Tennis Illusions – Roger Federer’s Forehand Technique

Nov 20

As you observe tennis strokes of top pros in slow motion, in this case Roger Federer’s forehand, your goal is probably to copy his movements so that you’re able to hit a good forehand too.

But there’s a catch and because of it most players copy the technique incorrectly. Take a look at the video above…

Special thanks to Will Hamilton from FYB for letting me use one of his videos for this article!

The Racquet Illusion And How It Distracts and Deceives Us

When you observe and attempt to copy Roger Federer’s forehand technique you probably are not aware that our brain makes a small mistake when copying a movement where a hand also holds a racquet.

The brain doesn’t really see a good difference between the hand and the racquet and what happens is that you are translating the movement of the racquet into your hand.

That’s why so many recreational tennis players swing too much. The backswing is too big, the racquet goes up too high in the preparation, the follow-through may be too exaggerated and so on.

That’s not to mention everything that goes on when it comes to serve technique.

So, to learn the strokes correctly, you would need to copy the path of the player’s hand and ignore or remove the racquet from the picture!

And for the first time, this has been done in the video above.

As you saw, this is very revealing. The racquet illusion is gone and you can now see how short and simple the forehand technique is.

Roger Federer forehand technique

The difference of Federer’s forehand hand path and racquet path

In this side-by-side picture you can see how the paths of the racquet and the hand are similar but the hand’s path is much shorter and simpler.

This is what you should be looking at when learning from the pros. Ignore the racquet and look at the whole body first and only then at the arm movement.

The racquet distracts and deceives us just like a magician who waves with one hand to distract us from his other hand with which he actually executes the trick.

That’s why I called this article a tennis illusion – the racquet creates an illusion of the forehand technique that you want to learn and distracts you from seeing the body and the arm movement.

So here’s a question for you: what did you see – perhaps for the first time – when you saw Federer hit a forehand without the racquet in hand?

Leave a Comment:

(96) comments

Don November 20, 2014

No ”forced” topspin. Just holding the racquet in a relaxed way makes the ball spin naturally.

    Misha Sakharoff November 20, 2014

    I totally agree, Don. The legs generate this enormous power – and not the delicate wrist tendons. With zero wrist injuries as the result 🙂

      mathew April 27, 2016

      hi Misha
      I believed the wrist is actually used to produce more topspin and racquet speed. at the start of the swing we relax the wrist while we initiate the acceleration. as we accelerate we contract the wrist muscle to pull the racquet even at faster speed. close to impact we release all muscle including the wrist. from standpoint of physics contraction is pretty strong hence we can apply the same principal here to add more spin to the ball. I watched slow motion on Federer Nadal and several others and found this to be fairly consistent. the wrist does contract half way thru the acceleration path and released quickly before the impact. if the wrist muscle is not used and relaxed all the way from start to finish we would not see this shrinking effect. I also coach and learn quite a bit from you how to explain to your student. this is just my two cents opinion. let me know what you think. keep up the good work

    Joanna Aislinn November 24, 2014

    Being a “scrapper”/rec player, I never knew how to “add” spin to the ball. (I still can’t do it consciously, lol.) Once I started swinging freely (as I learned here), I noticed increased spin on my ball without trying. And the wrist feels good, too.

    Thanks, Tomaz, and to all of you here, for your input and insights. I still make far more errors than I’d like, but I also hit many better shots and a few winners too. Now if I could only figure out what I’m doing right so I could do it on purpose… 😉

      Tomaz November 25, 2014

      You’re welcome, Joanna. Tape yourself and observe the shots in slow motion. Swing in front of a mirror a lot, see if what you feel is also what really happens.

      I probably swung over 100.000 times in front of the mirror in my early days…

        Joanna Aislinn November 26, 2014

        Never thought of that, Tomaz. Thanx again!

        Poida May 22, 2015

        Agree, this is the invisible kinetic chain at work. How do you feel the correct ways to coordinate the links of the chain, like “how” to slow down the upper arm? There must be good non racket exercises to help with this, getting the body to work properly first, then adding shadow swings. Like the video suggests, the racket can create illusions and misconceptions around “how” it is being made to move and the shapes it presents to the viewer! Shadow swinging incorrect technique will make things worse for the player.

