In the dynamic sport of tennis, the forehand shot is up there with the serve as the most important shot. It’s a stroke that combines power, accuracy, and finesse to dominate the court. To truly harness the potential of your forehand, it’s crucial to understand the key elements: the closed or open stance, the proper grip, and the techniques used by top tennis players.
You’ll notice many top players look to run around the ball to hit a forehand where possible as it let’s them take control of the point. Just watch Rafa Nadal or Carlos Alcaraz run around their forehand to punish his opponents!
In this article we will look at the following;
The technique of the Forehand step by step
- Early preparation
- Open or Closed stance
- Get in good position
- Racket under the ball
- Use your legs
- Going through the ball
Eastern Grip: Players who want flat shots or a more traditional forehand style, such as Roger Federer and Serena Williams, are often advised to use this grip. Put your index finger’s base knuckle on the third bevel of the tennis racket handle to adopt the Eastern grip. When utilizing this grip, the racket face will be roughly square to the net. On flatter shots, it enables good control and accuracy.
Semi-Western Grip: Advanced players frequently employ this grip, which has become more popular. Align the base of your index finger between the third and fourth bevels of the handle to adopt a semi-western grip. Producing topspin with the racket face slightly closed will naturally be simpler. On shots with a loop or high trajectory, the semi-western grip has more potential for power and spin.
(Since I was a big fan of hitting an aggressive and heavy topspin shot from the forehand, I prefer to use a semi-western grip.)
Racket back, Early Preparation
Early preparation is key as it is with most sports. In order to have enough time and space to take a full swing at the ball once you get your body behind it, it is crucial to actually get your racket back nice and early.
You’ll find yourself rushing your backswing and wasting too much energy and momentum before you actually strike the ball if you don’t get your racket back in time. This dissipates your energy and causes your forehand to go with less speed, resulting in a slower, lighter stroke.
It will be much simpler for you to uncoil your body and strike through the ball if you can prepare your body early and place your racket behind you, synchronized with your unit turn.
In order to have your racket upright and in a powerful stance before the ball bounces, force it back behind your body with your non-dominant hand as you turn your shoulders. Carlos Alcaraz does this beautifully, his non dominant hand pushes the racket back and then it rotates at incredible speed through the ball.
This will give you lots of time to take a full swing and hit the ball as hard as you can.
This is a video of me hitting some forehands in a warm up.
Open vs Closed & Neutral Stance
Open stance forehands (and backhands) are frequently associated with today’s style of tennis since they allow for greater power and take less time to execute.
However, this does not mean that you should stop using neutral stance forehands or stepping with your front leg into the ball in your tennis game.
Therefore, when should you hit forehand with an open stance and when with a neutral posture?
Managing fast balls
Because it takes so little time to prepare (you just turn your upper body without moving your feet, or you only do a quick, short shuffle), and because you are not getting closer to the ball, which would give you less time, an open stance forehand is effective for handling balls arriving at pace. Watch some of the people returning serve.
When receiving a quick ball, an open stance forehand will be the most effective and reliable.
If you were to take a neutral stance and play the same incoming ball, it would take you less time to complete the stroke since you would be closer to the ball.
Dealing with high balls
In an open stance as opposed to a neutral stance, playing a high ball with your forehand is always simpler.
This is because when the ball is high, we swing more across it, which is more at ease when we are in an open stance.
The momentum of movement will carry us one step farther to the side after we hit the ball if we chance to receive a ball to the side, run towards it, and finish up in a neutral stance.
Then, in order to start the movement back to the middle, we’ll also require one more recovery step.
When To Use A Neutral Stance Forehand
A neutral or close stance forehand is best used on short balls when it’s the most natural to step towards them.
If we force an open stance on a short ball, we won’t be able to rotate our body into the shot because that forward step also drove our hip forward, and we no longer have any body rotation. However, for right-handed players, stepping into the ball with the left foot still permits hip and body rotation, which provides us more forehand power with less effort. You can still rotate your hips and keep your balance better if you step into a short ball from a neutral stance.
The most basic body movement for any tennis groundstroke is a forehand or backhand, so I advise you to purposefully play as many of them in the warm-up.
We can relax the arm into a swing that produces effortless power, and by putting the front foot in front, we feel a nice weight transfer into the ball.
Approaching the net
With an open stance forehand, it is possible to hit an approach shot, but the transition to moving towards the net will always be a little delayed.
When you step into a short ball and then move naturally towards the net after the shot, you will be a lot more effective and swift.
A tremendously high but short ball that is simpler to attack with an open stance forehand could be an exception to this rule.
(One of my best shots was my forehand. I always preferred to use a closed stance whenever I had the chance, as it allowed me to take time away from my opponent).
Getting behind the ball with your body
Getting your body behind the ball is one of the most important but sometimes skipped elements in forehand technique that will help you hit a good forehand.
