Should you be catching the racquet with your off hand when completing your forehand follow-through or not?
A tennis stroke like the forehand is often taught in different ways by different coaches, and you may get confused on what’s right and what’s not.
I personally catch the racquet most of the time with my off hand in the forehand follow-through, and I also teach it. Here’s why…
I teach catching the racquet on the forehand follow-through for two main reasons:
1. More power through shoulder and body rotation
A tennis forehand strokes seems to be played by using our arm to move the racquet back and forward, so most players interpret the forehand in that way and actually use mostly their arm.
When they engage their arm, they usually disengage their body and the body stops rotating.
Therefore, they end up making contact with the ball while they are still facing mostly sideways and keeping their left shoulder (for right-handers) in front.
That blocks the hitting shoulder from coming through, and they end up “entangled” while hitting the forehand. In the process, they lose power and control of the stroke.
Teaching players to catch the racquet in the follow-through will “unlock” their forehand power because it will unlock their body rotation.
The left shoulder will now move away, giving space to the right shoulder to move forward, and the whole upper body will now easily rotate through the stroke, giving the player another source of power.
Not only that, a tennis player will also very quickly feel that the body rotation helps so much that they can relieve their arm of hard work. As they are more relaxed in the arm, they will also have much more feel and control of the ball.
In short, the main reason for teaching the catching of the racquet is to improve the biomechanics of the forehand stroke.
A forehand tennis stroke generates most of its power through the body ‒ and not with the arm, as most player misinterpret when they observe it.
But if a tennis player, for example, doesn’t catch the racquet in the follow-through but does rotate the body well through the shot, then we may not have to ask them to catch the racquet.
It would then depend whether their off hand still maintains some tension through the stroke and doesn’t just fall down by the side of the body. If it does, they won’t be using their body symmetrically to rotate and instead will just push forward with their hitting side.
That’s another topic, though. For those students of the game who want to go deeper into the nuances of higher level stroke technique, I recommend that you stay tuned for my upcoming forehand course.
2. More consistent forehands
The second main reason I teach catching the racquet on the forehand follow-through is better consistency of the stroke.
If the player doesn’t catch the racquet, then they don’t really have a reference point in space into which they can move their racquet after hitting the ball.
Therefore, they may end up in many different follow-through positions.
That also means that they went through many different swing paths in order to end up in many different follow-through positions.
And that means that the trajectories of their shots were inconsistent.
By giving the player roughly the same ending position on their forehand, we also give them roughly the same swing path through the ball and therefore roughly the same trajectory of the ball.
In this way, we teach the swing path in reverse by defining the start and finish position of the forehand. That automatically guides the forehand swing through a very similar swing path.
What About The Pros?
Most pros actually do catch their racquet in the forehand follow-through when they warm up. That’s how we can tell what they have been taught and what helps them establish the fundamental forehand rhythm and consistency.
But when they play a match, they will of course accelerate their racquet at much higher speeds and might actually hurt themselves trying to catch it.
They also play from many different situations and have to adjust their technique to that particular situation.
The idea of catching the racquet on the forehand follow-through is used to teach the fundamentals of the stroke biomechanics so that the player learns to engage the body properly in order to generate very efficient power on the forehand.
It is also used to correct the stroke in case the player was not turning their body through the stroke or if their non-hitting arm was dangling on the side of the body and thus disturbing the balance of the player through the stroke.
But, there is no need to force the player to catch their racquet all the time.
When we play a real tennis match and we’re pushed by our opponent in many difficult situations, we need to be able to improvise by freeing our arm and body to do whatever is necessary in that situation in order to hit the ball how and where we want.
The players will stop catching the racquet instinctively by themselves when they are in such situations if we let them do that.
If the coach forces the player to keep catching the racquet as if that’s the one and only answer for “correct forehand technique”, then the player might keep catching the racquet and prevent himself from being able to solve the situation better with some stroke improvisation.
Therefore, it’s very important that you understand the message of this article very clearly so that you don’t think you have to force yourself to catch the racquet in the follow-through all the time.
If you haven’t been doing it until now and you ended up “entangled” here and there on your shots without being able to use your body rotation well to hit your forehands, then give this idea a try.
Catch the racquet in the forehand follow-through for a certain period of time while you rally cooperatively with your partner.
Then try to FEEL the benefits of that.
Remember, you don’t get 15:0 in tennis because you executed your technique correctly.
No one cares about your technique (except you).
What matters in tennis is whether you can hit the ball with power and control where you want to.
Power and control are both FELT right in your body and hands.
Therefore, focus on what benefits you feel when you catch the racquet in the follow-through of your forehands. Then, in time, only look for that feel ‒ if, of course, you do feel some benefits.
You can forget about the “technique” of the follow-through and just play the ball.
What you may find out if you record yourself is that your unconscious mind does “like” the catching the racquet concept and you still do it most of the time when you play.
You may also find that you can hit your forehands now with more power and better control.