    Earl April 3, 2015

    What I see on viewing, is Roger applying intentional topspin (by hand and racquet path coming underneath the ball and upward/forward through horizontal plane). The other is that he is rotating, or flicking his wrist back purposely! while stepping forward. Accelerating body, causing the racket but to change direction (towards ball before body rotation has brought the racquet strings in line with ball. This wrist movement is the hard to see part that shows why the racquet path (red and green lines)are not exact as one might expect.

      Tomaz April 6, 2015

      Hi Earl,

      A lot of wrist action happens because of the transfer of momentum when the upper arm slows down and the forearm and wrist are automatically accelerated.

      Yes, we can add some energy to that on purpose but not everything you see is being “done” by the player, some parts of the swing just happen.

        Poida May 22, 2015

        Agree, this is the invisible kinetic chain at work. How do you feel the correct ways to coordinate the links of the chain, like “how” to slow down the upper arm? There must be good non racket exercises to help with this, getting the body to work properly first, then adding shadow swings. Like the video suggests, the racket can create illusions and misconceptions around “how” it is being made to move and the shapes it presents to the viewer! Shadow swinging incorrect technique will make things worse for the player.

Dennis November 20, 2014

Incredibly cool and illuminating. Thank you, Tomaz!

luiz November 20, 2014

It is really quite interesting. Thanks

Jon November 20, 2014

The outline of the racquet path really shows how Roger allows the racquet to flow through its path. We could never consciously control the racquet to do what his does. And all from a simple arm swing. Never seen this look before – very helpful – Thanks!

Chavdar Draganinski November 20, 2014

Hi Tomaz,

Smart as always.

You will be even more admired if you do the same with the serve, say, Sampras,
Federer, McEnroe or Raonic. The mess with the serve interpretations and instructions is really great. Sometimes it takes years for the average recreational player to grasp the motion and finally see that it is simple.
Great things are always simple, aren’t they?

Warm regards and congratulations with the smart idea!


    Tomaz November 20, 2014

    Thanks, Chavdar. Yes, simplicity is genius as one of my good friends likes to say. 😉

      Andrew December 9, 2014

      Yes, Tomaz, please do what Chavdar suggested and do the same for the BH, serve and volleys! You could even use videos of yourself as a model if you cannot use footage of pros.

      And sincere thanks for this new way of showing us what to really pay attention to.

Tom Gill November 20, 2014

Great idea. Thanks! Would love to see a backHAND (without racquet).

Pieter November 20, 2014

His stroke looks really flat and compact. Thank you very much for sharing!

    Denise November 22, 2014

    I noticed the “flatness”, also, as opposed to people who finish above the shoulder. Really, really cool lesson. Thank you for this, Tomaz. You (and Roger!) kept it simple. Thank you for not trying to break down his stroke into multiple steps — that always makes it so hard to learn!

      Tomaz November 22, 2014

      Thanks, Denise. It’s important to see that there are just two forehands in the warm up and he is sort of letting go and just smacking the ball.

      So don’t make final conclusions of how a forehand technique is based on this sample size of 2. 😉 But it does reveal other things – in fact the more times you watch, the more may notice.

bayo November 20, 2014

How on the Earth you come to such discoveries.
Next is arm path on serve.
You are the teacher of the teacher’s.
Thank you,

    Tomaz November 20, 2014

    Thank you, Bayo, always an honor to get a praise from you.

      saull November 20, 2014

      bayo found the right words to express what I felt , but was looking how to say that.
      Bravo Tomaz

Aine November 20, 2014

Quite amazing slow motion video footage Tomaz!!
What a great idea showing Rogers’ hand & arm movement on his most elegant & relaxed forehand…
Most of us try so hard to force the racquet swing far too much as we hit the ball.
Many thanks for this..


Misha Sakharoff November 20, 2014

The biggest part of the forehand power comes from the uncoiling from the ground via feet-legs-hips-torso-upper-body-shoulders. The leg thrust initiates the kinetic chain that straightens the arm to whip the racquet upward and has enough force to lift your body off the ground. Rising up like an uncoiled spring. Thank you Tomaz, very inspiring as always 🙂 One love

    Tomaz November 20, 2014

    Good point, Misha. Hopefully what you point out is now even more obvious in the video above.

Orlando November 20, 2014

Hello Tomaz:

So we should concentrate mostly in the path of the hand to try to duplicate the stroke?
It would be interested apply the same concept in the serve and one hand backhand to see what you come up with.

Thanks for all your videos!

