Written by Ian Westermann
Backhand Technique — 12 February 2014
One Handed Backhand Like Stan

In today’s lesson I’ll be teaching you the top three things that you need to do for your one handed backhand to be more like Stanislas Wawrinka’s:

Positioning: way too many club players accept shots out of their “strike zone” while trying to hit their one handed backhand. Find out how to move your feet to deal with those tough, high shots.

Contact point: I’ll how you how to “make a fist” at the ball so that your contact point is further away from your body and more out in front. A comfortable contact point is crucial for your success!

Follow through: don’t use a short, tight, choppy follow through anymore! See what two positions I recommend you try so that your swing can be longer, looser, and more relaxed.

Hopefully this lesson is a huge help to you. Leave any comments or questions you may have below!

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  1. You never seem to talk about what grip you use to hit these shots. Why not?

  2. It's look like u watch me playing, and now telling me all mistakes i make.Thanxs that a great lesson.

  3. Ian- I like the points you make. I know in this format you cannot cover everything but I think the role of the left hand is big. Many player at the Recreational level tend spin open with the shoulders and are unable to stay sideways during the shot. Stan, Roger, Gasquet- they all use the left hand ….James

  4. Thx for the informative video. What do you think of Vic Braden's recommended finish – a sort of archway with the arm and racket?

  5. This was an excellent review of the one handed backhand. I will play tomorrow with them in mind.
    Thanks,
    Carol

  6. This is such a good video, Ian, simple points but effective and well explained. Thanks.

  7. I am also a left handed older player (59 yrs) and have used your videos to improve my game immensely. I wish I had taken up tennis way before my 40th birthday as I love the dynamics and physics of tennis and have much control of a tennis ball than say a golf ball. Hitting the ball sweetly and effortlessly is a joy and provides a sense of accomplishment as it is, I guess, with any ball sport.
    Also, I play a lot of vets tournaments & pennants now thanks to you and always wondered why right handed players whinge about playing against left handed players (I know we are gifted) as it seems to me that there should be no advantage being left handed as opposed to being right handed?

  8. Love all you videos Ian. As a lefty I'm learning so much by watching you.
    Polly

  9. great illustration of the fist facing the ball on contact – great visual to take out onto the court.

    thanks

  10. good instructions for the back hand thanks.

  11. Your description of the two follow throughs by defining the position of the butt cap was really helpful.
    I always felt that my follow through with the butt cap facing the opposite end of the court was better than with the butt cap facing the court surface. Now I understand that they're both equally as good. I notice that Youzhny almost always follows through with the butt cap facing the opposite end of the court.

  12. Great. I'll be 'shadow' practicing for another good month before I can get back on an outdoor court without the snow. Thanks to your lessons, I can use my imagination to picture the reaults. At least the 'visualisation' part of practice will still give me a purpose. Many thnks.
    Joe

  13. Great illustration on point of contact and follow through. If you could illustrate the use of the body ib the one handed backhand stroke as you did in the forehand video that would be very helpful.

    Additionally if you would do a video on the use of the off hand in all the tennis strokes that would be very helpful.
    i find that in my own game sometimes especially on the serve I do not grab the racquet with my left hand after serving (im right handed) so I end up not having the ability to switch to the correct grip for the next stroke. i only observed this after a video session.
    Topics should include when to hold the racquet with the off hand after each stroke and how long it should be held and the release point.

  14. Hi

    I send you my requst regarding my new order

    Order ID: 224330829

    To send me the link so I can start using it after I paid for it but recived no answer.

    dani

  15. Thank you for this video. Look forward to apply the lesson on the court

  16. Ian, Thanks again…Glad that Stan is keeping the one hander in the Top 10! (I think of making a fist at the ball, squaring up to the ball and going vertical for the topspin and finish as simultaneous. Comment?

  17. Ian,
    As usual, an excellent instructive video. But I noticed one big difference between you and Stan. In the positioning section, when you moved back to hit the ball at a comfortable height, you continued to move backwards. In fact, your left foot crossed over your right as you hit. Stan on the other hand, moved backwards to the right spot, then established a firm base, and hit moving forward. That seems like a important distinction.

