The Modern Forehand Drop & Wrist Lag Techniques Comparison

Feb 12

Have you noticed that tennis pros use two different forehand drop & wrist lag techniques when they’re about to hit a forehand?

Some pros drop the racket with the edge pointing down (Del Potro, Halep) and others (Federer, Stosur) with the face (strings) pointing down.

forehand drop Halep vs Federer techniques

Simona Halep forehand drop on the edge vs Roger Federer drop on the face of the racket

If you’re unsure of the pros and cons of each forehand drop technique and are curious about which one I recommend for recreational tennis players, then read on.

Special thanks to Jorge Capestany for letting me use the videos and images from his video collection of the pros in slow motion which you can find on Jorge’s Youtube Channel!

The Stable Wrist Position

Before I explain the different types of drop techniques and wrist actions on the forehand, I want to explain one concept that I call a stable wrist.

A wrist is stable when it is in the full extension – so it’s fully laid back.

stable wrist on forehand swing

A stable wrist happens at some point in the forward swing…

This stable / fully laid back position of the wrist – which is at around 90 degrees angle in relation to the forearm – happens at some point in the forward swing and it stays there until the contact.

tennis forehand wrist position at contact

… and this same “forearm to wrist” position is the same at contact point.

To let a player experience what a stable wrist does for them, I have the player extend their arm forward while holding their racket with the forehand grip. Then I push the racket, holding it on both ends towards the player.

Next I ask the player to open their fingers, and I push the racket again into their palm.

how to feel a stable wrist

With a fully laid back wrist you don’t need to squeeze the handle to resist the force of the push / impact.

They realize and feel that their wrist is stable and “strong” and that they don’t have to squeeze the racket or contract their hand and wrist muscles in order to stabilize the racket – which is what they have probably been doing all the time.

If the player’s wrist doesn’t reach full extension, meaning it doesn’t reach the end of its movement and end up fully laid back, then the player has to actively stabilize the wrist by tightening the grip and wrist muscles to keep the wrist and the racket stable at impact.

The negative consequence of that is that the player then loses the feel in their hand and the flexibility of the wrist which can still move around its axis.

With this loss of the wrist flexibility the player also loses the ability to precisely spin the ball and to adjust with the hand if last-minute adjustments are necessary.

All those are not possible with a very tight and “locked” wrist.

Keep in mind that you can have a fully laid back wrist only if you hit the ball well in front where your forearm and wrist form a roughly 90 degree angle (or a letter L for an easier mental image).

forehand wrist at contact point

If I hit the ball well in front then my wrist will be in a stable (L) position.

When that happens, it means that the wrist has reached a very stable position and cannot move any more backwards – because of the way the arm and hand bones and tendons are structured.

Once that happens, almost no more tension is required to keep the wrist and therefore the racket in place.

That natural looseness and flexibility of the wrist can then be used to work on the ball with much more feel and control.

Letting The Stable Wrist Happen

When players learn about the fully laid back wrist while taking lessons or observing the pros in slow motion, the biggest mistake they make is that they try to copy exactly what they see.

If you immediately lay back your wrist fully while preparing your forehand stroke, you will lose on the stretch-and-release effect that happens when we lag the racket (and therefore the wrist) behind.

Now, what’s important to know is that, whatever drop technique you’re using, the wrist must fall into the laid-back position by itself. We must allow it.

One way I show this to players is by standing behind them and holding their forearm only.

I ask the player to have a loose wrist, and then I move their arm slowly back and then quickly forward.

Not only that, but we also stand next to the net so that, once they swing forward, they hit the net at their ideal contact point with a laid-back wrist.

stable wrist forehand drill

I gently pull the arm back and then quickly forward and the wrist simply falls back into a stable position. It stays in that same position until contact.

That’s how the player experiences how their wrist falls back into a stable position by itself simply because of the racket’s weight and change of direction that I create.

They also feel with how much power they hit the net although they haven’t tightened their muscles or worked very hard.

The trickiest part of this laid-back wrist process is to relax your wrist enough that it lays back itself as far as it goes and then it will stop moving and stabilize itself.

Another tricky part is to do it just when you’re about to swing forward.

Most recreational tennis players do exactly the opposite!

As they are about to swing forward, they start to TENSE UP their arm and wrist muscles in order to “strongly” hit the ball. In the process, they prevent the wrist from laying back fully.

That prevents them from relaxing their arm more, which also means that they cannot move their wrist upwards to spin the ball well, they cannot adjust well in the last second to challenging balls and they don’t really feel the power from the wrist lag which causes the forearm muscle to stretch and then snap back.

The solution to this problem is very counter-intuitive, and that’s why most players never figure it out.

Instead of trying to do MORE (using more of your muscles to get more power), you have to do LESS – meaning you need to relax your wrist muscles more when you’re about to swing forward.

When you do less, the lag will happen and the wrist will fall back into a stable position.

You will start to feel that you don’t have to squeeze the racket so tight while still feeling a very stable wrist and good control of the racket head.

From this position when the wrist is laid back, your forearm muscle will also stretch and then snap back, which will give you that extra power to your shots.

This mechanism of the stretch and snap of the forearm muscles happens only if we allow the wrist to lag.

We must allow the wrist to fall back into the laid-back position and not try to “do it” by ourselves.

You can learn very practical and feel based exercises on how to create a wrist lag, how to engage more of your body into the forehand and how to clean up your technique from any flaws in my Effortless Forehand video course.

Dropping On The Edge Vs Dropping On The Face Of The Racket

Now that you’re familiar with the concept of a stable wrist, let’s take a look at those two main types of dropping the racket head and what the differences are.

Note that the appearance of dropping the racket on the edge happens only when you hold an eastern or a semi-western forehand grip (just a bit more closed).

forehands grips in the drop

Eastern vs Semi-Western vs Western grips and respective racket angle

But, if you hold a western forehand grip, then your racket will always go with the face down into the drop.