Orlando (NOV 20/2014)

    Tomaz November 20, 2014

    Yes, Orlando, but you don’t only see the hand path now, you can probably see much more of what the whole body is doing.

    So visualize all that and see how compact and simple it is without any big loops (up or down) that we tend to copy unconsciously.

poida November 20, 2014

Good video Thomas! 🙂 … very interesting perspective, yes, the forehand has a deceptive quality when we don’t know what to look for, or get “tricked” by watching the “effects of a movement” and not the cause! One thing to notice in the footage without the racket is how far, or how much DISTANCE his hand actually travels nonstop from the furthest back position to the finish, it’s a MUCH longer way than most people think or do! …. many rec players STOP their hand way too early (too soon after contact)!!!!

The hand action also VERY much looks like a “throwing” action, NOT a “pushing” action as many coaches suggest or interpret!!!

    Tomaz November 20, 2014

    Good point, Poida, yes, the groundstrokes have more of a throwing feel to them although in most cases there is a small element of pushing, especially when you’re hitting the ball on the rise or hitting a fast incoming ball.

      John C November 20, 2014

      Tomaz – I have to respectfully disagree. Most good players initiate their swing and racquet head speed with a ‘pulling’ motion – not a ‘pushing’ motion. As to Poida’s point – and as to advice you’ve given in other videos – the swing should be with ‘free’ and ‘loose’ and ‘natural’. Pushing the racquet forward usually results in ‘muscling’ the shot and the ball – which is hard on your arm and doesn’t allow you to naturally adapt to ball, absorb pace, and add spin to the ball and add natural shape to the swing.

      The key is ALWAYS KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid – starting with Balance and natural easy movement – to the ball and in recovery and in the transfer of weight and momentum to the swing. Tomaz – I became greatly enamoured with your site when you emphasized all of these concepts in your video tips from a year ago – like ‘How to play tennis in a more relaxed way’ and ‘how to develop good hands on the volley’ and ‘mastering the flowing volley’ etc. Unfortunately – at least to my eye – a number of your more recent posts (not this one – but last months ‘basics of tennis footwork’ and ‘how to develop a deep drop loop on serve’ for example) seemed to go back to the ‘micro analysis’ of stroke production – that usually results in a very mechanical and unnatural swing and movement pattern. As this video of Fed’s forehand shows – or as videos of Fed’s or Sampras’ serve would show – really good strokes are very SIMPLE in there essence – with a natural coiling and uncoiling of the body to impart momentum and snap to the lever which is our arm and wrist – both of which will react properly if WE JUST LET THEM GO – naturally – without muscling the racquet. It’s why it’s easier for many to produce a good service motion with a hammer or other head heavy object – where it’s harder to muscle the motion and much easier to just ‘let the hammer go’.

        Robert November 21, 2014

        Regardless of how one chooses to conceive of a set of motions as a whole or their component parts, all the movements do occur. It is not the case that observing specific details leads inexorably to unnatural and mechanical stroke production. Certainly the great improvements in coaching, which utilizes super slow motion to a very great extent, that is developing players in the pro ranks belies that claim. Once in New York after a victory Roger Federer was asked to give the crowd some advice for serving. He told them that it was very important to get their elbow up (on the way to contact). Microanalysis from one of the best and most natural looking servers in the game — whose movement very closely resembles Pete Sampras.
        In the case of the forearm, it is the case that while the hand pulls the racket handle, the shoulder pushes the hand out to contact. It is right there in this video.

          Robert November 21, 2014

          That is, “in the case of the forehand …” [Proof readaer was out to lunch]

        Tomaz November 21, 2014

        Hi John,

        Perhaps you didn’t read my comment very carefully. I mentioned a throwing feel to the shot which is a pulling motion and I mentioned a small element of pushing. Your reply is based on the premise that I stated the stroke is a push and nothing else. So don’t attack the first word you see that doesn’t fit in your belief system of how tennis strokes work…

        In tennis we cannot just let go 100% of the racquet as if we’re really throwing it. There is an element of control which can be described as a slight pushing motion and it happens just before and through contact.

        So on a typical comfortable rally ball, there is about 70-90% throwing and 10-30% pushing feel – depending on speed, height, distance from the bounce, etc.

        You pull and throw to initiate the stroke and accelerate it and you control and align the racquet face to the ball and then stay with it (push) in the direction of your shot.

