Forehand Follow-Through Catching Technique And Why Use It

Feb 20

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…

Why Catch The Racquet In The Follow-Through?

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.

forehand hit only with arm

The “entangled” forehand where only the hitting arm is used to generate force

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.

proper forehand follow-through

“Unlocked” forehand where body can rotate freely through the shot

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.

consistent forehand finish

Consistent forehand finish helps achieve consistent trajectories of your shots

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.

federer forehand follow-through

Roger Federer sometimes catches the racquet in the followthrough even during matches

They also play from many different situations and have to adjust their technique to that particular situation.

federer forehand finish

Roger had to improvise his forehand follow-through to hit a good shot in such a difficult position

The Difference Between Fundamentals Of Stroke Technique And Playing A Match

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.

Novak Djokovic forehand follow-through

Novak Djokovic is a master of stroke improvisation as he allows his body to do whatever is necessary in order to hit the ball

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.

Leave a Comment:

(28) comments

Emanuele February 20, 2016

Great! I share the same teaching approach on forehand follow-trought. The reference point of catching the racquet help a lot. Shoulder rotation and smooth acceleration trough the contact are a lot of easier to control and feel.

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Peter February 20, 2016

Great advice! I make exactly that mistake, swinging too much with the right arm and having the left one in my way. So this hint will help me. Thanks Tomaz.

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Richard February 20, 2016

No winter inside play for me here in Canada, I ski instead. I do swing the racquet inside a bit daily though to keep muscle memory active, etc. Nice little drill reminder Tomaz, as I’ve seen you talk about this previously.

With Topspin,

Richard

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EMIL February 20, 2016

Hello Tomaz!
It is very interesting idea of catching the racket after follow through. As I can see, I don’t hit a forehand with a lot of power quite often and I hit the ball without follow through. So a ball finish in the net sometimes.
Maybe your idea will help me to add follow through to my forehand.
Regards,
Emil

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    Tomaz February 21, 2016

    Try a few already when playing mini tennis, Emil.

    And make sure you know the height of your shots above the net when you’re about to hit them!

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Larry February 20, 2016

Thomas, how do you feel about using the off hand to guide the racquet on the backswing? This seems to help me turn my shoulders away from the net on the backswing.

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    Tomaz February 21, 2016

    Yes, off hand should guide the raquet in the preparation. That also engages the body properly inside so it can uncoil.

    More on that in my future forehand course…

    Reply
Peter February 20, 2016

Oh, that’s why my coach has been reminding me to catch the swing. He never explained it me why I have to catch the swing though. No wonder my form breaks down especially when I don’t hit hard. Thank you for explaining so clearly.

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Jim February 20, 2016

This is as good as teaching advice ever gets. Technique is honed so one can hit the ball with less effort and with more accuracy. These paragraphs should be a model for coaches everywhere.

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Christina February 20, 2016

This is so timely. It’s exactly what I’m working on now going from a 4.0 level adult learned player to improving my strokes to mimic some of the kids that I play with. My forehand tends to be more of an arc that generates spin with wrist so I swing more like a rainbow…and my arm finishes palm down on the left side of my body. My pro calls it “working the ball” instead of relaxing and hitting smoothly.

If you watch younger kids they swing smooth and as they have improved timing they generate a lot of perceived power and spin using the same swing speed. As they get older (or better) their racket head speed improves. You rarely see the kids have “dead arm” (usually left arm) forehands as you do in rec adult players.

Changing muscle memory has been difficult. It is much harder to unlearn something and then learn something new than to have been taught it correctly the first time. I find that feed balls are obviously ok but in a match, if I’m faced with a short ball and all of a sudden I’m running up to it, it takes a lot of cerebral power to not do the usual and to trust my new swing. Which is the opposite of “feel” tennis.

I’m hoping you say that this is still correct for those of us who are trying to improve. Meaning that right now it’s very un-feel tennis and you have to be aware to undo your old stroke for now and change your muscle memory….and someday given enough repetitions and courage that this will be the new feel tennis?????

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    Tomaz February 21, 2016

    Hi Christina,

    Yes, if you’re battling an old habit then a new movement will not feel great.

