The Gasquet backhand includes many of the same technical qualities inside the stroke that is shared by other great one handed backhand players on tour. These commonalities account for why Richard Gasquet is able to produce a solid and consistent one handed backhand with both power and heavy topspin.
The Birth of the Richard Gasquet Backhand
In the spring of 2005, Roger Federer was dominating men’s tennis, winning almost every tournament he entered. Although he was upset by Marat Safin in the semi-finals of the Australian Open earlier that year, no one expected that he would lose anytime soon to any other player, especially a young and inexperienced one. But surprisingly, that is exactly what happened in Monte Carlo.
Federer came up against an 18 year old French player named Richard Gasquet. The kid was very good and was playing a game that was truly pleasing to the eyes. He had graceful strokes and moved smoothly and effortlessly – just like Federer. But while it was mainly the forehand of Federer that impressed everyone, this kid had a different shot that drew oohs and aahs.
It was the Gasquet backhand that garnered all the attention. It was flashy, powerful and had great variety. He could loop the ball high, drive it hard, create angles, hit passing shots, slice, drop and lob. He was using it to full effect and it helped him escape a Federer match point to create one of the monumental upsets in all of tennis for that particular year.
Gasquet actually had been a highly touted player since 2002 when he was 15. He played his first match on the main tour at that age. He also played his first grand slam match at Roland Garros that year.
The Federer win was his first big result against a top player. Since then, Gasquet’s results have fluctuated but he has frequently been ranked in the top 20. He has had some injury problems and been criticized for not being mentally stronger. But he has had his moments. In 2007, the signature
Gasquet’s backhand: A World Class One Handed Backhand
Gasquet backhand helped him produce an astounding 93 winners in an upset win over Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Though he would go on to lose his semi-final match against Federer, to date it remains as his best performance at a grand slam event. But if you count doubles, then consider that he won the French Open mixed doubles title with fellow French player Tatiana Golovin in 2004 at the age of 17.
The Gasquet backhand is a very long and well-timed stroke. It begins as soon as he realizes that the ball is coming over to that side. He needs to have great anticipation because a swing as long and fast as his requires precise timing. He gets into a closed stance by stepping out to the ball with his right foot. Although his stance is closed, his right foot points a little to the net.
This will allow him to uncoil more fully into the shot later on. His knees are bent comfortably and his hips are perpendicular to the net. This entire position of the lower body at the beginning of the stroke provides a stable foundation for the swing.
Richard holds the racket in a strong eastern backhand grip. Back in the day when one-handed backhands were the norm, this was called the semi-western backhand grip. Compared to the traditional eastern backhand grip, this grip puts more of the hand and wrist behind the racket. His non-dominant left hand is also holding the racket but at the throat. This hand helps him take the racket back.
Gasquet Backhand Backswing
The top of the backswing of the Gasquet backhand is quite high; the racket head gets above the level of his head. His shoulder turn is so full that his chin is above his right shoulder. This exaggerated coil of the trunk enables him to store maximum potential energy that will be unleashed later on into the shot. His head is calm, low and facing the ball, focusing on it. Although Gasquet’s technique is great for creating a powerful shot, it is also difficult to time so not all players take a swing as elaborate as his.
With the ball approaching closer, Gasquet now begins his forward swing. From the apex of the take back, he now starts the circular downward and forward motion of the racket. The left hand remains on the throat until the racket head has dropped below the level of the ball. The right arm is straight and the wrist remains cocked back so that the butt cap of his racket is facing the net. As he continues to unwind his body, the wrist will later catch up to his arm at impact, creating immense racket head speed.
Gasquet Backhand Down Swing
At the moment of impact, the racket head is now moving at maximum speed. His body continues unwinding synchronously from the shoulders to the torso to the hips. His knees remain bent and his contact point is out in front of his body. The arm is straight at impact and it will stay so for the rest of the swing.
The Gasquet backhand strike zone has a good range of height – from knee level to around shoulder height. He can therefore handle a low skidding slice or a high kicking topspin shot equally well. The legs begin to lift his body up and carry him forward, transferring all his weight into the shot. His head remains still and focused on the ball. It remains so even after contact. This ensures that his shot will consistently have good control and minimizes the chance of any mishits.
Richard Gasquet Backhand Footwork and Weight Transfer
The Gasquet backhand has ideal weight transfer. At impact, body weight is has transferred completely to the front foot or right foot. The transfer of weight makes his left foot leave the ground as if he’s kicked off to launch into the shot.
With the legs lifting him up and the racket head going through the ball from low to high, topspin is applied to the shot. Throughout the swing, the left arm provides balance by extending backward.
A unique feature of the Gasquet backhand is a flick of the wrist at the moment of impact. This action provides him with disguise and variety. This snapping motion varies with the amount of topspin he wants to put into the shot.
Almost all of his regular backhands have topspin, but the degree of spin is greatly variable. As a consequence of this flick, his follow through will also have alterations depending on the amount of spin he has applied to the ball.
If he has hit with heavy topspin, his racket head will be above the level of his head at the end of the follow through. A flatter shot will end up just above shoulder level.
In either case, the arm remains straight and extends out fully into the direction of the ball and continues around his body. His racket will actually finish behind him as he opens his hips to face the net again.
Richard Gasquet Backhand Contact Point
In fact, if you superimpose a picture of Gasquet at the top of his take back over a photo of him at the end of the follow through, you will see that the racket heads on the pictures overlap significantly. Richard recovers for the next shot easily because he has unwound properly and has remained in perfect balance.
Richard Gasquet Backhand Follow Through
Gasquet’s picturesque backhand continues in the tradition of graceful single handers like Gustavo Kuerten and Justine Henin. Players who use one hand on the backhand usually count that wing as the weaker one but not Gasquet. He is at least as strong, if not stronger, from the backhand.
From this analysis of the shot, it is easy to see why. If you want to have his backhand, you have to make sure that you have his extraordinary sense of timing. It can be easy to copy the high take back, full swing and extra-long follow through but it will be very tough to time the ball properly. It would be more advisable to simply admire the grace, power and beauty of the Gasquet backhand.
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