        On a fast ball that you have to play on the rise, the ratio is probably around 50:50 and when returning fast first serves the ratio is around 10:90 in favor of pushing. The ratio changes on every ball so there cannot be a black and white statement of what is correct and what isn’t.

        A serve is a completely different stroke because we don’t have to deal with a wild bouncy ball and the ball is almost still and always at the same place. It’s very easy to time.

        But on groundstrokes we constantly need to adapt to different bounces and speeds hence there is an element of control in the stroke and a stroke cannot be 100% letting go.

        And lastly, the level of letting go almost entirely depends on ball judgment ability (speed of brain processing) of the player and not simply on the concept of it.

        I can let go way more than a typical club player and Roger Federer can let go way more than me on the same ball because his brain calculates the trajectory way better than me hence he perceives the ball in slow motion almost and can basically throw the racquet at it while I can’t.

        Or better said, I can let go more but I will lose control of it since I will mistime it. Same goes for club players – they can theoretically let go as much as I but they will have no control over the ball no matter how many times they try.

        The high level of relaxation and letting go more and more comes from massive amount of hitting tennis balls – 10 years of 2 hours per day is good, more is even better.

        And also from being forced to deal with very fast small moving objects often so that the eyes and the brain learn to adjust and track them. Table tennis, badminton, squash, volleyball, baseball, hockey and other sports like this help develop this. Tennis really doesn’t, it’s too slow at the club level for most of the shots.

        As for your critique of my recent posts, it stems from your perceived position of superiority to me (as if I am wrong showing something and you can point that out) so I don’t think there is any respect in there. Better think twice before posting anything like that in the future.

        Also, don’t get enamored with my instruction since with love there’s always pain. The expectations are too high. Keep an independent mindset…

          John C November 21, 2014

          Tomaz – thx for taking the time for a detailed response – I did not intend to offend. In any event, you are right – in re-reading your initial response to Poida – I see now that I did misinterpret your thoughts on the subject and – as your thoughtful response to my post makes clear – you and I seem to be in agreement that – ideally – we should all be gripping and swinging loosely. However – I acknowledge and agree with your observation that – even at the pro level – there are certain shots and situations (volleys, half volleys and mis-timed and hurried shots etc) where even the pros will resort to pushing/ muscling their shots.

          In short, I agree with most everything you wrote in your response – and – if it wasn’t clear from my initial post (as it apparently was not) I agree with and appreciate reading/viewing most all of your observations and tips – including this very illuminating video allowing us to better understand and observe RF’s simple swing path by observing his hand and arm and not focusing on his racquet head.

          I’ll just add that the observatin that RF’s racquet head swing path is more fluid than most of us because RF grips his racquet very loosely and ‘just lets it go’ – unlike many at the club level that may have a similar ‘hand pattern’ on their swings, but not the same results as RF and other pros because they (and me too often) are tensed up and using a ‘death grip’ on their strokes and trying to muscle their shots.

          Mark Tully November 23, 2014

          Dear Tomaz,
          I love this teaching. Indeed “letting go” and “pushing” are two edges of a sword called powerfull tennis stroke.
          Pushing deserves more of your attention these days as letting go has had enough of its share already.

          In pushing what I have seen is that the wrist is the weakest link in transferring momentum. I wish you come up with drills to develope a strong wrist so that no momentum is lost during collison due to this weak joint.
          Also next in my wish list are drills to generate strokes
          a. with only leg power
          b. with leg and spine power only
          (as if all other muscles have been locked)

          Tomaz November 23, 2014

          Good points, Mark.

          I’ll keep your suggestions in mind for future articles.

        Jon c March 14, 2017

        Just had to comment on your “heavy object” observation. That is a very intuitive and important point. Whenever I’m struggling with timing I can usually fix it by thinking – pull the racket. For me, it’s a pull and release. It’s good to pretend that the racket is heavy, that gives you proper movement. I throw the frisbee well – that’s most definitely a pull, I feel the weight of the frisbee. One story, incredible I think: I’d been coaching my 9 year old for a few years and had been having poor results – one day I had him switch his kid’s racket for my 12.5 ounce racket – he immediately started hitting with beautiful form. He was pulling because he felt he had to!!!! No more light rackets for kids.

Larry Buhrman November 20, 2014

Hi Tomaz,

Great stuff! As always! Very enlightening!

Thanks for sharing!

Larry Buhrman

Jared November 20, 2014

One thing I have felt ‘relearning’ to hit a two handed back handed is I am concentrating too much on hand placement and swing path. It would be great to see the same analysis of the Djokovic or Murray backhands.

