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Whit's Tennis Tips: Two-Handed Forehand

May 25, 2008 12:42 PM

Whitney Kraft, Director of Tennis at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, will be answering your questions on the game of tennis in a new column on USTA.com called “Whit’s Tennis Tips.” Whether you're looking for that perfect racquet, having a dispute over scoring a match, or just looking to improve your game, all you have to do is ask Whit.

Click here to send in a question now

To: AskWhit
Subject: Two-handed Forehand

I realize this is unusual, however, I have a two-handed forehand and a one-handed backhand. (This offers some confusion to my opponents initially.) What advice do you offer for the two-handed forehand player, particularly regarding techniques and exercises that may improve their play? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a two-handed forehand? My daughter is coming into the game and I'm wrestling with what I should show her.


Rick G.

From: AskWhit
Subject: RE: Two-handed Forehand

Hi Rick and thanks for your question.

While there is historically a list of very successful pros that have used two hands on both wings; the one-handed backhand/double forehand is an EXTREMELY rare combination. One of my most successful doubles partners’, Mark D., had a two-handed forehand and one-handed backhand. In his case, the forehand was clearly the strength of his game. He had the cross-over grips (dominant hand at bottom) which are typically used pairing in two handed forehands.

When thinking of players using the double forehand, I go to former top players: Pancho Segura, Gene Mayer, and Monica Seles, as well as and more currently, Fabrice Santoro, to name a few. These players all possessed variety and disguise, which are some of the attributes available using two-handed strokes, often capitalizing by taking the ball early style, shot making. The early-hit style helps keep them in the driver’s seat, dictating point play and making it challenging for opponents to exploit their mobility issues: whether grip related (forcing the let-go, one-hander) or quickness-of-foot. E.g. Seles was not known for court speed, but her opponents did most of the scrambling…the best defense is a good offense strategy.

Basically, the advantages and disadvantages of the double forehand are pretty much the same as any two-handed stroke: as are the training principles. There are quite a number of actual grip position combinations (E.g. eastern, continental, etc.) This is true of any two-handed stroke.

Meticulous footwork (setting up) and core strength for angular momentum (hip/shoulder rotation) are the mainstays within successful kinetic linking skills required to optimize this stroke and prevent opponents from exploiting potential vulnerabilities. Open and square stance medicine ball throws are a great tool for developing angular momentum. The third stance would be closed, with the “swing step”, largely used for low-wide balls, by players whose stance preference is front foot (Sharapova/Davenport). The Williams’ sisters are back-foot preference (more likely to hit open stance on borderline situations).

Being able to use multi-stances is critical: the open is best for high/wide ground-strokes, while the square stance is considered better for low/short balls from up the middle. The open stance, which allows angular momentum on those high/wide balls, also saves two steps of running (one to the ball, and then a recovery step) in this situation.

Regarding your daughter, my suggestion is to “show her’ to a certified teaching pro. Not that this necessarily applies to you: but every pro I know can tell you of many well-intentioned parents miss-teaching their kids. By chance, this pro might just have some good advice for your forehand too! Perhaps, even adding the second hand to your backhand…what my old partner probably should have done, since his forehand was the killer shot and his backhand the weaker wing. We’ll never know if changing to a double backhand was the “answer” to Mark’s game…but it has been hypothesized.

Best of luck,


To: AskWhit
Subject: Training Tips

I need some training tips (both tennis and conditioning) for preparing myself for an indoor hard court tourney at the end of the month. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Evan (from Kentucky)

From: AskWhit
Subject: RE: Training Tips

My advice would be to get some indoor practice matches on the same surface with same lighting. Focus on “your game” and don’t start anything new. Fitness should be speed focused with some endurance work. Strength training is in “maintenance phase” assuming you have been strength training. For future training references, please check out the USTA High-Performance website.

Thanks and enjoy the battle.


To: AskWhit
Subject: questions about tennis

I am a university student in China.

Here are some questions about tennis from me and some of my friends, and I hope you can help answer them:

  1. How can I improve my serve without using a tennis court? Here in China tennis courts are not very common and usually quite expensive.
  2. Shall I practice tennis with my friends frequently? If yes, how often should I practice with them?
  3. Is it necessary for smeone to be very tall or strong to be good at tennis?

Thanks for your help, I will appreciate your professional suggestion.

Best Wishes!

Hui (China)

Hi and thanks for your questions.

The answer to your first inquiry is yes. Off-court rotator cuff conditioning to develop stability and flexibility (integrity) in the shoulder would prove beneficial. Upper back strength from rowing exercises would help as well. Work on developing strength, power and dynamic flexibility in the core and trunk. If you are not an advanced player you can learn and practice tossing biomechanics too.

Secondly; yes, do practice with your friends. Be careful not to over do it and strain your shoulder in the process. If you practice frequently, keep the practice sessions brief.

Lastly, being tall, strong, fast, athletic and competitive can be an asset; but tennis is a skill sport above all.

Best of luck with your improvement plans and say hi to Coach Mike from NY if you see him!




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