Simple Tennis Forehand Tips For Hitting The Ball More Cleanly

Oct 25

The following are simple tennis forehand tips that will help you hit the ball more cleanly and therefore have better control of it.

These tips don’t go deep into the forehand technique but rather focus on what happens at the moment of contact and how you can generate power and topspin.

How To Add Power To The Forehand

If you look at a modern tennis forehand stroke, it will look very complex. It’s hard to see the key parts that generate power and create a topspin forehand shot.

It’s true that an advanced forehand is a mixture of complex elements, but it can still be broken down into simple elements.

The two main engines that create power for the forehand shot in tennis are the rotation and extension of the arm.

Tennis forehand hip rotation

Note how the hips moved when Federer began rotating into the ball. (Image credit: fuzzyyellowballs.com)

In other words, the first part of the forward swing on the forehand is done with the body (hips and shoulders) rotating by about 90 degrees, and the second part is done by moving the arm forward through the contact zone toward the target.

Tennis forehand arm extension

From the point of contact onwards the hips don’t move much, rather it’s the arm that extends forward. (Image credit: fuzzyyellowballs.com)

Since the forehand stroke also includes the preparation for the forehand, the movement, the use of a certain type of stance, and eventually the release into the follow-through, you may not see clearly the parts where the body rotates and the arm goes forward, but perhaps with this idea, you’ll be able to recognize them in video clips of tennis players.

How To Add Topspin To The Forehand

In order to impart topspin for a tennis forehand, the racquet must move upwards.

But since we hold the racquet in the dominant arm, we tend to use only the arm – meaning the shoulder joint. (It’s also the strongest, and we like to use it for more power.)

The beginning of the upward racquet head movement needs to start with the legs.

Legs extending in the open stance forehand

Note how much the right leg extended (Image credit: fuzzyyellowballs.com)

You can isolate the movement of the legs by moving up and down without using any other body parts to move the racquet so that you can clearly see how much upward movement you can create simply with the legs.

There are three joints in your arm, and you can use all three to move the racquet upwards.

The first one is the shoulder, which is usually the main joint most club players use.

Isolate the movement from your shoulder to see how much you can move the racquet up.

It’s a good idea to try these forehand drills near the net or even standing near the back fence so you can see how much the racquet moves upwards in relation to the background.

The next joint is the elbow, from which you can move the forearm up and down.

You’ll see that if you naturally move the forearm upwards, it will soon start to turn inward – toward the other side of the body – but that will happen after the point of contact.

So, at the point of contact, the racquet can still move upwards.

Then you can also use the wrist. It will likewise start turning the racquet inward, but that again happens after the point of contact.

A top spin tennis forehand with all joints in the arm

Note the change in the position of the upper arm, forearm and wrist (Image credit: fuzzyyellowballs.com)

Now, combine the legs, upper arm, forearm, and wrist to create a lot of upward movement of the racquet head, and you’ll see how these forces help you impart topspin on your forehand.

Your goal is to make a smooth connection of all four parts, and that is done through a lot of repetition.

Try hitting the net cord while looking to combine all movements into one smooth, upwards racquet movement.

Then also add the elements that create forward force – namely, the rotation and movement of the arm forward.

The final sequence is comprised of rotation and simultaneous movement of the arm forward and upwards.

I’ve shown some drills before on how to feel the correct racquet path on a groundstroke, and these forehand tips add a little bit of information on how to combine all body parts to help in the generation of power and topspin.

Eventually, add the most comfortable preparation for the stroke and the most comfortable follow-through, and you’ll find yourself hitting a forehand with good control and with little effort needed.

How To Stop Thinking About Forehand Technique And Start Playing Tennis

When you’re looking for ways to improve your forehand in tennis, you’ll find lots of technical instruction in books, DVDs, and online websites.

The danger is to keep thinking about body parts and how to move them.

Simple tips to improve tennis forehand

Eventually just focus on what you want to do with the strings to the ball and have no awareness of your body parts. (Image credit: fuzzyyellowballs.com)

It’s dangerous because, when you think about body parts, your attention is split between the incoming ball and your body – and therefore, you’re not tracking the ball well.

Hence, you’re often late on the shot and not positioned properly – so you make a lot of mistakes.

The end goal is not to think about movement of your body parts, but eventually imagine ONLY what you want to do with the strings to the ball.

The above tips help you identify body parts that generate power and topspin, but eventually you just need to imagine the racquet path through the ball.

You simply watch the ball all the time, have your full attention on the ball, and imagine how you want to hit it with the strings and in which trajectory you want to send it.

That’s how you’ll also allow the above tips to become unconscious and automatic.