Patrick November 20, 2014

Great idea Tomaz (as always…!),
How much topspin do you think Roger is putting on these shots? This video also gives us the illusion that there is more drive than topspin in these Roger’s shots. I know there more topspin than most of us can handle though! But really as you explain there is “deceptively” little low to high movement in his arm, but more coming from the legs and wrist (or fore arm rotation), moving the racquet head apparently.
Do you think that if you show 2 forehand strokes from Rafa Nadal (say one drive compared to one buggy whip, or one with heavy topspin) we would be again surprised? I really would be avid of seeing those two kinds of movements from Rafa to compare! What do you think? Thanks again!

    Tomaz November 20, 2014

    Hi Patrick,

    These two forehands you see here are hit quite in a straight line as he is warming up and just whacking the ball. I do think there is still lots of spin on the ball and I will explain why I think so in one of the future videos.

    As for more videos, hopefully Will allows me to edit more of his videos as I don’t own pro footage. Why don’t you shoot him an email? 😉

      Patrick November 21, 2014

      Yep, I will right now!!! Thanks again

manos November 20, 2014

Great idea Tomaz.
It’s really interesting to see the arm swing (without racquet) in Roger’s backhand and serve motion.
Consistency in a simple move.
That’s the key point in this game.
Thanks Tomaz.

Keith November 20, 2014

Very cool. I bought a tennis program from you 10 years ago and it has been amazing watching you ‘grow’ as a teacher. This is brilliant.

Oscar Tanhueco November 20, 2014

Incredible and very “clever” analysis. Roger Federer is the player I try and emulate when I play. You have an amazing way of looking at things and then presenting them in a way we can all understand. I always thought that Federer’s technique were compact and simple which is why he seems to play so effortlessly. His techniques are exquisite. Notice how he keeps his head steady and his eyes focused on the ball as he prepares his stroke and after making contact. His body’s center of gravity ( right down the middle of his body) doesn’t change or shift. It’s perfectly straight up and down while the shoulders swing from right to left. His head doesn’t move at all. He doesn’t bring his head up like a lot of us tend to do. He brings his right shoulder to his chin. His chin actually comes close to touching his right shoulder during the contact and follow through phase — similar to what a golpher does. So beautiful to watch. Thank you for your insights.

    Tomaz November 21, 2014

    You’re very welcome, Oscar. What you may discover is that the more times you watch the video without the racquet, the more you will see. It takes some time to get rid of the racquet illusion.

Joe Jannuzzi November 21, 2014

This is so insightful. It’s the thinking outside the box, the looking at the same thing but in a different way. Tomaz, yours is some of the best online tennis instruction I’ve ever seen.

Tish November 21, 2014

You are a true student of the game. Thank you for your enlightened look at Roger’s forehand. I hope you will use this technology more.


Chris November 21, 2014

Very cool Tomaz! So Roger’s secret sauce must be the layback of his wrist and forearm rotation (uncoiling action) that allows him to put so much action on ball no?

    Tomaz November 21, 2014

    Yes, every good tennis player lets go of his forearm and hand just before accelerating forward in order to create that lag. A typical club player on the other hand squeezes the racquet hard at that same moment and prevents the lag hence there is no power. The harder they try, the less they get out of it.

Selwyn November 21, 2014

This demonstration is just great. Can you do the same for the serve and back hand.

Robert November 21, 2014

To answer your question, what I see in this video is the extent to which the large muscle groups of Roger’s body — legs, torso, and shoulders, are doing all the work. This is even more evident in the clips where the racket has been edited out. And I see that he is stroking with his hand out to the side and then releasing the racket.
BTW, since I began to play the game I have relied extensively on rehearsing not just without the ball, but without the racket, to learn new techniques, so seeing this is not so surprising to me as it may be to others. I mention that because I find such practice very helpful, and I can do it anywhere.
Believe me, I am saving this clip to study!

    Tomaz November 21, 2014

    Excellent idea, Robert. I’ve done that myself and also seen pros practice swings without the racquet. The video on that topic will be coming soon too…

Noel Biscocho November 21, 2014

Thats great! Thank you for sharing.

Aris November 21, 2014

Great idea for a video Tomaz!
The way I see it, the legs provide the initial speed to begin with, which is afterwards multiplied by the hips and core and finally by the wrist’s lag and release.

