10 Best Backhands Of All Time – Our Top Picks

I have mentioned before that the backhand is my favorite shot.

I think done well is it the most elegant shot in the game.  A well hit backhand down the line is so graceful.

The backhand stroke, typically less dominant than the forehand for many players, can become a formidable weapon with the right technique, power, and finesse.

So who are the players with the best backhands of all time? The players on list in my view have the best backhands in the game which earns their place among the all-time greats.

These lists create discussions and divide opinion.  Ultimately, we are all right. This is a list of personal choice.

Best Backhands Of All Time – Our Review

1. Novak Djokovic

Having sat down to write this list on best backhands in tennis, I find Novak Djokovic’s backhand to come top in all my criteria. Djokovic’s technique is characterized by his ability to consistently deliver deep and penetrating shots from this wing almost every time.

His double-handed backhand not only stands out for its power but also for its precision. A short backswing, perfectly balanced, his backhand is like a wall during a rally. He can turn attack into defense at the drop of a hat and the consistency grinds his opponents down.

I have seen few players with the defensive capabilities of Novak. Even under extreme pressure, I notice that his backhand rarely breaks down. This resilience allows him to turn defense into offense seamlessly, illustrating immense mental and physical fortitude.

The Serbian’s footwork and preparation for his backhand shots are incredible. Djokovic’s ability to recover quickly and set up for the next shot consistently places him in an optimal position to execute his backhand with full control.

Aesthetically there are some backhands that look better, but it is hard to find another backhand that has been as effect and dominant as this over a tennis career.

2. Stan Wawrinka

To watch, this backhand is a thing of beauty.  I recommend this be hung in a museum when Stan finally hangs up his boots. The power, grace and precision Stan gets with the single handed backhand is incredible.

Stan’s straight arm technique generates considerable topspin and pace and he hits the ball as flat as any player I have seen off this flank. 

I have been fortunate to watch Stan play live, and just the sound the ball makes off his racket is incredible.

It is great to have a single handed backhand so high on the list.

3. Justine Henin

Justine Henin, a former world No 1 and a remarkable seven-time Grand Slam champion, distinguished herself not only through her impressive tennis accolades but also by wielding what is widely regarded as one of the most exceptional one-handed backhands in women’s tennis.

Henin’s backhand was a spectacle of finesse, skill and pure power. It was characterized by her unique approach of turning her body sideways into a closed stance. With precision, she would coil her shoulders and hips, employing a closed (semi-western) grip that allowed her to skillfully guide the ball over the net with an abundance of topspin and power, a lot time catching her opponent off guard.

She had amazing technique – Henin would elevate her racket head to head level (almost like she was wielding a sabre), concentrating entirely on generating substantial pace and power as she unleashed her shot. It was a truly remarkable sight, particularly given her stature at just 5 ft 5 in – a testament to the exceptional skill and technique she brought to the tennis court.

best backhands of all time

4. Roger Federer

There was mixed opinion from the team here on where Roger should be on this list.  Aesthetically I would put Roger top of this list, that said his backhand was not as effective as others on this list.

For much of his career Roger’s backhand could be described as a slight weakness.  Watching Rafa Nadal send high ball after high ball looping to his backhand did see it break down regularly.

That said, when he was on song, his backhand was a thing of poetry.  He played the top spin as well as the slice and had all the shots at his finger tips, often this was too easy for him.

In the later part of his career he became more attacking from this wing and with good effect.

5. Steffi Graf

Growing up watching tennis, I used to be mesmerized by Graf tennis.  So graceful around the court, Steffi had a powerful, precise and piercing one-handed backhand slice that kept asking questions of her opponents. This stroke was not only effective in setting up her own offensive game but also disrupted the rhythm of her competitors.

Every now and then Graf would hit a top spin backhand, but this was rare.

Graf’s mastery of the backhand slice contributed to her winning 22 Grand Slam singles titles, making her one of the most successful tennis players ever. Her backhand was particularly potent on grass and hard courts, where the low bounce of her slice was even more effective.