The power comes from having the correct stance and the transfer of weight through the ball.
Although it may seem obvious, extending or being out of balance prevents you from striking the ball with your full amount of force and spin. This means that if you want to add more weight to your forehand, setting up correctly, getting into the right position in time, and getting your body behind the ball are all crucial.
You must wait for the ball to drop to a comfortable contact point, which is front of your body, between hip and shoulder height, and complete your unit turn (turning your legs, hips, shoulders, and racket) before the ball bounces back in order to do this.
You may maximize your power creation on contact by following all of these procedures, which allow you to efficiently transfer as much weight and energy through your body and into the ball.
In order to put all of your power on the ball and hit a significantly heavier forehand, you should get your body into a great, coiled-up power position.
(A great way to practice on getting behind the ball is by incorporating some shadow swings at the beginning of your practice session whilst visualizing the tennis ball.)
Racket under the ball
An often underestimated factor in executing a powerful forehand shot is positioning the racquet head under the ball. This aspect is crucial to adding weight and spin to your shots, yet it is frequently overlooked.
To achieve a heavy forehand, it’s important to understand the significance of a proper racket path angle. By having your racket path angled steeply, you can brush up and strike the ball, generating substantial topspin that causes the ball to bounce higher and more aggressively.
To accomplish this consistently, you need to focus on getting your racket head under the ball during your swing.
Don’t forget to use your legs!
Of course, you’ll need to use your legs if you want your forehand to have power. Every shot must utilize these muscles for maximum spin and force because they are the biggest and strongest in the body, especially the powerful forehand.
In order to push through the ball with your forehand, bend your knees similar to how you prepare to serve, load up your hips, and push your dominant side hip forward. This will make the rest of your body follow through, giving your forehand a lot of power.
Once again, doing this is crucial to maximizing your power output and making effective use of your body. In order to get up and forward into your shot, you should also consider pushing through the ground with your feet.
You will quickly be hitting a perfect forehand if you time this correctly with your racket and hips coming through!
Going Through the Ball
As we’ve already discussed, the key to adding weight to your forehand is to increase power by using your body.
You must maintain your calm and visualize using your racket like a windshield wiper to brush up the back of the ball and produce a lot of topspin in order to accomplish this.
In order to whip your racket through the ball with the most amount of racket head speed possible, you must maintain a loose wrist and relaxed hand while you drive with your legs and swing your racket towards the ball.
Remember to set your wrist back, aim to smash the ball from the bottom to the top, and get your racket to really brush the back of the ball with as much spin as you can as you accelerate through the ball.
Swing your racket in the direction you want the ball to go after impact. This aids in maintaining your balance as you go on to your next shot. Keep your arm at a comfortable angle and make sure your racket extends all the way past your left shoulder (for right handed players) to complete the follow through.
TOP TIP – I really accentuate the follow through on my forehand and really focus on bringing the racket over my shoulder after every shot. It really helps bring the racket from low to high and creates real top spin.
Best forehands in tennis
Juan Martin del Potro is regarded as having the finest forehand in the game by tennis players from his era. His size gives him more leverage on strokes, and he really benefits from his ability to hit solid, flat wins from almost anywhere. The power he gets from his shots is almost unmatched
Del Potro briefly appeared to be the sport’s brightest prospect. When he was at his peak, he won the U.S. Open and demonstrated to the world that he could defeat anyone. He also had the manner to dominate opponents.
He was never entirely able to return to the same level of performance that he had hoped for, though, as injuries began to mount. There were many forehand winners at the 2009 U.S. Open. It seems like he could do nothing wrong. He could hit winners even from neutral positions with his forehand at any time. Its power and consistency set it apart as the best of the best.
When Fernando Gonzalez reached the Australian Open Final in 2007, many people were shocked. How did he manage to accomplish that? He had one of the best forehands in the history of the game when he was at his best. He had the ability to rip the ball faster than almost every other player on the circuit, which enabled him to defeat opponents of any level.
The 10th seed was able to eliminate some extremely talented players during that amazing run. He completely controlled the match against Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of that competition, leading to a straightforward win. He eventually ran out of steam when playing Roger Federer in his prime, which many did over the years when playing the great Swiss!
Serena Williams has a more powerful forehand than her sister and one of the most devastating of all time in the women’s game.
No other woman in women’s tennis history could compete with her when her forehand is on song. To hit winners or advance to the net to finish plays, she prefers to take the ball early from an open stance.
Serena Williams also struggles in rankings like these since it’s difficult to determine just what she is best at given how strong her all-around game is. She is among the greatest thanks to a few other qualities and skills.
So now you have some of the top tips on how best to hit a forehand. For me it is all about preparation and repetition. I want to know that even at the end of a tiring game, I do the same thing again and again.
If you can afford one, buying a tennis ball machine to feed you balls to practice is invaluable in my experience. It will always be up for practice come rain or shine!