Dropping On The Edge

So, when we drop the racket on the edge, then the wrist reaches a very stable position very early in the stroke.

When the racket is parallel to the baseline, then the wrist is almost in a completely stable position. It doesn’t move much any more, and it falls into a fully laid back position when the player rotates the hips forward.

Simona Halep forehand technique

Dropping on the edge like Halep does puts the wrist in a stable position at the start of the forward swing

That gives us a very good feel of a stable racket face; therefore, we feel we can control the shot well.

The racket is also aligned almost at the same angle as it will be when we hit the ball at the contact point.

This helps us feel in control of our forehand stroke.

And since the racket’s angle is already correct for hitting the ball over the net, we have quite a big margin of error when it comes to the contact point and timing.

If we hit the ball a bit too late (which happens all the time at the recreational level), we already have the racket at the correct angle with a stable wrist, so we still hit quite a good shot.

Dropping On The Face

When we drop the racket on the face like Roger Federer does, then the wrist is not in a stable position and the racket face is not aligned properly to hit the ball over the net.

Roger Federer's forehand drop technique

Roger Federer’s forehand drop technique doesn’t create a stable wrist at the start of the forward swing

As we continue going forward in the swing, the wrist starts to fall back. At the same time, it starts to turn slightly, which makes the racket face start to turn away from a completely closed position.

For about half of the forward swing, the wrist is not stable and the racket face is not aligned correctly!

Eventually, the wrist does reach a stable position. In this example of analyzing Roger Federer’s forehand, it happens at around 0.08 seconds before contact.

Roger Federer forehand wrist

Only at around this time in the forward swing does Federer reach a stable wrist position

The reason I am noting the times is that you can see how difficult tennis is and how accurate the timings and moves in the stroke have to be to hit the ball at exactly the right time with a correctly positioned racket face.

Start a stopwatch (you can do it even on your smartphone) and tap as quickly as possible to start and stop it to see if you can make it in less than 0.10 seconds.

That’s how late in the stroke Roger Federer finds a stable wrist.

I personally can demonstrate this forehand drop technique on the face and hit a forehand, but I can distinctly feel how difficult that is for me – and that’s because I feel that the racket positions correctly for the shot very late in the stroke and that my wrist feels a bit wobbly and unstable because I had to keep it very loose when dropping the forehand in this manner.

The benefit of this forehand drop technique is that it allows the player to accelerate the racket head faster since the wrist is looser.

 

But, while you do get more power with this technique, you also have a much smaller margin of error.

That’s very obvious if we play Federer’s forehand stroke for a few more frames forward and see what point his racket actually aligns correctly to hit the ball.

I see it almost perpendicular at only around 0.02 seconds before contact, but it may be even a few frames later.

forehand before contact

Federer aligns the racket correctly only about 0.02 seconds before contact (or even later)

So, if Roger was late with this stroke by just 0.02 seconds, his forehand would have hit the ball into the net.

That’s because, for most of this forehand swing, the racket face is closed and it starts to open and position itself perpendicularly just before the contact.

If you’re been trying this forehand drop technique on your own and have found yourself playing very inconsistently, you now know why.

By mis-timing your shot by just 0.02 seconds, your racket face was not positioned correctly.

If we now compare the forehand drop technique from Simona Halep, who drops it more on the edge, we can see that her wrist is stable already 0.13 seconds before contact and her racket face is also aligned correctly at that time.

Simona Halep vs Roger Federer forehand

Simona Halep stabilizes the wrist and positions the racket correctly much earlier in the swing

While she gets a bit less power with that drop technique, she gains much more control and has a much larger margin of error.

One analogy I like to use is the powerful car analogy.

If you were to try driving a Formula 1 car with massive power, you would very likely crash in a matter of seconds. There would simply be too much power and speed for you to control it.

You are used to controlling the car perhaps up to 80 miles per hour, and the Formula 1 car can easily reach 200 miles per hour.

If you wanted to learn how to control such a fast car, you would need to gradually increase the speed from your 80 miles per hour. You would need to practice for months and probably years in order to control the Formula 1 car at 200 miles per hour.

The same goes for this modern forehand drop technique employed by Federer, Dimitrov, Stosur and many other pros.

Since they’ve been drilling their forehands since childhood, they have gotten so good at it that they can control that extra power and keep the ball in the court.

What I want to show you here with the Halep vs Federer forehand technique comparison is how much simpler the dropping on the edge technique is and how much larger the margin of error is.

The dropping on the face technique has to be executed to perfection in an extremely short time frame, and it’s unlikely that you can play well without much practice.

But, if you are using this technique and it works for you, then keep it and don’t worry about it.

Your brain has obviously been able to calculate all the complex timings of this type of stroke, and you can just stay with it.

If you want to add just a bit more stability to the stroke, then consider laying back your wrist a bit while you’re dropping the racket.

That means that the racket will not be parallel to the ground just before you swing forward, but it will be slightly pointing up with the tip.

That might help you keep your wrist from swinging too wildly by the time you hit the ball.

Extreme Flip & Drop Technique

We can take a look at one more variation of the forehand drop technique. Roger Federer also uses it, but it’s most obvious in the case of Jack Sock.

In this case, the tip of the racket is pointing forward for a long time in the backswing until the last moment, when it flips completely for around 180 degrees while it also drops, usually in the face-down racket position.

Jason Frausto explains this very clearly in the video below and also compares Jack Sock’s forehand swing to Roger Federer’s forehand.

This extreme “flipping” of the racket head stretches the forearm muscles even more than usual. This creates an extreme stretch-and-snap effect of the forearm, and the wrist and the racket head are basically shot out at very high speed.

