Written by Ian Westermann
Singles Strategy Video — 26 November 2013
Defeat the Inside Out Forehand – Singles Strategy Lesson

Ever play against an opponent in singles who is incredibly fast and hits only forehands?

It seems like no matter how good of a cross court backhand you hit they run around it and hit an offensive forehand.


Today’s lesson will give you my top three tips for dealing with that type of opponent.

Questions? Comments? Leave them down below. Thanks so much for watching!

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  1. All great tips. What about a drop shot to their forehand side to make them pay for being out of position?

  2. Pingback: Avoid the inside out forehand | Tennis: teach, play, fun

  3. Hi Ian,

    My daughter (who is 11) is always told by her coach that she needs to play aggressive. She, and I think a lot of other children and even adults, confuse playing aggressive with trying to hit winners all the time.
    How can I explain the difference?



  4. Hi Ian,
    Thanks for this video. I met such a player (strong forehand weapon, running around, whipping points both cross and inside out) only two days ago in a singles match in the national senior leage (65 yrs) and I had the lead 6-2 and 4-2 in the second when he started to furiously whipping in these forehand shots and he took the set in tiebreak and after that the match in a decisive long tiebreak 11-9.
    Well he was good but I am still frustrated.
    I have a good deep sliced backhand and tried to keep him back but he was patient and could choose when to run around and BANG there came the forehand again. I had earlier in the match had good down-the-line shots to make him run and missing but I had to admit that I sort of lost my flow, I was making more errors and could not control the game any more.
    I should have needed this lesson before to stay cool and have a plan B to trust.
    I have to work something out for future matches……
    Best regards Jan

  5. great tips. Now i need to work on increasing the speed and accuracy of my cross court back hand. Had hip surgery last year and when well enough came back to the ball machine and have been working on the slice back hand return cross court. I can hit these now pretty well but most of the time they float. the back spin i produce is difficult for the opponent to counter. That being said i still need to master the backhand power shot with top spin and accuracy

  6. how about working on sharper angles (not deep) to his backhand? even if he gets to it, he's way off the court. ah, the joys of a one-handed backhand! BOOM!

  7. i need some doubles guidance please!

  8. I've been up against a few players like this recently. I find that playing high and deep to the backhand corner tends to neutralize them. Topspin lob-like moonballs, heavy topspin kickers with a lot of net clearance. It is hard for them to down the line off these so it becomes a war of attrition – until they leave one short – and high bounces tend to create short returns. Then offensive opportunities open up.
    It is a grind to do this, but it does work and require more persistence than shot making skills.

    • Another 50s guy tried to do this since he teaches the kids at the school that beats other schools out here like a big tennis bully(no competition, just taking of lunch money). What works for teenagers, did not work so well for this old coach. It was a war of attrition, and the more he complained about soft balls and moon balls, the more I did it.
      He resorted to gamesmanship, then the wheels fell of his train.
      Also: short junk to forehand side after pinning them in the backhand corner works well.

  9. Great ! Always useful

  10. I have the opposite problem with a lefthanded player. He has a strategic similar to Nadal's: he charges my backhand with his forehand and when I left the ball short or in the middle shots a winner inside out to my forehand.

  11. Hi Ian and thank you for this new video.

    I have a tennis partner, 23 years old and football player, fast and playing 90% forehands.
    I have found a technique to reach his backhand: it is…
    …playing his forehand!

    I mean: as he's fast, his "middle" position is 3 feet to his backhand side.
    So if I play on his backhand side from the start, he will be in time for his inside out forehand.

    BUT if I play on his forehand, once or twice, to put him out of his "middle" recovery position.
    Then: I can quietly play on his backhand, with 2/3 feet margin from the corner and secure top spin , and be quiet sure to reach this damn backhand!

    Hope this can help…

  12. I have followed you long time and enjoyed your presentations, in fact used them in teaching my daughter how to play tennis. With this issue of spin I think you forgot a grip. All that you described is a grip problem, the western grip those professionals are holding create those spins not actually turning of hand or the racket being flat as you described, review it again and see what I am talking about.

  13. Ian, I liked your first tip to work on the backhand cross court with top spin. When I faced that type of opponent I try to angle my backhand as much as possible instead of try to hit it deep like you suggested. One good place to aim is near the T of side line and service line. This works better than aiming near the T of side line and base line because even a "right handed Rafael Nadal" would hit a backhand – otherwise, to hit a forehand, he would open the entire court.

  14. Thanks. Interesting as always.

  15. If he's not so good at hitting to your forehand corner, shading towards your backhand and hitting to his forehand are both good things to try.

    Improving your cross-court backhand will always help. But that's kind of like advising someone, "play better." Unfortunately, becoming an all-round better player yourself may be the only way to beat him. If his forehand is really good (hits both corners hard) and he's really fast with endurance, then his poorer backhand is pretty much hidden. All other things being equal, hes just really good. In that case, the only way to beat him is to become a better player yourself so that, taking your improved skills into account, either his forehand or his speed is no longer all that wonderful.

  16. Great topic ian. Very interesting problem that is very common with people copying the pros style.

    When i discover this problem i do find the down the line option works best whether driven or sliced.

    P.s i dont agree with Gus opinion. Sounds like a pusher !-)

    • Not a pusher at all, only trying to get out of the defensive situation where I'm receiving the opponent best shot to my weak backhand.
      Pros can break directonals with a great down the line winner over an over, I cant.

  17. Hello Ian.

    The 3 options you suggest are risky, I suppose to try it and see what happen.
    Maybe an approach down the line reducing the opponent time to react closing to the net. Fast top or very low slice. Not an easy shot to execute anyway.

    Two more options I think:
    – Go neutral with a big loop shot to the middle (better with heavy top), moving backward the opponent from the baseline and reducing his angles for the next shot.
    – Maybe the analisis is: simply don't play to his backhand if it's not a good offensive movement.

    In general it is a engaging situation and that's what make the inside-out forehand so effective.

  18. What about defeating the inside-out forehand in doubles – especially from the add side? Ken

    • That's a completely different ball of wax, Ken! Maybe I'll address it in a future video. Great suggestion!

  19. Hi Ian

    This summer I started playing again after 18 months out due to an injury. I work out with a partner 1-2 times during the week doing singles drills and play 5 hours of doubles on weekends. Recently my doubles opponents discovered my weakness….well the biggest anyway. when I am caught at baseline they hit very high very loopy/topspin groundstrokes to me and I have a hard time
    A) knowing what to do…where to return
    b) how to return/handle these shots
    c) remaining mentally tough
    d) staying positive while they consistently hit heavy topspin shots which it seems I eventually mess up


    • Great topics, Kevin. Maybe I can address a few of them in future videos. Great to hear that you're back on the court and recovered from your injury!

  20. Hey ,I like this video but its how to defend against my strong shot. Want to find out ,lets go hit a few balls sometime.

  21. Excellent tips! Thanks. I would add as the point first develops (return or 3rd shot) don't always try to squeeze it in to backhand. hit it cross court to their strong forehand but opening up the backhand space.

  22. good as always

  23. One of your best lessons, Ian. Thanks,

  24. Thank you.

  25. Ian, I like that you're doing more discussion of tactics and enjoyed this piece.

    Suggestion: Another play is the drop shot down the line. Cutting under a high ball to the backhand is natural for a lot of people, particularly us one-handers. Helps if you can first hit that good 5×5 topspin backhand you mentioned, to push him back.

    Low margin and not for every rally, but it can be effective.