6. Richard Gasquet

Mention Richard Gasquet and people think of court craft and that amazing one handed backhand.  Richard is still on tour today and his backhand is a potent as ever.

Gasquet’s backhand initiates with a gracefully intricate take-back, artfully curling the frame above and around his head like he is brandishing a sword.

From this position, he can deftly generate topspin or, with impeccable timing, unleash it with astonishing flat pace. Among the one-handed backhand drives of the Open Era, Gasquet’s stands out as perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing (Ed – alongside Roger though 🙂.

Gasquet is very much a rhythm player.  When Gasquet finds his rhythm on the backhand side, few sights in tennis are as exhilarating. Winners flow in abundance with almost every swing of the racket.

7. Bjorn Borg

It is worth also looking back at players that changed the game and Borg certainly did this.

Borg had a distinctive and effective topspin two-handed backhand. His form bore a striking resemblance to that of a hockey player poised to execute a powerful backhand slap shot. Borg hit a flat, hard top spin which was different to players that had come before him.

Borg used of a Continental grip on his dominant right hand and a near continental grip on his left hand. The standout feature of his backhand was his backswing.

Unlike a conventional looping swing, he had more of a straight backswing pattern, affording Borg the time to position himself before even reaching the ball. He had a compact, whipping motion that allowed him to have seemingly endless time on the ball.

8. Jimmy Connors

The hard charging Jimmy Connors makes this list given his incredible backhand style.  I have not seen someone hit such a flat and hard backhand, and to think that Connors started this in the 1970s when it was not done before, is impressive.

What makes Connor’s backhand so amazing was how simple it actually was. He used the weight of his body to drive through the ball in the rise and had a short, punching swing. Connor did not look for high, looping top spin, instead he drove the ball hard and fast through the court giving his opponents little time to play.

Many would say that Connors, along with Borg and Courier, really shaped what the backhand of today looks like.  Aggressive, punching shots that reward all out attack.

9. Serena Williams

Serena changed the way women play tennis with her hard hitting game.  This was from serve to groundstrokes and her backhand was a formidable part of this armory.

Serena had great footwork and early racket preparation.  This allowed her to be in position, ready most of the time and allow her to execute her two handed backhand.

A ferocious combination of power and accuracy meant this was a shot that put opponents under real pressure.

10. Rafa Nadal

I believe his backhand is often overlooked given how incredible his forehand is.  It is important to remember that Nadal is right handed, but his Uncle Toni encouraged him to play tennis left handed.

Rafa has incredible strength in his double handed backhand and he makes this list not only because of attack, but also because of his ability to defend.

Where possible, Rafa will run around his forehand and hit a forehand.  This is similar to Fernando Verdasco.  In the latter part of his career, the backhand has become more of a weapon and Nadal has the ability to play defense, high looping balls or hit hard and flat.

The other part to note is just how consistent his backhand is.  At peak, this rarely went out of court or in the net given the top spin he generated.

Who is considered to have the greatest backhand in tennis history?

We have chosen Novak Djokovic, given his all round expertise.

Which players are known for their exceptional single-handed backhand technique?

Roger Federer, Justin Henin and Stan Wawrinka are hailed for their masterful single-handed backhand strokes, which have become their signature shots and a source of trouble for their opponents.

What are the most memorable backhand shots in professional tennis?

Novak Djokovic’s down-the-line backhand at the 2011 US Open semifinal against Federer is unforgettable, as is Roger Federer’s backhand down-the-line in the Wimbledon final in 2008 that kept him in the match.

How do two-handed backhands compare to one-handed backhands in effectiveness?

Two-handed backhands typically offer more control and stability, especially on the return of serve, compared to the one-handed variant, which often allows for greater reach and a slice variation.

What are the technical differences that make a one-handed backhand effective?

A one-handed backhand requires excellent footwork, timing, and a strong shoulder turn to be effective, allowing for a more varied use of spins and greater finesse on the ball.

David Harris

David is the founder and chief writer at Tennis Pursuits. A tennis fanatic, David has extensive experience of the game and has reviewed 100s of products to date. He is passionate about helping others on their tennis journey.

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