Roger Federer uses this technique when he is receiving a very slow ball, and he really wants to hit it fast.

Federer extreme forehand power

Roger Federer also uses the extreme flip & drop technique when he has enough time

If he is receiving a faster ball and is not positioned well, then he will not attempt to accelerate the racket head so much and will look for more control.

This forehand drop technique is even more challenging, and I would not recommend it to any recreational tennis player.

In summary, I hope this comparison between dropping the racket on the edge and dropping it on the face gives you a better understanding of how this process works in terms of physics and biomechanics as well as the pros and cons of each technique.

I know you are all bombarded with information and videos on “How to play like the pros”, “How to hit a forehand like Roger Federer” and “How to hit forehands with more power”, but you must use your common sense and consider whether we, as recreational hobby tennis players, can actually use such advanced techniques as the pros do without spending as much time training as they do.

If we could actually do that just based on some video on YouTube, then it would be a little bit unfair, don’t you think?

The pros had to train for 3-4 hours per day for 10 years, so it seems unlikely that the only thing you need is that secret information derived from super-smart analysis of what Roger Federer is doing to shave off 9 and a half years of practice.

Wouldn’t it be a bit unfair if just a few weeks of practicing this secret modern forehand drop technique would let you crush all your opponents in your club? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Leave a Comment:

(66) comments

Helen February 12, 2017

Brilliant- it makes perfect sense now.

Reply
Jaroslav February 12, 2017

Hi Tomaz,
Excelent explanation. I tried to copy the racket movement “pat the dog” as descibed in some articles. The result was that I lost the consistency in my shots and cosequently I was not able to place the ball where I wanted. Therefore I appreciate very much this explanation, because It was difficult for me to diagnose the cause of the problem.
Regards,
Jaroslav

Reply
    Tomaz February 12, 2017

    Try the more simple approach, Jaroslav, and see how it goes…

    Reply
Peter February 12, 2017

Dear Tomaz,
I love your analysis and know how right you are and learned so much from your forehand course.
Your exercise with a learner at the net is great, he can feel a loose wrist, you are really creative!
Still one remark: the person drops the racket when you lead his forearm and the movement is more like Federers move and of course he is very loose, but it is not like the “edge”first movement. But still I think it is helpful.
Love your work, Peter

Reply
    Tomaz February 12, 2017

    Hi Peter,

    It helps players visualize what needs to happen but again there is no single instruction in tennis that cannot be misinterpreted by players.

    So we need to keep explaining things until we’re sure we’re on the same page.

    Reply
Jeff Lewis February 12, 2017

Tomaz,

You are exactly right in all that you explain. I have been trying to figure out the advantages of these different styles for the last 12 months and now it all makes sense. I bought the “Effortless Forehand” course last month and am very glad that I did. Videos and narrative are very clear and my control has improved dramatically. I have been watching most of the “on-line” providers, Florian, Jeff, Ian, Clay, Tom and yourself. You are the most realistic in approach and in-line with the recreational player because I will never have 3-4 hours per day for 10 years to catch up to the “pros” so I have decided that you will be the main source of my on-line tennis instruction. Thank you for all your efforts. Jeff Lewis – NY USA

Reply
    Tomaz February 12, 2017

    Much appreciated, Jeff, thanks for sharing your views.

    Reply
Q February 12, 2017

Love your explanation. Seems to me that in order to “do” the recreational forehand stroke, you must also not hold on to the racquet too tightly. How do you make sure your gripping the racquet is not too tight?

Hit the forehand with the last three fingers of the hand, perhaps like a serve?

Thanks

Q

Reply
    Chaka February 12, 2017

    I think one important factor in Roger’s swing is his increased ability to control his degree of topspin on offensive shots, and his response to heavy topsin on defensive shots. His technique allows him to adjust his racquet angle and acceleration at contact at the last minute, making it easier to take balls early. Let’s also remember that Roger was taught how to hit this way in his teens (he came on the tour hitting like this).There is a way to teach it, but unfortunately the person he learned from passed away.

    Reply
      Tomaz February 12, 2017

      Hi Chaka,

      I sincerely doubt that Federer was taught this specific technique of dropping the racket on the face.

      I am quite sure he naturally developed that through his talent and his ability to swing at the ball and yet remain very relaxed.

      Reply
    Tomaz February 12, 2017

    Hi Q,

    You can start with the 3 fingers drills although I prefer to leave out just the pinky for the forehand.

    After that you can experiment with grip tensions and look for the least amount of grip tension that still gives you control.

    I still do that every time I am on the court – I simply try to be as economical as possible.

    Reply
Alessandro February 12, 2017

A really eye-opening explanation!
Very clear.

would be helpful to have some tips on how to time the hit

Alessandro

Reply
    Tomaz February 12, 2017

    Thanks, Alessandro.

    I suggest you start with these timing drills and see how they work for you.

    Reply
Jonathan February 12, 2017

Tomas, I think your explanation here of what Federer is doing on his forehand, in contrast to another great player like Agassi, is outstanding. I particularly loved your demonstration of this Federer like forehand, both with your student with the net drill, and your personal demonstration, while humbly pointing out the level of difficulty in using this technique. I guess the realistic take home may be to just to understand what we as players are trying to do? Your presentation really helped me I feel in this understanding.

Reply
    Jonathan February 12, 2017

    Meant to say Tomaz

    Reply
    Tomaz February 12, 2017

    Thanks, Jonathan. I am just trying to show as clearly as possible what the pros and cons of Federer’s forehand drop technique are.

    After that anyone can make their choice on what they want to experiment with and then understand certain challenges that come with it.

    Reply
Talat February 12, 2017

Thank you for your wonderfull explain which I observation on Federer’s forehand slow motions. I wonder what about backhand? Is it true the same stroke for backhand?