Jon C November 21, 2014

What I see is almost complete relaxation of the arm and a very loose grip – it’s like the relaxation “allows” the racquet to do all that crazy stuff. This is the case right up until contact when he turns his hand into the ball. I expected more wrist action at contact but it’s more of a release. What was also surprising was that his hand never went above his shoulders – which makes sense, I guess, if the arm is relaxed.

Berti November 21, 2014

Great stuff, really. As a teaching pro I am anxious to see similar videos from others pro like Djokovic two-handed backhand and Fed’s volleys as well.

    Tomaz November 21, 2014

    Thanks, Berti. Since I don’t own pro footage, I am at the mercy of other tennis bloggers who may or may not allow me to use their videos for this modification. Why don’t you shoot them an email? 😉

Greg November 21, 2014

Thank Tomaz, fascinating stuff, gonna keep this in mind when playing my two matches tonight 😉 A lot has been said already, but has any one emphasized the final curve the red line makes, when first the hand comes across and then the racquet following in its path in a much steeper angle? That’s where the final, G-force like acceleration is happening. And it all comes through relaxation, letting the laws of nature do their work.

Petko November 21, 2014

Hi Tomaz!
I play the forehand with bended arm at the elbow. Is there any difference at the path of the wrist in my case?

    Tomaz November 21, 2014

    Hi Petko,

    The hand path would be shorter compared to Roger’s but so would be racquet path.

    The key here is that you learn to watch the whole body and ignore the racquet even when you study Djokovic or someone else who plays with a bent arm.

Luiz Ramos November 21, 2014

Excelent tip
Please, do the same with the serve

Marcelo November 21, 2014

Thanks Tomaz. Very interesting and smart tips and new ways to learn tennis.
From 3 or 4 months ago when I discovered this site I’ve implemented your advice, especially those ball judgment, relaxation and timing, and really I had great benefits.
I think subconsciously I knew that, but I could not perceive was when I was not seeing the ball or when I had not concentrate or I had not taken the timing, either now I perceive these guidelines do from your tips (sorry that discovered at 48 years old, haha !!).
Sometimes these tips produce large changes are revealing, is how I discovered the laterality concept (in my case “homogeneous”) and the tip of another teacher like you, was that aim to drive the ball with my left hand, I helped a lot.
This great video of Roger, is on the same path of learning. One question, that draw the bow different hand and the racket is the product of the acceleration of the wrist at impact?
Always a pleasure to read your articles. From Argentina with admiration.

    Tomaz November 21, 2014

    Thanks for your feedback, Marcelo. The paths are different because the racquet adds another 27 inches to the hand.

    But the paths also differ because while the hand may be moving straight through space, it can change orientation and that’s what the racquet shows. So it shows a more complicated path than it really is.

Matt Dunn November 21, 2014

That’s very interesting tomaz, it shows how incredibly simple the movement is and the more simple it is the better it holds up under pressure

Marinho November 21, 2014

Great video.Very interesting!

Michael Biggins November 22, 2014

Hi Tomaz
Loved this latest video and like the other viewers, I really hope to see similar videos of other strokes. I’ve enjoyed watching (all) your videos and as they make sense, continue to try to implement the elements into my own game. I’m beginning to feel “throwing the racquet at the ball” on the forehand and have noticed that, with no conscious effort to do so, I’ll have several fingers off the handle after the racquet has made contact with the ball, on backhands. Presumably, this is the natural result of hitting with a light grip. I think what I appreciate most about your method of imparting/teaching is that while you teach “feel”, you also back everything up with good “science”; resultantly, it encourages one to make the ultimate critical experiment: put it into practice – observe the result – decide whether or not it is “true” for oneself. As a self-confessed tennis junkie, I very much appreciate your excellent work – please keep it up.

    Tomaz November 22, 2014

    Thanks for the kind feedback, Michael. Stay in touch.

Mark November 23, 2014

Thank you for an incredible video. More than any other I’ve seen, this will help the average player understand what they need to do. I have often thought it would be a good idea to teach someone the proper mechanics of hitting a tennis ball by first teaching them handball. This would teach the basic motion without the complexity of a racquet. A challenge with it, of course, is spacing.

Thanks again for the fine video; hoping to see more like it!

Mark Tully November 23, 2014

Dear Tomaz,
What I see in this stroke is not a steady monotonous build of momentum but a wavy build-up.

