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Roger Federer’s backhand grip is just one piece of the puzzle of which his notorious backhand shot is made up of.
Players around the world admire Federer’s backhand as one of the most elegant in the game today. While Roger Federer’s forehand gets a lot of press, especially the inside-out version, his elegant backhand can sometimes get overlooked in the hubbub over his mysterious forehand grip and stroke.
The gorgeous Roger Federer backhand begins with the Federer backhand grip, which some analysts have called a modified Eastern grip. In his racquet preparation for the backhand, Federer holds it far above the point of contact. As part of his preparation Federer also holds the racquet’s throat with his left hand, probably a reminder to hold the racquet even further back than is customary. As his back is turned, he peers at the ball over his shoulder, loading his core muscles for a quick but powerful rotation that will bring his upper body to a square position when contact is made. As Federer continues his loop to the ball, he drops the racquet head below it to prepare for the contact that will soon arrive.
Because the backhand shot will have less power due to the physics of the shot and your body’s movement, a more closed stance is required. In other photos, Federer demonstrates an incredibly flexed calf on his front leg proves that he is using it to crush the ball. As Federer begins his follow-through, his shoulders are perfectly parallel to the baseline, presenting a fortified wall to the ball. Two other constants strike the viewer in looking at Federer’s technique: the Federer backhand grip remains as the knuckle has stayed at 1 o’clock, and his eyes are still on his racquet head, still peering at the point in space where strings met ball. Now to the most photogenic part of the properly executed one-handed backhand: the exquisite follow-through, as best exemplified by Federer and Justine Henin on the women’s side. To complete the beauty of this typical photo, Federer has extended his left arm out and behind him as a counterbalance.
The technique used for a slice backhand will differ a bit from the steps described above, but the main differences will be the weight transfer from back to front (more limited) and the rotation of the core (also diminished). The height of the ball will often determine whether or not you hit a slice; high balls will be almost impossible to put any topspin on, thus necessitating a slice option. The Federer backhand, one of the true objects of beauty in the men’s game, begins with his modified Eastern grip and continues with fundamentals that you, too, can adopt: head still, eye on the ball, closed stance, coiled body, low to high swing, dynamic follow-through. Then you've got to check out our FREE in-depth slow motion analysis video of how Federer and other pros prepare for their forehands.
Tactical tennis is about playing smart tennis, which is a game of strengths and weaknesses. Tactical tennis is one part of the game that is different than working on technique or stroke mechanics.
A complete tennis player must also focus on tactical tennis in order to win more matches, especially against those keen opponents at the club level. Many people who play tennis love the sport because it requires more than athletic ability–it also draws on mental acuity as well.
Tennis can actually become something of a chess match as the games progress, each opponent planning a strategy of attack and preparing for countermoves.
Whatever analogy you prefer, you need to learn a bit about tactical tennis if you want to win more matches and perhaps advance up your club’s ladder or your region’s standings. As you gain experience playing, you will become better and better at tactical tennis, eventually reaching the point where you are more than one shot ahead mentally as you slug it out in a rally. That is a cool level to reach, to manipulate your foe as you wish, setting him or her up for difficult situations where he or she is more likely to fail.
Hit a shot short enough to draw your opponent 10 or more feet forward into the court, preferably a low ball that is hard to handle.
This presents problems because the shot hit while running in is one of the toughest in tennis. That’s when you hit the next shot deeper and at least eight feet to either side of your foe.