Reply
    Tomaz February 12, 2017

    Hi Talat,

    Normally players don’t really drop the racket on the face when hitting a backhand so I don’t think there’s a debate going on.

    Let me know what specifically you had in mind and whether you mean a two-handed or a one-handed backhand…

    Reply
      Talat February 20, 2017

      Tomaz, I wonder if we relax our wrist and laid back in two handed backhand same as forehand you mentioned. I think, for example, Kei Nishikori uses arms in the same relaxation level for both forehand and backhand, and also drop his racquet in backhand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhcGKbr5wyE)
      Thank you so much for your interest.

      Talat

      Reply
        Tomaz February 22, 2017

        Hi Talat,

        Yes, the wrists function in the same way on the two-handed backhand, they must be allowed to lay back and from there the player accelerates forward.

        Reply
Remguy February 12, 2017

Excellent analysis as always, Tomaz! The difficulty, I think, in convincing young men that they DON’T want more power is an uphill battle older men have been fighting for generations. In fact, it’s probably only because we (older men) are losing power that we even consider the alternative! ๐Ÿ™‚

I am an older man (54) and was NEVER what you might consider a testosterone-driven personality type, even in my youth, but when I step onto the tennis court, there is this transformation I undergo, like Lon Chaney under a full moon, into a mustachioed, Firebird-driving, tobacco-chewing, NASCAR-cap-wearing MACHO MAN! (Cue “YMCA” by the Village People and cut to clips of the pros DESTROYING a series of easy sitters…)

It seems ludicrous to even propose, but would you consider doing a video on the importance of accuracy and consistency over fireball-spewing, Hindu god of destruction, brut force? I know, this shouldn’t be necessary, but there are certainly others who suffer from this irrational and unfortunate obsession with power-at-all-costs. We’re kind of like the family dog who can’t resist tearing up the trash when you’re out, even though they *know* they will be in trouble when you get home. Just picture our sad faces, and take pity…

Thanks as always for the wonderful gift of your always “spot on” tennis analysis and instruction, we appreciate you more than you can possibly know!

Yours – Remguy, Montreal, Canada

P.S. There are several other differences between Federer’s and Halep’s forehands. For anyone interested, there is an excellent analysis of the ATP vs WTA forehand here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0uCQBiH2Ko

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Arnold Lieberman February 12, 2017

Excellent lesson. Had a lot of pros but non of them explained the wrist action like you did. Always had a problem with my wrist being too loose, a carry over from my squash days. Your video is of great help to me. Thanks

Reply
Aggie February 12, 2017

Tomaz
What an amazing explanation of how to create the forehand lag and the at this time in tennis technique evolution the optimal relationship between lower arm and racket handle using the Federer ‘table top’/’Pat the dog’ method…..is this not what you are really trying to get your players to get in touch with – how it feels? In my experience, by following your teaching methods, the learning process is much accelerated by again feeling for the various positions which by-pass the 4 hours a day for 10 years approach required to maybe make it as a professional……as you mentioned most recreational players just do not have this kind of time to devote to their tennis development. You are an outstanding teacher and if the motivation is within a player combined with other online and decent local coaching and a reasonable amount of creative practice it is possible if the desire is within a player (young or old) to take their tennis play forward at a sometimes surprisingly rapid way! Many thanks for all your work.

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Andy February 12, 2017

Hey Tomaz,

I am a recreational player at my university’s tennis club (I’m probably somewhere between 3.5-4.0 NTRP). I have learned tennis mostly online watching Youtube videos and reading articles. I have to say that your Modern Forehand video/article really helped improve my forehand, especially dropping the racket on the edge. Prior to me stumbling upon this, I would try to emulate Rick Macci’s “Tap the Dog” position (Which most ATP players use), without much success. I would not get enough power, mishit, and it would feel awkward. It was simply too complex for me, a recreational player. Now I feel much more consistent with the racket drop on the edge. Thank you for sharing a simplified version of the forehand that a recreational player can understand and use with great success!

I have some further questions as well that I have been dying to uncover the truth of:

1. When hitting with topspin, should my racket strings make contact with the upper part of the tennis ball, or the center of the tennis ball? I’m looking for clarification on which part of the tennis ball to strike so it doesn’t fly out or hit the net.

2. How far away should an ideal contact point be from the body so you don’t get jammed up and get the most power from your shots?

Thanks, I hope to take my tennis game to the next level!

Reply
    Tomaz February 13, 2017

    Thanks for the feedback, Andy!

    Let me go straight to your questions:

    1. You should aim for the bottom part of the ball on most groundstrokes! And that’s at around 45 degrees below the “equator”.

    From then on you would level out into a more horizontal swing path. So we approach the ball from below but we don’t swing in the same direction upward but we level out the swing.

    2. The distance to the ball is determined by your comfort level and nothing else. If you’re jammed you’re too close, if you’re reaching and losing balance you’re too far.

    Even if you know that distance in exact inches you can’t do anything with that information as you can’t measure inches from you while you play. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    So it’s all about feeling where you like to hit the ball and where you feel good power.

    Reply
      Andy February 18, 2017

      Thanks for the reply!

      In regards to the first answer, I was wondering: I feel like my shots would sail long if I make contact on the lower part of the ball since the racket strings would be angled toward the sky/slightly open. It seems almost everyone has their racket face closed about 10 degrees downward, which means it would contact the ball toward the upper part or center part.

      On some slow motion of pros hitting groundstrokes, it is hard to tell sometimes, but it looks as if they are making contact on their strings toward the upper part or center of the ball. Of course, their swing path is low to high.

      I’m very interested in this specific point of contact because it is probably one of the most important concepts regarding groundstrokes. I’m obsessed with improving my tennis game, I’ll be asking for clarification in order to understand the correct thing players should do, haha. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
        Tomaz February 18, 2017

        Hi Andy,

        It’s one thing how we explain things and how we feel things and a completely another thing what happens in reality.