The stroke starts with full lateral rotation of spine (the back swing – at the end of which momentum is zero).

Builds rotational momentum by vigorous medial rotation of spine and sparing use of other muscles.

Now something dramatic happens. Roger extends the wrist and the racket velocity drops. There is only rotational momentum in the medially rotating spine.

Now comes the kill. Roger flexes his wrist giving acceleration to the racket. The system picks up momentum and the collision happens.

Roger could have done better. He could have used his legs (calf, hamstrings) to build momentum. There is very little forward movement of the body during the stroke.

One person pointed out that “the tremendous power comes from the legs” But I don’t see it! All of the power seems to come from the spine and wrist.

Does it mean the legs have no role to play in generating power to the tennis stroke?

Wrist power: Is it good or evil to the recreational player?

    Tomaz November 23, 2014

    Hey Mark,

    As I pointed out, these shots are hit in the warm up and Roger is really letting go on these forehands. He is also hitting them quite straight as he is not worried about missing.

    So since he is not adding a lot of arc and topspin, he is not using his legs much. If you looked at the video of Roger hitting a forehand on a clay court in the match, he would look very different.

    Wrist power is more evil for a recreational power. Even I hardly do anything with my wrist for a typical rally stroke on the forehand.

    I simply hold the racquet comfortably, rotate the body and extend with my arm in the direction of the target.

    The wrist does flex a little bit but I don’t do it, it happens because I don’t hold the grip too tight.

      JonC November 26, 2014

      But the wrist does roll or snap or whatever at contact (or going into contact). Some describe it as turning a door knob counter-clockwise. Perhaps this rolling of the wrist can happen through relaxation if you have the correct form – ? Maybe it could come from decelerating the arm while keeping the wrist lose? I purposefully turn the door knob and my forehand is pretty good but I may be missing something.

        Tomaz November 26, 2014

        Hi Jon,

        First, it depends on the ball, that is the most important thing to keep in mind.

        There is no black or white answer of what happens with the wrist or any part as every ball is different and we need to adjust.

        Secondly, on a typical rally ball coming in with comfortable speed and comfortable height, we don’t do anything conscious with the wrist.

        We hold the racquet comfortably and because we allow some movement in the wrist, it flexes slightly and springs back a little bit into the ball – but this all happens.

        On a very slow ball that you want to hit with a lot of top spin, you allow the wrist to fall back and down even more and then you pull forward with the body and arm and the wrist will again spring forward. We can add some extra slapping / turning or whatever is needed when we feel the pull happening.

        But ideally what I would suggest if you can play fairly well is have NO CONSCIOUS thought about the wrist and simply focus on the ball flight.

        Make the ball go faster or lower or deeper and try and do that with less effort than you did so far.

        That is how you will develop advanced technique best.

          JonC November 27, 2014

          Yes, less effort is probably what I need to work on.

          Hung Phan December 8, 2015

          I totally agree with you on this. I used to have the issue of over using my wrist. Now I just set up the wrist position by my left hand and forget it. I just relax the whole arm and use my whole body to throw the whole arm with direction to the planning target on the court with eyes on the ball.

          I think you can use your wrist, but the wrist action should never faster than the pulling action.

Jim McLennan November 23, 2014

Tomaz – very creative and visual – would like to see this on the volley – seems there are many ways to handle that shot and this would add to the dialogue – best Jim

PS – thoroughly enjoyed your visit to NorCal and to the NorCal USPTA conference

    Tomaz November 23, 2014

    Thanks, Jim! It was a fantastic trip to SF and your club.

    Hope I get can my hands on some more pro footage from someone so we can have more fun with tennis illusions…

5263 November 24, 2014

Pretty cool, but you need to be viewing from above and looking down to see the important hidden key to the modern Fh.

siby December 2, 2014

Another Q for you…we hear all about keeping the neck in place and keep your eyes on ball after hitting.

I can do that in practice …but in game its are much harder and feels so unnatural..could you provide some insight ?

    Tomaz December 3, 2014

    We’re back to the outcome problem, Siby. 😉

    When you want to do achieve something with your stroke and “hurt” your opponent or not miss or hit a winner, you are in the outcome mode and that causes anxiousness and therefore the head goes away from the ball to see what is going to happen.

    Watching the ball and not going away from it too early requires high mental discipline and letting go of the outcome.