When you have a ball that you can put a lot of topspin on, a forehand in your wheelhouse, for example, hit it deep and high to your opponent’s backhand so that it will kick above the shoulders. This shot is especially effective, because when your shot kicks high, your opponent will be looking up and to the side as he or she hits the ball, so he or she won’t see you moving in to volley. You don’t want to overuse this tactic, or your opponent will simply run around all backhands.
Do you want to get your opponent running a zig-zag, spending precious energy tracking down your shots?
Either you put a ball far away from your opponent and make it extra-difficult for him or her to reach it, or you hit a shot that is against all of the momentum that he or she has, making it almost impossible to get. The only danger of this shot is if your foe gets to your first wide shot and hits it with even more angle than you put on it. That will happen from time to time, but you will win most rallies with this sequence, if executed properly.
You will need to have a good drop shot to make this strategy feasible, but with a little work, you can develop a killer drop shot. Again, you are forcing your opponent to run in and hit, which is one of the more difficult shots in tennis.
Your adversary will grin every time that you hit a drop shot, knowing that you will follow that with a weak lob that he or she can crush.
Obviously, for this piece of tactical tennis to work, you need to hit a solid lob, one that lands no more than four feet from the baseline and does not rise too high (giving your opponent much more time to get back and retrieve it). Practice a bit and soon you will be putting them within a foot or less of the baseline, making this strategy more effective than ever. One final combo that might be a little tough for you to pull off is the sidespin-slice backhand followed by a rush to the net.
While your opponent is busy trying to figure out if you are going to continue to the net, he or she will be too distracted to watch the strange bounce that is about to give him or her fits. When the ball both dies on the court thanks to your slice, and it spins just a bit away from your antagonist, the result will be either a soft ball that you will gobble up at the net or an unforced error. Apart from these shot combinations, there are many other things that you can do that will contribute to excellent tactical tennis.
When you have a sizeable lead on your serve, try a very soft first serve with lots of spin.
Also, if you have a nice lead while serving, hit your second serve just as hard as your first serve. The spin creates a lower, flatter trajectory over the net and makes the ball stay low off the bounce. Henman uses his backhand slice to approach the net; the spin keeps the ball low forcing his opponents to hit up giving him an easier volley. That’s a shame, because his backhand might be one of the most beautiful strokes in the game, even if it has let him down from time to time in huge matches. In most photos of the Federer backhand grip, it looks as if his index finger knuckle is aligned at about 1 o’clock on the racquet handle if it were held out straight from his body. This is an important point for most amateur players; even if the racquet is held back before hitting the backhand, is it high or low in the first part of the preparation? If it’s high, the racquet can make a complete loop through to the ball, adding much zing to the pace and telling your opponent that picking on your backhand is not a wise idea. You, too, can use the other hand if you hit a one-handed backhand, to pull the racquet further back than you might be naturally inclined to.
Preparation is about more than racquet position; your back must also be turned to get your core involved in the stroke, especially for devotees of the one-handed backhand. In comparing the initial preparation to the split second before Federer hits the ball, one body part that has not changed at all is his head.
You will need all of that momentum to hit the one-handed backhand with enough force to turn it into an asset for your game.
Federer has brought his racquet far above his shoulder as he has struck the ball with maximum topspin, going from below the waist to above the shoulder.


A slice backhand hit with too much whip of the body will either soar into the air or fall short of the net.
All of these will change a bit if you hit the backhand with two hands, but if you want to hit a one-hander, Federer is an excellent example to follow. Check out our Tennis Ebooks and be on the way to improving all of your tennis strokes without the trial and error.
Others liken tennis to a boxing match, where adversaries feel each other out early in the match, then make continual strategic adjustments as the fight continues, mano-a-mano. It also increases your chances of hitting a winner as you think ahead and do your best to move your opponent out of position. If he or she succeeds in getting your short ball, he or she will often fail to sprint back to the baseline.
In the midst of a long rally, though, it brings a nice change of pace and an element of surprise. The only danger with this short shot is if you do not get the lob over your opponent’s head. As you come towards the net on a short ball, try to slice it and bring your racquet towards your body, creating a side spin as well.
Many times, your opponent will be so stunned that he or she will be late in running up to return it, and the result will be a very weak return or unforced error.
To find this put the V between your thumb and index finger on the edge of your racquet's frame. This special grip gives his racquet the angle it needs to swipe through the stroke and whip enough topspin onto the ball so that it drops just inside the opposite baseline.
Federer has also transferred his weight from back to front, and seeing his back foot perched on just one toe proves this weight shift.
The slice will be hit with a more open stance, but the follow-through should not be neglected. And, of course, the less fit your opponent, the more you will want to make him or her move.
In general, deep shots to the backhand, followed by a rush to the net, will often work against many players. If not, he or she will have a field day smashing volleys back at you after you have drawn him or her in. Your opponent will probably have hihe or sher tongue hanging out after a few of these drop shot-lob combos. In baseball, pitchers try to fool batters by not only making the ball move up, down or sideways, but by changing their speeds from time to time.
The result many times will be an ace or service winner as your opponent wonders where you got your new second serve. Try it next time that you hit, and you’ll be using your sweet spot more than you are accustomed to. All things being equal, and assuming that you have time to properly set up before launching your backhand, the racquet should be approximately parallel to the ground as you meet the ball. If you ever hope to hit your one-handed backhand with suitable pace, you will need to present a similar wall to strike the ball. Between these two strategies, you will gain enough of an advantage to surely triumph the next time you play, perhaps even to best a player that has more skill than you.
What you look like on that follow-through will tell everyone all they need to know about your one-handed backhand, yet this is often the most neglected component of the shot. Practice your follow-through until you look something like Federer, who appears ready to take winged flight over the entire tennis complex after hitting his glorious backhand.



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