Anyone that has played tennis professionally or recreationally knows the importance of having a competent and trustworthy backhand. The backhand is considered a harder shot to master than a forehand owing to the unnatural and technical feet it requires. A solid backhand takes years to master and even then you will still need to refine it with hard work and practice.
Players with an inconsistent and weak backhand are much more likely to make unforced errors and a good opponent will exploit the weakness. This is why whatever level you play, it is integral to have a consistent backhand to keep you in points longer, the backhand is a weapon or a shield on the court and having it in your repertoire is paramount.
Players have the option of two ways to perform a backhand, it can either be hit as a single-handed backhand or a double-handed backhand. When a player plays a single-handed backhand, he/she uses only one arm (the dominant one) to swing at the ball. However, many believe after a single-handed backhand is mastered it is more effective to utilise over the more popular double-handed.
With the two-handed backhand, a player uses both arms to swing their weight into the ball. This stroke is almost akin to a baseball swing, but not exactly. Most players on the professional tour opt for the double-handed backhand over the single, claiming it has more stability and added power. The backhand is a very simple black or white choice, you either use one arm or both. Let’s have a look at the five best backhands in modern tennis.
5. Daniil Medvedev
The Russian number two has one of the most distinctive double-handed backhands on the entire tour, hitting it with almost pinpoint precision. It’s one that possesses stinging power but also floats over the net in an ultra-flat fashion. The Russian’s backhand is what it says on the tin, no French flair, no bells and whistles, it just does the job he wants it to do.
Medvedev has reached two Grand Slam finals with the help of his trusty two-handed weapon, he’s employed it to dismantle opponents as well as defend against. With such an important weapon in his arsenal, he has time to refine his game which needs improvement. The 6’6’s backhand aided him in his quest for Australian Grand Slam glory last January, as the Russian native fell agonisingly short against Novak Djokovic.
Medvedev’s backhand starts with a simple, scooping backswing and often ends with hands and feet flying in all directions. Medvedev’s form is unorthodox but the stroke can’t be criticised because of how cleanly he hits it. The stroke looks unteachable.
4. Richard Gasquet
The French stalwart Gasquet has never been considered as one of the titans of tennis, the pressure was poured on 13 years ago when he broke into the top-ten over a decade ago. However, the inconsistent performances plummeted him down the ATP ranks and Gasquet found himself vying for supremacy in the lower part of the tennis table. The Frenchman has won 15 titles, including two semi-finals at SW19.
Gasquet’s poetic backhand mirrors that of the great Roger Federer’s, seamlessly neat and the once top-ten contender executes it perfectly. His backhand is typical of the way the modern-day single-handed topspin shot is evolving. It contains a very high preparation at full backswing looping around and down before contact. Gasquet further compliments his well-executed backhand shot with an excellent shoulder turn, great knee bend and the confidence to fire the ball cross-court with a plethora of confidence.
Gasquet is not a towering tennis player like many others and yet manages to generate one of the most blistering backhands on tour. This is solely down to his technical ability and timing which he has refined and mastered over the years of wielding a tennis racket. In preparation for the shot, Gasquet positions himself behind the ball and transfers his momentum forward in such a manner that all his weight is transferred onto his front foot as he strikes the ball in front of his body. The veteran Frenchman needs to work on the other facets of his game and he might be able to challenge in the upper echelons of the sport once again.
3. Andy Murray
Andy Murray might be past his prime but the former number-one seed demonstrates one of the best defensive gameplans the sport of tennis has ever seen. The Scotsman turned number one primarily down to his defensive baseline play. The 34-year-old is one of the best counterpunches in the game and his backhand is particularly consistent.
Murray might not have the flair of Federer or the finesse of Nadal but he does possess heart and an all-around solid tennis game. Not only is his backhand about as picture-perfect as they come for two-handed backhands, but he can turn defence into offence with it.
Murray does a fantastic job off of returns, and this has evolved him into an excellent player breaking an opponents serve. Murray’s size helps him generate the power to get behind his backhand but has extremely soft hands that help him absorb power with ease. Murray proved this year that he can still do battle with the very best in the game after he pushed a venerable Stefanos Tsitsipas to a five-set thriller in the first round of the 2021 U.S. Open.
Rafael Nadal’s onus on this planet is to thunder back a doublehanded backhand over the net. Early in the Spaniard’s career, his uncle Tony decided to teach the young Nadal to play with his other hand to strengthen his backhand when reverting back. His uncle believed that having this set up would allow for a very powerful backhand weapon, and that proved to be the case.
Nadal has won numerous accolades and is a joint record holder with the revered Roger Federer, having won twenty Grand Slams. It might be the forehand of Nadal that will be immortalised in the tennis hall of fame, but his backhand remains a force to be reckoned with. The ‘King of Clay’ has continued to work on his weaker wing to the point that it’s evolved into a deadly weapon.
Nadal employs a huge, flat tennis backhand that he can tweak with tunnel topspin if needed. Specifically, on clay, Nadal is capable of any shots on his backhand side. Nadal is a denizen of the clay and has won a phenomenal and unbelievable 12 Grand Slam on the red dirt.
Novak Djokovic is the world number one for a reason because he is fearless on any surface that is served up to him. The Serbian is the best returner in the game and has a locker full of weapons to use against his opponents. The man has jaw-dropping agility and boasts fantastic flexibility, which he engages on the four corners of the court.
He has been the best player in the world for a large part of a decade and pushes the very best in the game to their breaking point. He is considered the best all-around player on the planet but has struggled with a variety of aspects of his game, one part he has never had to confront is his fantastic and durable backhand.
There are a lot of people who believe that Djokovic has the best backhand of all time. He can put the ball pretty much wherever he wants, and it keeps him very well positioned at all times.
The Serbian extraordinaire has 20 Grand Slams to his name and shows no sign of slowing down. If having a consistent backhand is not enough, he also can showcase his underspin mesmerizing drop shot or his brilliant slice backhand. Djokovic clearly has spent thousands of hours on tennis backhand drills and uses this shot as either a defensive shot or an all-out winner.
Djokovic is the best double-handed backhand player on tour at this moment in time pulling off shots that nullify opponents while still surprising fans and players alike.
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