    I recommend not forcing it but gently nudging your body in the direction of a new movement.

    Try and hit a lot of balls in cooperative rallies which bridge the basket drills and match play. First just hitting down the middle and eventually moving each other around while maintaining sound technique – and of course very clear intention of how you want the ball to fly.

    Reply
      Christina February 21, 2016

      Thank you. I needed to watch the intention video again! I’ll keep on trying to combine the two. When we are rallying it definitely is harder when the pace or depth of the ball changes. It almost feels as though the second you tell your brain to think about technique something like your footwork goes off at the same time (on a ball that isn’t perfect).

      I think most people learn to adapt to get certain balls in play and perfect technique is not necessary…so when you are moving to the ball thinking to swing smooth, thru, slow etc. all of a sudden you lose the instinctive nature of the shot that formally allowed you to hit the ball with the correct result.

      If that makes sense…which it probably doesn’t! I’m going to focus on clear intent and hope that the technique cleans itself up somehow! I don’t get many cart ball drills with perfect balls to hit…I get a lot more random drill balls that require ingenuity so that may be slowing down overall improvement. Or maybe I’m just impatient!!!

      great video…this is my favorite tennis website.

      Reply
Robert February 22, 2016

Thank you for FeelTennis!! It’s easily the best online tennis instruction.

I sometimes find myself swinging with so much attention to my right arm that my left arm crosses toward my right side apparently to assist my shoulder rotation. Yesterday, instead of thinking about forehand swing technique, I focused on “do I have time” and “am I comfortable”, key phrases from two of your videos.

Playing with these two goals, I was surprised to find myself frequently maintaining eye contact with the ball all the way to contact, rotating better as my left arm cleared for my swing and having a much longer follow-through … all the way up to easily, and naturally, catching the racquet, something I’ve never done before.

Later I read your post and realized why catching the racquet felt so good … because it is a very instructive forehand endpoint.

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    Tomaz February 22, 2016

    Thanks for the great, feedback, Robert!

    I’ve added links in your comments to the two topics you mention so that other players can check them out and see what worked for you.

    Reply
Shaun February 22, 2016

Hi Tomaz

As you will see I’ve more than casually thought about this, hope this helps.

TOP 10 REASONS TO CATCH THE RACQUET AT THE END OF THE FOREHAND SWING

1. Helps the student to create a consistent swing shape. Focuses students on swing shape rather than the moment of contact. The ball is only on the strings for 3-5ms but it takes a minimum of 100ms (1 millisecond = 1/1000th of a second) for a person to become aware of contact. It is not possible to control what happens at contact AT THE TIME OF CONTACT, thus it is swing shape, racquet head angle and racquet head speed that controls what happens to the ball and whether it goes in or not.

2. Forces student to maintain control of the swing shape.

3. Assists students to get to a good follow through position with high elbow finish, remembering that the purpose of a good follow through position is that the student has to accelerate the racquet head through contact, not because students are meant to get there because it looks good, or the coach said so.

4. Assists students to hold the finish longer, thus enabling them to learn a good swing quicker because the student is giving themselves the opportunity to “feel the swing”. Quickly returning back to a ready position or some other position causes the student to loose awareness of the feel of the swing, because the feeling of the swing is overwritten too quickly by the feeling of moving the racquet back to the ready position.

5. Catching the racquet & holding the finish allows students to see if they have finished well. That is, wrist released, racquet face in a good position, good balance, footwork & posture, head still with eyes looking in the correct location.

6. Develops Proprioception (joint position sense) skills by making student more aware of various parts of their body and their relationships to each other.

7. Sets 2 handed backhand player up with both hands on racquet at completion of the swing. Having 2 hands on the racquet at the ready position when moving into the prep position, is a prerequisite to hitting a good backhand.

8. Enables racquet release (letting go of the racquet with the racquet hand) teaching technique for grip tension awareness.

9. Assists student to rotate the shoulders and use a more hip & shoulder turn swing technique, rather than arming the ball, which is what happens when the front shoulder gets in the way of good hip & shoulder mechanics.

10. Causes student to control off arm/hand during swing so the concept of using the front side shoulder/off arm advanced forehand swing technique will be easier to introduce.