Let me know if these simple tips help you see the forehand stroke more clearly and help you hit it more cleanly and with less effort!

31 comments

  1. Arturo Hernandez

    Great tips Tomaz! As you know, I have focused a lot on body parts in trying to learn technique only to become frustrated. So the use of images and trajectories is a welcomed change from my old style of learning.

    In the past I would focus on the back of the ball which made me hit a flatter shot. Lately, I have been focusing on just coming under the ball before contact. What I notice is that I end up focusing on a point just below and behind the ball. This has an interesting effect because my ball has more topspin and I never miss the ball. I always come under the ball. I am curious if you have tried this as a technique to teach topspin (focusing on a point below the ball).

    • Tomaz

      Hi Arturo,

      Good tip – I have tried it a few times before and it worked good. Thanks for bringing it up!

      Eventually you can just imagine that you want to make the ball rotate without any extra focusing on where to look at it. That will free your mind even more…

  2. Steve Sarvate

    Hi Tomaz,
    I always look forward to your tips. They are very useful and
    easy to follow. I learned a lot from you. You are a top notch
    coach.
    Very sincerely,
    Steve

  3. PapayyaSastryChalla

    Great Tip. I always look forward for your tips.
    thanks
    Sastry Challa

  4. Moufis

    Hi

    Excellent! You are the best.

  5. maurizio mango

    dear Tomasz thank you for these suggestions which makes me a better player , today i tried to roll the ball in the way you explain and it was very great , “compress and rolling ” right ? I have always noticed that in this way the non dominant arm is naturally inclined toward the ball coming and this should be a good thing right ?

    • Tomaz

      Hi Maurizo, yes, the left arm will point more towards the ball because with the idea of compressing you will firm up in your body more and the left arm will stay up. That way you’ll be able to use your body better when hitting.

  6. Robbert

    What a great explanation: everything simple and through the basics: no shortening stretch cycle, loading leg explosion, kinetic chain, radial deviation, just simple and effective!
    It really helps me to get down to the basics. In simple words.

    One thing I find difficult is to extend through the hit. Especially if I want to hit in front, because the racket is then already in front so I can’t add power, while extending. Other times the ball is to close to my body, and I’ll get crancked up.
    I know that I have to find a solution in footwork and positioning, but if you have a feel/visualising tip or drill on this, I will be very pleased (btw have read/seen all of your videos, also on tennismindgame, great work!)

    • Antonin

      You still have to try extending, but your power comes from ‘timing’ not from doing something individualy..

  7. yeoh

    Hi Tomaz,
    very good coaching tips. Very simple,precise and easy to understand. I watch it many times and never get tired watching it.

    Thanks,
    Yeoh

    • Tomaz

      Thanks, Yeoh. Will work on more video tips in the future…

  8. Dennis Prinos

    Outstanding articles Tomaz, i have been involved with tennis for more years than i would like to admit. i am not exactly clear on the ability to compress” against the ball and also holding the racket soft enough to let the racket move forward as you make contact. i hope this makes sense to you. I always remembered my first coach saying that tennis is a “contact” sport,ball-on-racket and that is what really matters. so glad that you stress this fact. keep up the great work.

    • Tomaz

      Hi Dennis,

      In this drill for feel you won’t be really compressing the ball – because as you have noted we hit the ball very gently. It’s just an exercise to enhance your feel for the ball and this will through practice transfer into your shots.

      So even when you’ll hit a faster ball with top spin and imagine “compressing it”, you’ll know how to do it with less effort and more feel.

  9. bach duong

    Hi Tomaz! have a nice day! thank u so much for your tip.
    best regard
    bach duong

  10. Robbert

    This may be the 10th+ time I read this article and still find it usefull in helping my game improve!
    Especially the balance between separating movements and then find a way to rhythmically time these parts into one fluid motion…
    And then on court when not thinking to much, but If I don’t try to think about it, my old bad habits are back :-(
    Therefore, especially during matches or playing-for-points, am a tad to late on my timing or mispositioned cauze i think to much about technique, where I want to hit the ball and “punish my opponent ;-).

    It’s not all that bad… when shadowswinging, drop feed and during practice I can hit a higher percentage of correct fluid powerfull strokes.
    But still: is there have any tip how to transform from selfcorrecting on court and in the end (during matches) can get focussed on visualizing and the ball?

    • Tomaz

      Hi Robert,

      Yes, it takes time to overwrite the old habits. I would suggest that you play a lot down the middle with the partner just imagining the direction, height and spin.

      This needs to become more automatic so you can eventually play tennis – which is simply playing consistent tennis and giving your opponent the chance to miss and of course outplaying him.