        In reality the racket can change the angle very fast – like a few degrees in 0.01 seconds – and the swing path angle can also change very fast.

        The contact with the ball lasts around 0.005 seconds and yet we talk about brushing the ball, rolling the ball, staying with the ball, etc. which are all not happening in reality because the ball has long left the strings before we can start brushing it. ๐Ÿ™‚

        I hope you understand the difference between explanations and feels and the actual reality that’s happening.

        So when I say that you should hit the ball below the center that WILL NOT actually happen!

        It is simply an instruction, a guideline how to approach hitting the ball.

        So imagine hitting the ball below the center first and the continue hitting across the “equator / center of the ball” and “leaving” the ball somewhere above the center of the ball.

        So imagine rolling the ball with the racket even though that’s realistically impossible.

        You are approaching all these ideas too logically and analytically and as you will find out our conscious and logical mind is way too slow to process all this information in hundredths of a second that strokes happen.

        I can explain to you what I personally feel and imagine when hitting the ball and my explanation will take 15 seconds to explain and yet in reality it will last 0.005 seconds.

        So instead of logically questioning the ideas – especially on a FEEL tennis website – give it a shot and just do it and try to feel and figure out what we coaches meant when we explained certain concepts.

        Reply
          Andy February 18, 2017

          Thanks for the clearing up.

          I admit: I tend to overthink things sometimes whenever I want to improve at something. So the next time I hit the court, I’ll try to apply these simple guidelines without processing too much information in my head.

          As usual, thanks for the great instruction, look forward to seeing the next videos/articles!

          Thanks,
          Andy

          Reply
Nils February 12, 2017

Tomaz,

very good. I had a lot of doubt about exactly this point. I saw that most male professionals do it differently from the women and was wondering why and what I should do.

Today I try to drop the racket “over the edge”, except when I am under time pressure. In the latter case I feel the drop with the face down is faster, i.e. I do not do it for the power, but for the faster response time.

Regards,

Nils

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Colin February 13, 2017

Thanks for another great video Tomaz! I have a few follow-up questions.

I should mention that starting a couple of years ago, after seeing various videos out there like the “ATP vs WTA Forehand” one that is on Youtube, and some others, I experimented with trying to copy Federer’s form. I found that under the right conditions, that form gave me an amazing amount of “free” power, and nice topspin. However, whenever I was more stressed for time (and it doesn’t help that I have very bad eyesight), I ended up messing up the shot or hitting it too flat, as I didn’t have enough time for the complete motion. Now I mostly hit something similar to Halep’s form, setting up very early, and it seems a lot more reliable for most balls.

Here are my questions:

1) There are still some kinds of balls, like when I am running up to a slow low ball or high ball and trying to swing through while also rotating my body through and forward, that I find it helpful to have the racquet pointing face down and slightly forward (i.e. the Federer style). It seems to allow me to get a lot more snap on the ball, and because the balls are slower, as long as I don’t rush, I actually have plenty of time to execute properly. Do you think there is anything wrong with mixing forms like this?

2) One advantage I found for me, with Halep’s form, which I don’t think you touched on explicitly in the video, is that aside from the whole question of making it easier to do the proper timing, it seems better when you simply don’t have enough time and need to do an abbreviated swing, whether on a return of server, or on a faster regular groundstroke. On these types of balls, with the Federer form, I was often caught with the racquet still going slowly down facedown to set up, and it was very hard to hit the ball at all, or I would end up hitting it very flat as it was a very last minute snap. With the Halep form, as soon as I start the unit turn and start taking the racquet back, I am ready to drop the racquet head down on edge and hit an abbreviated swing through the ball. Do you agree that this form has this advantage?

3) Aside from the question of “free” power, it does seem to me that the Federer form, when executed properly, makes it somewhat easier to hit a topspin ball, vs. the Halep form which results in somewhat of a flatter hit. Do you agree or disagree?

Regards,
Colin

Reply
    Tomaz February 13, 2017

    Thanks, Colin.

    Off to your questions:

    1. By saying how your racket is aligned when you’re running to the ball – how do you know that? If you have recorded yourself than that’s ok but do you actually consciously think how you will align your racket while running to the ball?

    You should have no idea whatsoever how your racket is positioned when you run to the ball. Just imagine what you want to do with the ball and allow your body to adjust.

    EVERYTHING is correct, all styles, racket with face down, racket at 45 degrees, racket on the edge, everything is correct when your brain and body choose to do that without your awareness.

    Of course it’s fine! Who cares how you swing your racket, the only thing that matters is whether you hit the ball in and hit it with efficient power.

    2. Sure, it’s easier to pick up balls on the rise with the racket already positioned for the hit. I guarantee you that Federer does that too. The only thing that worries me again is that how is it possible that you are conscious again of how your racket is aligned when you hit the ball…

    You shouldn’t know anything about your racket face when dealing with fast balls, you should just try to play them back with control… The rest will just happen.

    3. Yes, Federer style forehand will create higher amount of spin because his racket head moves faster.

    That’s the whole reason why the pros use that technique – they increase racket head speed and can use that for more power or more spin or both.

    Reply
      Colin February 22, 2017

      Thanks for the explanations Tomaz. With respect to knowing how the racquet is aligned, I try not to think much about form or technique while playing real games. On the other hand, if I am doing rallying or something like a Live Ball drill, if I mishit a ball or it doesn’t do what I want, and then play has stopped, I will sometimes remember and think about what my body and racquet were doing when I mishit. Sometimes I may have no idea of course…

      Reply
Bakthan February 13, 2017

Excellent demonstration of the bio mechanics involved in the forehand lag and snap technique. The extreme flip variation is hard for the club players to emulate.
Thanks for the video.