11. Gives the student a physical cue to tell them when they are allowed to look up, which helps them keep their head still and keeps their minds at their end of the court where when it counts.

Cheers
Shaun

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    Tomaz February 22, 2016

    Fantastic, Shaun, this gives us much food for thought. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply
Iffat February 22, 2016

Hi Tomaz,

Wow! Providing an end point to my stroke really has made it more consistent and combined with your previous videos of gradual acceleration and timing it actually ‘feels’ good to be hitting the ball.

I had previously completely ignored follow through even though countless sites stress it endlessly as i felt it was very ‘mechanical’.

I was wondering what’s your take on the forehand grips? Currently i hold the racket in a semi western i think (i used whatever allowed me to swing at the ball at a comfortable height).

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    Tomaz February 23, 2016

    Iffat,

    The follow-through CAN be too mechanical especially if the coach insists very strictly on a very specific position of the arms or of the racquet.

    But that’s not the right way to go about it because the point of the follow-through is not to be “correct” so that it matches some perfect form of a pro, but its purpose is to allow better biomechanics of the body through the stroke.

    It may also help with swinging more smoothly through the ball as you’re now going through the ball rather than hitting “at” the ball. Hitting through produces much more consistent strokes.

    So yes, execute the follow-through but don’t obsess about the exact finish position.

    As for the grip, yes, I recommend a semi-western grip.

    Reply
      Iffat February 23, 2016

      Thanks☺

      Reply
Bob February 22, 2016

Tomaz, understanding the reason behind the mechanics is very helpful. Bob

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Axel Kock February 25, 2016

Hi Tomaz,
a lot of players swing to the their hips.
They cant catch the racket with the Hand. What about an Opposition movement with the Hand?

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    Tomaz February 27, 2016

    Hi Axel,

    You can catch the racquet even at the hip height. Here’s one example:

    gael monfils forehand

    But the point is not to force the player to catch the racquet but rather to coordinate their arms so that the shoulders can rotate freely and fully through the shot.

    Reply
Jonc June 13, 2016

Tomaz, wanted to see if you could help me with something. Lately, my forehand has become a really inconsistent stroke and I’m not sure why. I feel as if I don’t know how to hit it properly anymore and I’m really tight plus racquet face angle is rarely correct and timing is off. For the last several months (or longer), I’ve been focusing on contact (peeling the orange, under over, etc.) but I’ve lost any kind of fluid swing. Could it be a problem of focusing too much on contact, too much trying to spin the ball? Perhaps I need to focus more on the follow-through?

Thanks, Jon

Ps the problem is very evident on short balls that are a little high but it’s a bad stroke overall. It used to be much better. It’s absolutely terrible in matches.

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    Jon C June 15, 2016

    Worked today on accelerating AT contact instead of INTO contact and things are now working quite well. I think focusing on acellerating into contact was causing me to swing too hard initially and decelerate right before contact and the racquet head was traveling forward (with respect to the wrist) at contact or maybe I was tightening up at contact, not sure. I got the idea to accelerate at ,or even right after contact, from your “sweeping” video and from some stuff Oscar Wegner wrote – I know I’m not actually accelerating after contact. This technique also causes a shorter backswing, gives a feel of pocketing, and makes finding the ball on fast shots easier.

    Mainly just a mental visualization thing but it seems to almost force correct acceleration for me.

    Reply
majid August 6, 2016

Hi
Can we use semi_western grip for beginners ?!

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    Tomaz August 7, 2016

    Sure, you can.

    Reply
Luca August 7, 2016

Hi Tomaz, great advice but I got a problem. I seldom finish the forehand follow-through cause I cannot control the power and feel that with a complete swing the ball will fly directly into the background. I have found that extending the off-arm after the backswing makes me catch the racquet more often, something I learned only recently, but still the worry to overshoot blocks my swing. How can I cut/control the power of the swing?

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    Tomaz August 7, 2016

    Hi Luca,

    Try visualizing that you are slowing the swing down immediately after the contact with the ball. Try doing some shadow swings like that first and test this approach when you’re hitting the ball.

    Also, see if you can apply some topspin on the ball. You could start with my original compress & roll drill

    Reply
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