    Go Stan!

    Tim

  18. Thanks for the video, Ian!

    Another aspect would be body rotation and how much we should get the racket in the back before hitting.

  19. Good advice….

  20. This was an excellent video. Having a one-hand backhand, I learned what to do to make it better. Next time I play (later today) I am going to concentrate on the 3 things you mentioned – position, striking ball and follow through. Hopefully, I will see a positive change in my game.
    Thanks so much,
    Carol

  21. ian can u differentiate between stan's and gasquet's backhand technique too?it would be very helpful !

  22. Will try the follow through. Looks good. Moving up or back so ball is played somewhere between shoulder and knee puts you on the path to be consistent and more power each time you hit the ball.

  23. Love these videos really help with all aspects of my tennis. Can you please email me this one on Stan Warinka's
    one had backhand. Thanks. keep them coming.
    Handler

  24. One hand backhand

    Very useful lesson. Why did not not mention point 4 i.e GRIP?

    Kind regards

    Bharat (London)

    • my own, ignorant opinion: the one-handed backhand grip starts with the index finger's knuckle resting on bevel 8, the so-called "eastern backhand" grip. this allows the hand to get behind the ball for maximum power and topspin. morever (and what so many coaches fail to mention, the remainder of the racquet below the knuckle ends with bevel 8 of the butt resting on the smaller of the two fleshy parts of the palm (by which i mean the opposite fleshy part below the pinkie finger and not the fleshy part below the thumb). put another way, the racquet starts with the knuckle on bevel 8, continues at a 45 degree angle across the palm, and ends with the butt of the racquet on the bottom of the palm.

  25. Good backhand tip; do u have same fore forehand?

  26. Tx Ian. Ihv been following ur lessons 4 some time now. I am a 68 year old v. passionate basically doubles club player. Greatly indebted to you for a phenominal improvement in my game thr' ur instructions on Serve esp. the kick serve, Volleys, forehand and foremost the backhand, which was my biggest weak point ever since. I hv miles to go in improvising my backhand yet.
    Now, I went thr' ur Wqawrinka backhand lesson, which I am going to try out iun 1/2 hr. I wish u d v. best in emenating your hard earned experience and knooledge.
    Dr. Mohan George

  27. Nice! Like the way it linked to the way Stan hits the ball.

  28. Great advice Ian! This one-hander is going to pay attention now.

  29. Good video Ian. So often we forget about the fundamentals. Best tip is about moving backwards or forwards to the strike zone – I often forget to do that.

    Really looking forward to the video on grips. This is my number 1 issue on the OHBH. When I'm having a bad day I often find my self hitting long due to the racquet face being open. I think this is because I don't move the raquet all the way round to the proper eastern BH grip and only going as far as continental.

  30. Another very effective stroke for a high one handed backhand is to develop an excellent slice. Here one strikes the ball at about shoulder high with backspin. One can hit such a shot with great depth and when required, angle. It's often a great approach shot when hit cross court with depth.

    • Not being a natural slicer on the backhand(very common in older players-wooden heavy racquets) I only slice when the ball has plenty of pace. Regards johnm

  31. Thanks for being so kind to share this with us!
    It's really profitable for us!

    Tulio
    Brazil

  32. Good review. As Carol mentioned, seems like the extension of the thumb parallel to the handle gives much more support and stability to the wrist in zeroing in on the strike zone with proper racquet orientation, all resulting in much better direction and consistency.

  33. Ian Nice lesson gives me a few things to work into my game as I try and develop more spin on the backhand side.

  34. Hi Ian:

    Good work indeed. Please review the steps necessary to take the ball on the rise. I believe this to be crucial to a successful one handed backhand

  35. Wonderful lesson. The positioning, grip, and finish are all so important on the one handed backhand. Can you talk a bit more about the grip? I've had coaches tell me to extend my thumb up the racquet handle so it is parallel to the handle, rather than have it wrapped around the handle like the other fingers in the eastern backhand grip. This always has felt awkward to me, and wondered what advice you might have.
    Thanks.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Carol! I'll actually be publishing a video that talks about grips very soon. Stay tuned!