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Richard February 13, 2017

Hi Tomaz

This instruction comes at just the right time as I have been struggling with consistency on my forehand strokes. After using the technique in this video clip I get the felling of a more controlled “drive” of the ball, almost as if I am guiding it the the intended direction. Is this correct?

Reply
    Tomaz February 13, 2017

    Hi Richard,

    Feeling that you are “guiding the ball” is the right feeling to have.

    Just look for that feeling of the wrist lag happening by itself and not you forcing it at the start of the forward swing.

    Reply
Zac February 13, 2017

Excellent post as always, Tomaz. Aiming for the less ambitious WTA style forehand definitely seems to make more sense.

However, I question the importance of having a “modern” forehand AT ALL.

With my non-modern, highly flawed forehand I’m able to produce plenty of short, attackable balls from my opponents… and then proceed to flub smashes because of nerves/general lack of coordination, or miss volleys because of bad anticipation/grip problems/lack of clear intention, etc.

After losing matches I’ve often thought “if only my overhead were better”, or “if only I hadn’t double faulted on those big points” or “if only I could hit a decent passing shot with my backhand”, but I’ve never once have thought, “if only my forehand were more powerful”.

And how many times have I been beaten by players with unconventional, slice forehands? Plenty!

Of course, it would be great to improve all parts of my game AND have a beautiful forehand, but we have limited time, and every time we focus on one thing we’re not focusing on something else.

That’s why lately I’ve been focusing on split stepping, watching the ball well at contact and playing with a clear intention on every shot–that is, the things that all good players have always done, even before their forehands got so modern.

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Mons February 13, 2017

Hi Tomaz,
I think this is the only comprehensive explanation of the different methods of “lagging/dropping” the racket online at the moment and it couldn’t come at a better time as I was beginning to get confused by the disparate explanations online…!

I feel so relieved you have pointed out the obvious about recreational/club players not having many hours of repetition unlike the pros, like you I’ll stick with “dropping on edge” as I feel the most control. As ever your illustrations are the best, you should have been a teacher!

Reply
    Tomaz February 13, 2017

    Hi Mons,

    Well, hopefully you can see that the timings of the Federer’s forehand technique are much more difficult.

    If one can relax their wrist so much, time the shots well and use their wrist for power, then by all means, go for it.

    I just wanted to point out the differences in terms of difficulty in relation to timing.

    Reply
Rob February 13, 2017

This is an excellent video! My daughters developed a bad habit of drawing the racquet back with a stiff arm and wrist, rather than dropping the racquet with a relaxed wrist and arm. As you can imagine, this compromised their ability to make solid, powerful contact with the ball. I think they learned this by watching other kids hit incorrectly, and slowly absorbing the habit.

Fortunately, your videos are a great tool, helping me to provide a visual they can learn to eventually feel. Now, it’s a matter of repetition until the muscle memory takes over. Thanks for making your coaching videos available. As you well know, coaching can be expensive, so thank you for being willing to share your expertise!

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    Tomaz February 13, 2017

    Much appreciated, Rob. My personal approach is to start with simple stroke technique first and then keep an eye on how it evolves.

    As you can see everyone on the tour plays a slightly different forehand – meaning they develop different “style”.

    But the biomechanics of the body are almost the same for everyone.

    So we need to focus on basic biomechanics of the forehand first so that the players hits the ball with efficient power and then we need to make sure they don’t get off the track too much once they start experimenting with it.

    Reply
Sinchai DeLong February 13, 2017

Just Excellent Tomaz!

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Paulo February 13, 2017

Hi Tomaz,

Great insight and very clear explanation, as usual. Many thanks.

I’d like to see an analysis of Del Potro’s forehand one day..? I mean, since he doesn’t take his arm back but extends it out in front and uses the shoulder, no?, to shoot the wrist..

Thanks again!
Paulo

Reply
    Tomaz February 13, 2017

    Thanks, Paulo.

    Del Potro drops the racket more on the edge – or in other words just lays back his wrist without changing its orientation.

    Here’s a nice example…

    Reply
Ged February 15, 2017

I was hitting this morning, changed my contact point more out front.

I discovered I needed to let my wrist be laid back just a moment longer, to hit the new contact point with the “stable wrist”, you explained so well…

Thanks Tomaz. I enjoy technique and teaching friends. Your videos are the best, we seem to think alike.

The one on momentum revolutionized my serve and strokes. Wish I had this teaching earlier.

I am 60 years old, and making most of my improvements last few years, since I found your teachings.

Reply
    Tomaz February 16, 2017

    Great to hear that, Ged.

    Sometimes very small changes in the stroke technique – or contact point – result in big difference how effortlessly we hit the ball.

    Reply
      Ged February 16, 2017

      Thanks, nice to hear from you. Maybe you read Tim Galaway’s book “The Inner Game of Tennis”.

      I liked his approach, how he told people you have to be a good learner, and discover technique on your own.

      Your teaching seems to understand that approach. But you go a step further, teaching specific technique, but with a keen understanding of the learning, discovery process.

      Reply
        Tomaz February 17, 2017

        Yes, I did read Inner Game of Tennis and it’s a good guide to developing many skills one needs to play better tennis and how to defeat the “inner demons”.

        Reply
          Ged February 17, 2017

          Thank you. Yes I was battling the “inner demons” in doubles last night.
          After 90 minutes of practicing with a friend, hitting hard consistent ground forehands with wrist lag, whip, stable wrist, extension. It did not translate to match play till I mentally adjusted, and then the practice forehands began to translate to match play.
          No need to respond, but on a personal note: My parents are from Lithuania. I went back there as a Christian missionary in Klaipeda on the Baltic for 7 years. We used to drive through Slovinima on the way to conferences in Berlin and Budapest.
          My friends and I think you are more than a great teacher, but are very patient and kind.
          I am thinking you may be a Christian who really knows the Lord ?
          God bless you Tomaz.

