, in order to hit this shot more effectively and use it for maximum surprise. This shot should be attempted when you can be aggressive in some point of the rally. Use this shot when you are in good position and feeling very confident. A weak inside out forehand will be gobbled up by your adversary.
With your feet parallel to the net but pointing slightly towards the backhand side of the opponent’s court, slacken your wrist a bit as your racquet forms a 90-degree angle to your forearm. In many forehand shots, your wrist should bend back a bit for “snap”; with the inside out forehand, this is absolutely crucial.
Adopt a semi-open stance as you draw back your racquet with a standard backswing. Your feet should be about midway between parallel to the net and perpendicular to the back line. As you are somewhat open in this stance, it will make it much easier to hit the inside out forehand.
At the end of your backswing, the racquet should be below the ball, which will allow you to brush the ball off your strings and create nice topspin. It helps to think of hitting the ball just inside the sweet spot of your racquet to maximize the inside out effect. Concentrate on hitting the ball about one inch from the center of the sweet spot, towards your racquet frame. This will enable you to truly execute the inside out forehand.
As you prepare to meet the ball, do your best to ensure that your wrist is still a bit slack and bent back towards your forearm. This position will give you a great chance to hit the inside out forehand with power and precision.
In contrast, the inside out forehand demands that your wrist still be supple and unflexed as you meet the ball. This will enable you to guide it to the backhand side of your opponent’s court. If you flexed your wrist at this point, you could drill the ball straight down the line to your left.
However, the inside out forehand is designed to surprise, so as your opponent anticipates you hitting a normal shot down the line, your wrist is subtly preparing to slap the ball to the opposite side, catching your adversary flat footed.
As you follow through, do so as you would with any shot—the racquet raised in a comfortable follow through motion, the back foot slightly raised in all likelihood. The difference again is the wrist, which is still bent back a bit and not flexed, expertly guiding the ball to the crosscourt spot that you seek.
As you continue to follow through, the racquet should be swung around to your shoulder as you complete an excellent stroke. By this point, your wrist will probably be bent more toward the racquet as you have completed the shot.
For more information on the inside out forehand, watch video clips of Roger Federer demonstrating this stroke in the course of a match. You will see how effective it is, and you can learn how to master it by watching the pros use it again and again. Your antagonists on the court will regret hitting to your backhand as you run around it again and again and slap pinpoint inside out forehands for winners. Advantage, you!
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