  36. Great lesson, short and very sweet! Please show the backhand grips! i see Wawrinka actually in a continental, though it's high in the bevel, but not quite an eastern BH grip, in slo-mos of him! What grip did you use in this video?

  37. You make it very simple and easy to understand, thanks Ian, keep up the good work!

  38. This demonstration is not good. I think that you "work" less with your right arm. You even have it in your pocket while hitting. Your right hand should be at the racket when you start the shot, so you can better turn your upper body.

  39. Excellent video thank you. I've working on my one handed backhand for a while & it's pretty robust now – these tips are good reinforcing of the technical elements. I value hearing what are often the same messages in different ways that serve as reminders or give additional aspects, great work!

  40. Thanks for the great lesson on one-handed backhand. You really explained just how to do it and showed it clearly. You are soooo good!! thanks. theresa

  41. I enjoy very much about your videos.
    Thanks a lot.
    How about two handed back shots?

  42. Great information, as usual! While I am still hitting one-handed, I added my left hand to the racquet as a measuring device only. I was hitting the ball too close to my body so my hits weren't effective.

  43. Nice and simple.

    However, one additional point can be easily made — BACKhands are all about getting part of your BACK facing the net during the beginning of the stroke. This applies to most any backhand, not just one handed backhands.

    This is also perhaps the simplest thing to remember of all when it comes to backhands — the BACK in BACKhand is all about showing some back to the net before making the shot. As one accomplishs this, one is also helped on focusing effort on the other 'simple' stuff, like proper movement to get in position to hit the ball in the strike zone.

    Good stuff. Stan is the man of the Winter so far…

  44. Your fellow on-line pros are advising that on the one-hand backhand, the racket should finish with the racket parallel to the baseline and high above ones head. The pros on tour seem to be all over the place. I am confused.

  45. Great video Ian, as always. You really have a talent for breaking down what can be complicated mechanics into easy steps to follow. I find myself putting a lot (too much) side spin on my one-handed bh and I assume that is coming from hitting too close to my body and not extending out to the ball at contact. Is that right? Any thoughts on the best way to correct that? Do I need to turn more sideways going into the stroke? Thanks!

  46. Ian, great three pointers on the backhand. tks,

  47. Thanks, currently working on the backhand.

  48. Good lesson, Ian. Informative, brief, and good presentation on your part. However, almost every time you cut to the reverse camera position I freaked out because the really good angle for learning was the side shot. I know it's great to have two angles for editing, but sometimes to just isn't worth it. Take another look at the lesson and see if you don't agree. Sometimes less is better.
    All tbe best.
    Wayne

  49. are you making a fist with backhand slice as well.

  50. a classy video, ian.

    i'd really like to hear your opinion on the following: do you feel there's more supination and top spin (even power) potential with the full release finish compared to the classic one? it suits extreme grips and some additional upper body rotation. at least this is how i feel about it.

    thanks.

  51. Excellent and simple points to stay focused on. I've never heard the "fist" analogy but that made it very clear. Thank you from us 1-handed backhanders! I agree with the comment about wanting a demo of taking it on the rise but I also agree that that would be just a little too much for this one video. Best to work on these 3 points first and then add taking it on the rise later. Thank you for your great, but not too wordy, lessons.

    • You're very welcome, Jeebee. Thanks for watching!

  52. I think the one area that is probably the most difficult is reading the ball's trajectory so that you are able to get in better position. I have been struggling with my backhand for years and I think I am beginning to understand the mechanics of the swing. My question is two fold: What relationship should the elbow have in proximity with the body and what position should the face of the racquet be in before swinging forward?

  53. Ian, this is a great summary of single hand backhand. Thanks.

  54. Good work as always Ian!!! I really liked using the butt cap as a reference point for the follow thru. I think this is a valuable tool in my tool box for my students and myself as well.