          Reply
Kam.mafi February 18, 2017

it was the best explanation & demonstration of different modern forehand showed by on line tennis coach

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Chloe February 22, 2017

Hi Tomaz,

I just returned from a weekend of tennis clinics, during which I was strongly contemplating switching to a WTA forehand from my current forehand that at least more closely resembles the ATP-style. I was happy to see this video when I got home!

I learned what I know about tennis primarily from online courses and videos, and so was thoroughly convinced that the ATP forehand was what I needed.

I struggled getting power on my forehand, and I realized I wasn’t really releasing my wrist into the shot, but rather was holding it quite stiff. So a few months ago I started releasing my wrist, but while I occasionally connected properly and hit amazing shots with easy power and spin, my consistency went way down and hasn’t come back up. When I’m in pressure situations I revert back to holding my wrist more firm which ups my consistency but massively decreases my power.

Thanks so much for this video where I believe you’re explaining why this would be and solidifying my decision to switch to the WTA forehand!

I do have one question – do you have any thoughts on why the WTA players use the slower racquet-head-speed shot? There are a few exceptions to this but not many. And, as you say, a few cases of men using the WTA-style forehand but again, not many, or at least not many right now.

If the ATP forehand was truly the “better” shot (more power, more spin) then why wouldn’t the women adopt it? They practice as much as the men.

I guess I’m just wondering if there’s an anatomical difference between men and women, or in the demands of their respective games, that would make one shot work better for each.

I know this isn’t in the scope of this video, I’m just curious if you have an opinion on this.

Thanks again for this lesson – it’s very helpful!

Reply
    Tomaz February 22, 2017

    Hi Chloe,

    Thanks for your feedback.

    I think there are two reasons why men use a more dynamic lag:

    1. They have better ball judgment and timing – at least I think so from my experience.

    So that allows them to swing their racket head quite “violently” and yet still hit the ball at the right time.

    As you saw in the video above, if your timing is off just by 0.02 seconds for example you will mishit the ball.

    2. Men are stronger – they have stronger wrists and forearms.

    So as they swing with this dynamic lag this puts a lot of pressure on their wrist and forearm.

    Again, it’s quite a violent swing and the wrist must be able to handle it for 20 years and hitting the ball 4 hours per day.

    You can see Stosur playing with the ATP style forehand but she is extremely strong and she can handle those forces that happen with this kind of swing.

    Reply
      Chloe February 22, 2017

      Interesting! I’ve always suspected that forearm strength might have something to do with it – I personally struggle getting the racquet head level with the ball at contact in the ATP forehand (the head is significantly lower than my hand at contact) so this could be a reflection of my lack of forearm strength and wrist stability.

      Also, I’ve read before that men’s brains are better at spatial awareness than women’s, perhaps this contributes as well. Obviously this is just a generalization and wouldn’t apply to everyone, and at different levels of effect.

      Anyway, thanks for the reply, now on to the challenge of learning a new forehand!

      Reply
        Ged February 22, 2017

        Hi Chloe, I am a guy who has allways strugled with timeing, so I drop my racquet on edge the way Tomaz said Halep and most WTA players do.
        Delpotro has about the most powerfull forehand and he drops the racquet on edge.

        The racquet head speed and thuse power happen mostly from a loose wrist, snapping the arm and wrist foreward with a loose wrist, the wrist becomes laid back as Tomaz showed with his student. The wrist and forearm muscles become stretched or (loaded), then it releases and the ensuing muscle contraction is allso more powerfull.
        A muscle has to be loose to be stretched or loaded.

        I have learned from Tomaz vidio about the stable wrist. I am experimenting leaving my wrist remaining g loose a bit longer, even at and through the contact point, because the wrist is stable when it is laid back. Effortless power indeed!

        Reply
          Ged February 22, 2017

          to ad to my previous post concerning consistency…
          On the forehand, when the arm is driven towrds the ball with the loose wrist lag, if you make contact with the wrist laid back, even if it remains loose it is stable, and you can hit it and guide the shot with control.

          We just need to practice the timming of it…

          Reply
          Chloe February 22, 2017

          Hi Ged, Thanks for your input on this…

          I don’t really struggle with getting a relaxed wrist and wrist lag as I bring my arm forward from the back of the swing.

          The problem for me has been getting my racquet into the right position to meet the ball properly with a relaxed wrist at contact. As Tomaz points out, there’s a smaller window of time when the racquet is in the right position for contact in the ATP forehand.

          In my case, I’m not able to time that part well, so I’ve always kind of had to choose between:

          a) keeping my wrist almost locked through the contact zone (after letting it lag at the start of the forward movement) and getting good consistency but little pace

          b) really relaxing my wrist through the entire stroke, naturally pronating my forearm through contact, and getting a lot of pace and spin but sacrificing consistency since I frequently make contact with an improper racquet angle.

          I’m hoping that with the WTA forehand I’ll be able to keep my wrist relaxed throughout since my racquet will be on edge and therefore in the right plane to make contact for a longer period of time. It sounds like this is what you’re working on too.

          Great to hear you’re having better timing success with the WTA forehand and keeping your wrist more relaxed for effortless power (and consistency)!

          And yes, getting the timing down will take practice! Changing technique is always hard at first but I’m eager to see if I can make improvements.

          Reply
          GED February 24, 2017

          You explained that clearly.

          I have had a loose wrist with lag getting good power on my forehand for a while.
          But what I learned from this Tomaz vidio, is being convinced that the wrist is stable when laid back, or extended fully.
          This has slowed me to keep my wrist extended fully, and still loose seemingly at and through the contact point, that’s giving me control.