    It’s simply doing the stroke at that moment. In fast, it’s just hitting the ball. It takes just a split second to hit it, complete your stroke and then you can look up and see what’s happening.

      siby December 4, 2014

      excellent point..!

Brent February 9, 2015

Great insight..and I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the 2 as there is a “dip” factor in the racquet swing and the hand swing…I think this moment where it(the racquet) dips is the precise time you open your chest up to play the shot..I could be wrong but its just what im thinking!!…great insight and any insight to improve your game is a good one 🙂

    Tomaz March 9, 2015

    Hey Brent,

    The dip simply shows the drop of the racquet as a result of relaxing the wrist slightly before pulling the racquet into contact…

Harry July 21, 2015

An Eureaka moment for me Thomaz! Thanks! I was taught old school closed stance, track the ball with left hand during back swing. That created a really big back swing habit that’s hard to break. Looking at Roger’s hands without the racquet, they are together during his turn which restricts a big looping back swing with the right arm and his stance is open. You’re right, watching the racquet really is an illusionary way to copy the pros.

Jeff July 31, 2015

Tomaz – this is absolutely brilliant. It really is like one of those “which line is longer” illusions where your brain tricks you. I was quite shocked when I saw the edited video of Roger’s forehand and had to watch it a few times to see why the swing looked so short in the edited version.

How did you realize this in the first place? This is really a profound insight – that this “illusion” can really misguide what people are trying to do on the court.


    Tomaz July 31, 2015

    Hey Jeff, long time no hear!

    I realized this through countless hours on the court talking with players about strokes and noticing that they imagine the strokes differently than they are.

    They keep telling me about “the racquet” while I keep telling them about the body. 😉

    So I decided to remove the racquet so they can finally see what they should be doing!

Ray September 6, 2015

Hi Tomaz,

Thanks for posting the wonderful video of Roger Federer’s fh. it was really enlightening to see Roger’s hand movement versus the racket movement . Looks simple. Now if I can only do it myself when I play.
Thanks again! I’m a big fan of yours. Your “feel tennis” videos are fantastic.


    Tomaz September 7, 2015

    You’re very welcome, Ray, thanks for the kind feedback!

Tom Parkes May 17, 2016

I’ve seen slo -mo ‘s of Rogers’ forehand and it looks very complicated as if he were waving the racquet around before he struck the ball. Thank you for addressing this mystery. But he’s still doing something with his wrist (loading up?) and has been pointed out by some teaching pros, his racquet face is parallel with the ground before he comes forward. In their forehand lessons pros demonstrate it as petting the dog , putting it (racquet face) on the bucket. When I’ve tried to take their advice it seems mechanical, Too much thinking.( I liked your advice on early preparation which addresses the limits of what one’s brain can handle.) Thanks Tom

    Tomaz May 17, 2016

    Hi Tom,

    I agree that their teaching is mechanical and it doesn’t work really. That part of the stroke must by dynamic, meaning it must just happen because the racquet lags which by definition means we are not doing it.

    I’ll show how I teach that in a matter of minutes in my upcoming forehand course.

Ozy October 2, 2016

I love your videos. So insightful and you answer real questions.

I always feel rushed in my swing and cant distinguish hittting hard and swinging fast.

My friends always complain that i hit too hard so we cant rally for long. All i am trying to do is get the ball over the net as a result my arm hurts after 30 minutes.

Hiw can i hit the ball with effortless power?

Thank you.

    Tomaz October 2, 2016

    Hi Ozy,

    You may believe that you have to hit the ball hard to make it go towards the other side with some speed but that’s not the case.

    My theory won’t convince you though, you have to experience it.

    I suggest you try the “minimum effort” drill I explained in this article:

    Then you’ll realize that you don’t need to hit the ball that hard to make it fly with some good speed.

Jonathan D Lane November 2, 2016

Great video and great analysis. I struggle with my forehand. Going to try this now.

David January 6, 2017

This analysis of Federer’s forehand in the absence of the racket is just inspired! I learnt a lot from this video. I practiced my forehand action with this analysis as a model, I went out on court today and what an amazing difference! I beat a player I have continually lost to. I can see how the information in this video has transformed my shots – I have adapted the information for my backhand also – Yes, it does work. I am amazed. Well done for finding a unique way of explaining a basic shot. This is simply awesome! Thank you.

    Tomaz January 9, 2017

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, David, glad that these types of videos help!

Add Your Reply

Leave a Comment: