Stylish one-handed backhands are helping some players achieve career-best performances. Patrick Mouratoglou explains some advantages and technicalities of the stroke.
The one-handed backhand returned with a force during the US Open, despite the fact that many observers had long predicted it’s probable extinction. In New York, players like Richard Gasquet, Stanislas Wawrinka, Tommy Robredo and even Philipp Kohlschreiber proudly demonstrated the value of the stylish stroke as they achieved career-best performances.
Gasquet, long regarded as the man with the most beautiful backhand on tour, showed how the use of the single-handed stroke could help open up angles on court. The one hand allows for larger amplitude after striking the ball. This in turn allowed Gasquet to push David Ferrer to the side and open up the court in the quarterfinal. In a very different style, Wawrinka wore down
Tomas Berdych with the sudden change of pace also produced by his backhand, which he alternated with chops and attacks, short play and then long and fast play. The Czech lost his timing and did not know where to be on the court as he suffered a fourth round exit.
Moreover, the game that pitted Rafael Nadal against the German Kohlschreiber showed it was possible to resist the great Mallorcan The only drawback is the forehand on the diagonal with a one-handed backhand.
Two solutions are possible: knock the ball when it descends as Wawrinka did and as Gasquet often does, or in its upward trajectory option chosen by the German.
The first is rather defensive and allows the Spaniard to settle and take control of the match. The second is more offensive and Kohlschreiber entertained us for more than a set by forcing Rafa to back away from his early shots.
The only drawback is the effort that it requires, as taking a rising ball requires perfect placement for satisfactory ball control. Against Rafa, this need is made all the more difficult because the elevation can be wearing. The physical factor forces the opponent to surrender by producing more unforced errors.
Even though the one-handed backhand has a number of disadvantages, particularly with regard to return of serve, it’s also an ideal way to vary the game, ball heights and subsequent effects.
Patrick Mouratoglou is the founder of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Paris, which hosts an impressive array of coaches and players. Currently coach to world No.1 Serena Williams, Mouratoglou has also worked with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Marcos Baghdatis, Jeremy Chardy and Aravene Rezai.
This article first appeared in Australian Tennis Magazine.
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