          I used to do similar what you explained having the loose wrist lag up to contact but then tighten up at contact…

          For me, I was loose as I drove the but of the racquet towrds the ball, but then I released my wrist and started to flex my wrist just befor and through contact.
          That worked for power but the timing window was very short and consistency was down.

          Now because of this revelation that the wrist WILL be stable at contact if it is near fully extended ( laid back), I can keep it loose and laid back as I drive the face through the hitting zone.
          I think once you get to trust that your wrist can be stable at contact even if it remains loose, you will student up less.
          It will take time, good luck…

          Reply
          Chloe February 26, 2017

          Ok, I see what you mean now! So learning that I don’t only have the 2 options of pronating through contact OR actively holding my wrist tight. Instead I can just trust that my wrist can be stable if it’s laid back and relaxed. Thanks for clarifying.

          Reply
JC February 25, 2017

It seems this video has made a big impact already and deservedly so – congratulations on another great piece of instruction, Tomaz. I would just like to add a few extra points which helped me personally, so perhaps are also useful to the others:

– I found it useful to associate the position of stable wrist with the image of pushing something heavy (like a car or doing push-ups). You don’t try to push a car with an arm and a wrist – you use the wrist in the stable position and push with your legs. So you can almost imagine yourself pushing the ball away with palm out and using the whole body.

– The simpler take-back surely would be an excellent foundation for the more flip style for advanced players later if that’s what you’re really after, because you first learn the feeling of a stable and relaxed wrist. Speeding up the whole swing with a strong leg drive and hip rotation so that the swing starts from the racquet high position will almost achieve the same thing. It’s much harder to copy the flip style from the start without making mistakes such as having a tight arm and forcing the flip with excessive wrist movement.

– When you watch the most advanced players at the club level, you won’t see too many flip styles though they still get tremendous power compared to the lower level players.

Reply
    Tomaz February 25, 2017

    Thanks for sharing your views, JC!

    They are all spot on, agree completely.

    Reply
      Ged February 26, 2017

      Hi Tomaz and JC, thanks Chloe for responding.

      Thanks for the illustration of pushing the car with a laid back wrist. It reinforces that the power comes from the arm and body rotation, leg drive, and body weight going forward at a good contact point out front.

      I don’t need to be pushing the car by flexing my wrist muscles.

      I am thinking now of racquet head speed at contact, it has to be much faster than my hand going forward towards the ball..

      So can anyone comment, when is the release of the wrist, just after contact?
      Does some wrist flection/ tension come into the wrist, for extra topspin, as I see the pros doing at times, specially when they are a bit late with the swing?

      Maybe when timeing is good, the wrist and forearm muscles are getting loaded and stretched as we drive towrds the ball with a loose wrist lag, at contact the wrist may still be loaded or in a neutral, loose laid back, stable position, then the release with some wrist flection…

      Reply
        Tomaz February 26, 2017

        Ged,

        The racket head should not be faster than your hand at contact for 95% of the shots on a recreational level.

        That means we donโ€™t release the wrist, it just stays where it is.

        We can rotate it though like a door knob but otherwise it stays laid back through contact.

        You could only release it when hitting a very slow ball in the midcourt and looking to hit it with a lot of topspin. Or when in extreme defense.

        Iโ€™ve put together this video of the examples I have and youโ€™ll see that in most cases there is no wrist release before or during contact and only in one case Federer actually releases the wrist and uses the racket like a whip but thatโ€™s on a very easy slow ball in the midcourt where he can time that release and still maintain control.

        Reply
          Ged February 26, 2017

          Thanks Tomaz
          The expiration and vidios helped a lot to reinforce this new feel I have with my forehand making contact with a loose laid back wrist.

          I can hit a whippy forehand, and get more racquet head speed and power. But now learning to keep my wrist laid back through the hitting zone, is giving more control, as I feel I can guide the ball more…

          Reply
          Ged February 28, 2017

          I was hitting against the wall today and discovered the perfect technique on forehand and transfered the same principal to one handed backhand!

          On my forehand take back my hand is further back than my racquet face before the flip, like Jack Sock. It produces more momentum, and loading or stretching of the wrist flexor muscles, as I drop the racquet face on edge and drive the but of the racquet towrds the hitting zone, with a loose wrist…

          What happens here Tomaz is interesting. My wrist is more than fully laid back, it is being pushed back, and I feel the wrist muscles being stretched.

          This is what’s new based on your video of stable wrist: I release the wrist from a stretched laid back position (further than laid back fully) but still make contact with a laid back wrist, keeping in that position 10-15 inches through the hitting zone ( contact point).

          So when I release my wrist before the contact, the weight of the racquet is almost pulling my hand through the hitting zone. Like letting go of a stretched robber band.

          But I don’t let the racquet face get ahead of my hand, and my wrist is still laid back and loose at contact.

          I am getting the feel of this easy power, with control.

          Thanks to your videos and a lot of practice, I think I have finally discovered the optimal forehand technique, ATP level.

          But I’m 60 years old and can’t run to fast, oh well…

          Still will benefit and enjoy, and hope to pass on your teachings, and point others to your instructional.

          Thanks again Tomaz!

          Reply
          Tomaz March 1, 2017

          Your description sounds exactly right, Ged.

          There are these nuances that everyone has to discover for themself because even though we try to describe with words and images what happens in those split seconds of the stroke, the player still has to find that FEEL that will tell him what’s right and what isn’t.

          Reply
Gokul March 14, 2017

Excellent Video Tomaz. I should have read this article one year back. I wouldn’t have broken my head to figure out what’s going wrong with my Forehand. I implemented the wrist technique. I am amazed to see the power and clean hit I could feel. I agree on the racquet drop, but I couldnt change it as I drop my face. As always one of the best videos. Tennis lovers need your help.

Reply
    Tomaz March 17, 2017

    Glad to hear that, Gokul!

    Thanks for sharing and keep in touch!

    Reply
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