Steadying the Line(s?)
This is former world number 8 ranked ‘Andsome Al Mancini, who was something of a pin-up in Argentina for his gorgeous backhand.
In this sequence I want you to compare the relative steadiness of the shoulder and the sideways body to the whipped racket head, and how the racket head journeys around the relatively square line of the shoulders.
In 1 Alberto clicks his thumb under for a topspin grip, so we now know this is going to be a primary upsy backhand.
He views the oncoming ball over a turned hitting shoulder and in 2 & 3 Mancini pulls the racket further from the ball and the hitting shoulder goes with it – it has to.
In 4 ”Berto drops the racket head below the oncoming ball and in 5 he’s whipped the racket head up the back of a Connect 3 contact.
Now run the whole stroke and concentrate on how Alberto holds the line of the shoulders through contact, and the whipped racket head journeys around this steadying influence in frames 4 and 5.
The racket head is the thing that is sent – driven? – on a journey, and it is the job of the hand, arm and body to make this happen.
Front Shoulder Creep?
Whilst we’ve got Mancini in focus, I want you to make a further comparison with the Graf topspin backhand.
In the Mancini backhand, the racket head is flung (that’s for later) through contact, and the force of the driven racket head clearly pulls everything else with it – the speeding racket head eventually pulls (an otherwise) steady hitting shoulder over-and-off to the side, at the end of the stroke.
Is it the same with the Graf topspin in 4 & 5?
Or is the shoulder playing more than a supporting role in the stroke?
There’ll be plenty more backhands to study, compare, consider and hopefully copy.
Before moving on we may as well look at Tim Henman’s quality offering – another good example to compare with Steffi Graf’s?
Concentrate on the journeying racket head, the hitting shoulder and the relative stillness of the Steady ‘Eady.
We’ll scrutinise more fully when I’ve got(ten) the basics out of the way.
It’s now time to explore further the concept of lines.