  55. Excellent explanation of the 1HB. One question, What grip do you recommend for the 1HB?

    • I'll actually be coming out with a grip video soon, Jesus. I recommend any comfortable variation of the "eastern backhand grip".

  56. I think your tips and lessons are extremely well presented and easy to understand. Thank you.

    • Great to hear, Jeff. Thanks for the feedback!

  57. Nice, Ian, but I was dismayed that you did not demonstrate moving forward and taking the backhand on the rise in order to make contact with the ball in your preferred strike zone — at or near waist high. The reason this is so important, I believe, especially for amateur rec players and weekend warriors, is that so many do not move well enough to (a) get back into a good position where they can still transfer their weight into the shot and (b) recover from 10 feet behind the baseline, so they leave themselves vulnerable to a host of potential winning plays from their opponent. I'd much rather teach people to move forward to catch the ball on the rise, at the same time allowing them to transfer their weight forward as well for additional power and stability.

    It was a good post, overall, but I think we must always take into account the athleticism and speed (or lack thereof) of our students particularly as they age. It's much easier to maintain a strong or neutral court position if one is moving diagonally forward than it is if one is always backing up off the baseline.

    • I absolutely love taking the ball on the rise. I did a video lesson on how to work on that just recently: http://www.essentialtennis.com/video/ground-strokes/how-to-hit-on-the-rise-tennis/17480/

      I did talk about taking it early during this video, just didn't demonstrate it. Only so many points I can make before people tell me that I'm "talking too much" ;-)

      Thanks for your input!

  58. Just awesome, Ian. One more aspect you might want to look at his how Stan (and Federer) keep their wrists cocked forward in their swings. I noticed Federer doing this in a slow motion video, double-checked to see if Stan does it (yes) and started putting it to use as well. For whatever reason it makes the whole swing feel more solid and steady. Now, with your tips, I'm excited to bring the backhand up another notch–or two or three!

    • Not quite sure what you mean, Jan. Can you explain a bit more or maybe show me a picture RE: "wrist cocked forward".

      • Sure, just search "federer slow motion backhand" on Youtube and any of the videos will show this. Perhaps "cocked forward" is not the best expression, however. But the wrist is definitely bent up towards the outside of the elbow. You can also clearly see what I mean in the first picture in the video, "federer slow motion backhand

  59. Many thanks Ian. Looks like the best time to hit the ball is on its downward curve after the peak?

    • That might not necessarily always be the "best" time to hit but it's almost always the easiest!

  60. Hi Ian, great video, I really appreciate the tips. As a one handed backhander myself I will to soak up any advice to improve my shot. I'll have to work on consistent strike zone as I'm sure I've tried to get the low and high balls before.

    The only issue I have with your video is your non tennis racket hand. I noticed you sometimes had it in your pocket and other times it was just at your side, and it would have been nice to see a bit of an exaggerated counter balance arm raise, especially for people just learning the one handed back hand.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but I make an effort on my one handed to open or explode through my chest which results in both arms lifting high to shoulder height.

    Anyways still awesome video!

  61. The single hand BH is such a great shot and beautiful to watch when done well c. Stanislas. The three pointers you suggest will help me avoid that rushed and jammed feeling. The other I see Stan doing which is a foundation is his shoulder turn and non hitting hand holding the racquet until the point of initiating the forward swing. I've found that this helps me to time the strike better and so hit in the zone, out in front and with a relaxed follow thru. Thanks Ian.

  62. Stan's backhand would be nice to have, but so would yours. You make it seem quite effortless. Those are all great tips. Especially the one about contact point. I'll be trying them out tomorrow. Thanks.

    • You're too kind, Rick. I'd much rather have Stan's, haha

  63. Excellent. I know will be very dificult to me the change of my grip (Continental) and to get the point of contact ideal.
    Exelente, ya comence a practicar en mi club, aqui en Republica Dominicana. Creo me sera dificil cambiar mi grip y el punto de contacto ideal. Pienso que pronto lograre el correcto "follow trough". Muchas gracias.

