One-Handed Backhand – 006

Trigger Back 2

Somewhere to hit ‘from’

The backhand of Alex Corretja is yet another of my all-time favourite one-handers and he uses a high head, loopy style of preparation, which I’ve highlighted below.


Why Alex, or the high head ?

‘The High Head.’

Like I said in Trigger Back 1, the greater the distance between racket head and ball, the greater the potential for power, and – as on the forehand – a loop provides optimal distance – a circular route to power.

‘Why do you keep saying potential?

Because potential is only realised when technique is expertly executed – just because a player gets their Trigger Back doesn’t mean they won’t miss-fire with it…

‘… so does that make them a potential player?’

You’re getting good – and yes, as we all have limitless potential still to be realised, I suppose it does, though a ‘technical project in motion‘ might be better.

Anyhow, the continuity of a joined-up loop offers the greatest potential for power and spin. But beginners, kids and lesser mortals don’t need anything so elaborate to begin with, and might be better starting shorter and lower.

Waist High pull-back

Look to the three frames here. This is Spaniard Alex Corretja’s and, as you’ve seen above, he loops the racket head back high.

However, I’ve cropped his large loop out of the sequence because a shorter, abbreviated Trigger Back is initially easier to time, and you can add a loop as your technique, timing, muscles and confidence develop.

  • Just concentrate on turning, and:
  • Take the racket back at waist height.
  • Swing through at waist height (or just below).

I’ve done the same to another of my favourite Stroke Models, Hicham Arazi.

Arazi was a wonderful fluid player who had a gorgeous backhand – no doubt still does – and in this full-on view the straight-back, straight-through hitting style is also highlighted.

Get the shallow end of the stroke right and you can add a loop later.

Choosing Upsy Topspin

Players of youth, skill and sporting ambition should avoid the downsy slice option as soon as they are able (or by-pass it from the start), and strive for a primary backhand shape of the more difficult – and power-friendly – upsy topspin.

Steffi Graf could be seen as a questionable Stroke Model here, because her primary backhand shape was high-to-low slice – uniquely venomous slice and probably the best I’ve ever seen, but slice nonetheless, which by its nature dampens power.
Having said this, Steffi’s movement was so good, her primary aggressive backhand option was to run around to her backhand side to hit with her forehand.

But Graf would also hit a thumping/thumbing topspin backhand when she was in the mood.
Click forward to frame 3.

Beginners could develop an abbreviated turn and take-back based on image 3 alone, with a full body turn and a racket head back and below the waist.

But it is important to feel – force – push – your racket head down below your hitting hand, which almost guarantees it is below the oncoming ball, forcing you to hit an upsy low-to-high stroke.

  • In 1 & 2 Graf turns and provides a wide base for the forthcoming stroke with her feet, and in 3 she drops the racket head below the hand (and therefore below the oncoming ball) – so far, so good.
  • In 4 she has thumped/thumbed the racket head through a Connect 3, and her weight shifts along the line provided by the full sideways turn.
  • In 5 thru 7 we see the stroke’s after-spin – also, we get a sneak preview of what I refer to as a ‘Roving Shoulder’ or ‘Shoulder Creep‘.

As with the Sampras topspin backhand, I’ve used this stroke as an example because there are personal quirks that beg greater scrutiny.

Steffi Graf

Quirky technique makes technical study far more interesting (because of, or in spite of ?), which in turn expands our general understanding of technique and how to nourish individuality within a fluid-but-correct framework, and, when working the photographers bench, I’d often forsake some memorable match on Roland Garros’ Phillipe Chatrier Court to shoot pictures of a lesser known stroke that’d taken my fancy on Court 15.

Such details are for after we’ve built a scalable framework of technically sound tennis technique, although – once again – you should know that they exist.

I’ll be putting each stroke on its own page, and also laying many of them side-by-side for comparison.
But do take the opportunity to compare Arazi, Graf and Corretja while they’re on the same page.

Let’s look at the rest of the stroke.

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