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Last call for the gotta play tennis podcast

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Look at a photograph that lacks enough contrast and you will see a mediocre and washed-out photo. Our eyes need to be visually stimulated in order to enjoy what is before us. When everything blends together, our brain has a harder time differentiating between various images and shapes. Our taste buds are very much the same. What makes a meal great is the variety of flavors and textures we get to experience. 
    Tennis is another item in this category–at least from where I sit. Recently at the French Open, I got to watch – on video streaming – Roger Federer vs. Juan Martin Del Potro and then Rafael Nadal vs. Nicolas Almagro. What do these two matches have in common? Besides both matches being in the quarterfinal round, each featured a one-handed backhand vs. a two-fisted shot. Somehow, this makes the match even more entertaining since there is still something special about the one handed backhand wing. It just so happens that Federer has one of the best single-handers ever in the game, and at age 30, he still holds the number 3 ranking in the world. But as we look at the rest of the top ten, double fists rule the roost. Looking down the list a little further, we see Almagro at 13, Richard Gasquet at 20, and Federer's compatriot, Stanislas Wawrinka at number 21 in the world with a world-reknown one-handed topspin backhand.
    So let me be the first (well, maybe not the actual first) to raise my voice for "Save the One-handed Backhand." We seem to be a people obsessed with saving things that have a chance of going extinct. The one-handed backhand is a perfect candidate for this category. For years, only the one hander was taught as the "correct" way to hit. Using the other hand on the racquet was nothing more than a crutch for those having difficulty developing the strength or coordination on the non-dominant side of the body as we used  the lead shoulder instead of the rear one to facilitate the shot. 
    I, myself, have been guilty of pushing forward this classic stroke as my belief was that, when taught and then hit correctly, neither extra strength or extra agility was necessary. But I have changed my tune with the advent of the 10andundertennis initiative by the USTA and ITF.  I not only encourage the two-hander as the primary stroke on that wing, but I actively discourage a child from not using both hands for better gripping and stability. There is a negative cost however, when kids are just starting to learn, since they sometimes get themselves confused and start to use two hands on the racquet when hitting a forehand on the opposite side. 
    So if this is what I'm doing as an instructor, a traditional one-handed player pushing the two-handed shot, then what are others providing for our youth? If they are doing the same, we are essentially hastening the disappearance of the single hand backhand for all future players.  This may eventually become so prevalent that the contrast that I still get to enjoy today, the little that is left it, will go away permanently. Two hands on the backhand side will be the accepted norm, and the elegant beauty facilitated by the eastern backhand grip and straight arm extended forward–bringing the racquet into the ball path well in front of the body–will go the way of the rotary phone. Sad indeed! 
(not so much for the rotary phone however)

1 comment:

  1. So true! Sadly it's beginning to look like a lost art. I say don't tell them anything. Whatever develops will work for them. Play with two hands on both sides if it comes natural. play anyway you want. wait until they are 11 or 12 to start modifying anything if it becomes a problem. If they start using one hand then let them do it even if it looks as if they might struggle with it for a couple years. Great program by the way!


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