  64. Really clear discussion, demonstration and example videos of one of the best one-handers. Thanks again Ian for helping us understand how to hit the ball the correct way.

  65. Excellent lesson Ian. Very clear. Now for the practice!!!
    Stan is just great to watch for us one handed backhand strikers.
    Thanks Ian
    Tom

  66. Thanks. This was helpful. I've been playing for years (I started in teens and am now 76) and have most trouble still with backhands even though I work in a small group with a great coach once a week. But I like the way you break it down to 3 things to think about. I tend to think "Oh, help it's a backhand–shall I run around or have a go at it?" and sometimes the "having a go" works but it often looks and feels awkward. I'll work on your 3 tips.

  67. 8 p out of 10 p! Good lessson in the basics of back-hand.

  68. Very helpful. I liked the way you simplified the techniques which will make it easier for me to focus on a limited amount of variables.

  69. Thanks Excellent summary of what to avoid and what to do with the one handed backhand. I woild also love to see something like that on the 2 handed backhand. Thanks, Bill

  70. Excellent short video on the one handed backhand. All these many years of high level club and tournament tennis and various tune-up lessons, it was never pointed out about the positioning to get the right consistent contact point height-wise. Thank-you, what an instant improvement in my confidence and backhand overall.

  71. Absolutely brilliant as always Ian. Thank you a million!

  72. Thank you Ian for this fine video on how to hit a better one handed backhand. Clear instructions and excellent video of Wawrinka to illustrate. Positioning, contact point and follow through are where my backhand needs help.. Time to go out and practice.

  73. Ian – Good points for the 1H BH. Stan is indeed THE MAN for that stroke! One thing that no one talks about in this stroke with regards to topspin, is the rotation at the shoulder that takes place during the stroke. Many people demo the 1H BH with a linear movement of the racket, but your third tip about the buttcap is KEY. After you drop the racket head, straighten the arm and start moving through contact, that “fist” you describe has to rotate (external rotation at the shoulder for you anatomy oriented folks) through contact, which is what increases the brushing motion of the racket up the back of the ball. This is the BH equivalent of the windshield wiper on the forehand. When I am hitting my 1H BH well, it is l o o s e, with that racket rotated outward, palm close to facing upward, butt cap as you described. Stan does this better than anyone! You can really see this on that “full release” clip. My 1H BH idol!

  74. Thanks Ian: nice analysis of Stan's backhand. I was wondering what his backhand grip looks like. I use the one-handed backhand, but I'm not sure if I use enough of a backhand grip

    • Index finger knuckle should be resting on the top bevel of the racquet for best topspin effect.

  75. Hi Ian I'm really enjoying your lessons on the back hand. I have a question about hitting on the run. Very often I am able to get to the ball and swing successfully from a stable position and hit in my strike zone. But at over times I am still running for the ball when it arrives. It seems I have no choice but to swing while my body is still in motion. Do you have any tips for hitting on-the-run, especially the footwork ?

    • Great questions, Graeme. First of all, it's important to realize that hitting while on the run is NOT a bad thing in and of itself. A lot of pros will teach that you must have your feet set, step in, etc etc. That reality is on a lot of shots we just don't have enough time to do those things.

      When it comes to still making a good swing on the run I find that a lot of it boils down to coordinating correctly between the upper and lower body. Many people aren't able to separate the two so when their feet are moving frantically their arm, hand and racquet does as well. The best players are able to move quickly with their feel while remaining calm and relaxed with their swing. Spend some time with a ball machine or partner feeding you wide balls practicing that!

      • After many years of playing solid left handers, I have developed an 'open stance' 1 hbh that I occasionally need to use to hit an offensive shot. Do you think this is good practice or am I better off hitting the slice?

  76. Ian, Great stuff – love the Stanimal! Another reason for the correct contact point out front and longer finish is to prevent injury. Taking the ball too close to the body and decelerating/stopping on follow-through are major causes of lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow).

    • You are absolutely right, Peter! Close contact almost always results in tight, tense technique which over time is a big strain on the body.