      Also, there is no need to think where you will play. The idea where to play will arise instinctively and you should follow it. Just play whatever first comes to mind.

      Learn to go with your instincts and you’ll see that in the long term they are more reliable than “slow” conscious mind.

  11. Huan

    Hi Tomaz!My name s Huan from FRANCE, 42 years old.I Start to play for 7 years and spend a lots of times with the wall and take some lessons with my coachs. What a frustration in the match! I play with the anxiety,the fear and am always late for the timing without understanding the reason. By chance,I discovered your teachings on youtube last month and just applied these ones for my tournament last week.I,level 3,5, had 6 straight wins. The last match,I was obviously tired out and lost 6/4,3/6,4/6 for my opponent who has a good level 5.0.I never reach to this lever before.I create a big surprise in my club and am vevy happy because ,in the first time in my life,I play FREELY my games without thinking the result, my tecniques,especially the anxiety and the fear.I was never worry in the moment difficult during the match.In your teaching,there are a lots of insights,experiences and passions especially with HEART.
    I would like to thank you gratefully and propose some donations with my honor to have more the lessons so preciously for every one. Please don’t hesite my proposition!

    Huan from Bordeaux, FRANCE

  12. Poida

    Good training tips! Thank you. Many players have problems with controlling and establishing the correct wrist position for various reasons, including limited wrist flexibility. I cannot lay back even close to 90 degrees, perhaps 40 at best and my wrist tends to flex to neutral during forward swing into contact. Are there ways to address this to “educate” the wrist. I’ve seen devices like the leverage band and racket bracket which I tried and could not hit the ball. Any suggestions? Does the wrist angle get flexed back or cocked on purpose from the beginning of shoulder turn in preparation and stay in that position throughout the stroke contract?

    • Tomaz

      Hi Poida,

      Yes, you can educate the wrist by hitting a lot of easy volleys where you won’t get tight. One very nice training tool I use often is tennis flex. Just Google it.

      It’s a resistance band and it can pull your wrist back so you would really feel that position.

      • Poida

        Thanks! This is then the same feeling of the wrist as the forehand? My volleys are very solid!

        • Tomaz

          Well, similar but with the forehand there’s more “slap” and freedom in the hand in general.

          • Poida

            Thanks Tomaz, very helpful.

          • Poida

            Or the Leverage Band:

            The newly designed leverage band features dramatically improved performance with a much more comfortable and secure fit with the addition of a neoprene arm band.

            The arm band positions below the elbow to best accommodate all the variations of forehand and backhand grips. It’s quick and easy to adjust the length of tubing for an exact fit. Simply clip the band on the head/throat of the racket between the center main strings. Then wrap the arm cuff around the forearm of the dominant/hitting arm and you are ready to go. With the length of tubing properly adjusted, the band encourages the hand/wrist to be laid back at a near 90 degree angle of leverage relative to the forearm. When in this optimal leverage position of the wrist, the band should slightly relax in tension.

        • Poida

          The hard thing is to develop the motor skills and ingrain the “correct fee” of different strokes. In your video for learning feel on groundstrokes there is a pushing exercise with both hands, then, keeping racket orientation same with one hand. Do you have suggestions for getting proper slap feel vs. pushing feel? I’ve seen smacking a towel or the fence with racket. Are things like leverage band and racket bracket useful or do they lock up hand too much?

          • Tomaz

            Yes, hitting a towel is a good trick and I’ve used it quite a few times. I haven’t used the Leverage Band but it does make sense and I hope I can test it one day.

  13. R. S. Rawat

    A very easy to understand and a complete analysis of forehand stroke. Excellent explanation, wonderful, great work. Thanks.

  14. Edgar

    Your tips helped me a lot to improve my forehand stroke. I follow these tips and it is really working well in the court. I hope you will post some more tips to keep us updated in the new trends in Tennis play.

    Thank you for these information.

    • Tomaz

      Good to hear, Edgar! More tips coming soon…

  15. Jon C

    Tomaz, I’ve experimented with my forehand over the years and what you are saying about topsin is perfect. I would like to add someting and get your opinion. While rotation is neccessary to get the racket moving, I don’t think full rotation (I’m speaking of upper body rotation) does much to increase power, it actually can decrease power if done wrong. What you often see is a player who rotates the hips and shoulders and arm as a unit which completely degrades the kinetic chain. I have found that you should allow rotation but not make rotation a goal. The rotation that does happen must be in links – hips, then shoulders, then arm, and then elbow, and wrist. However, and this is the key, the player should be thinking of moving the racket forward and up not in an arc across the body, the arc happens AFTER contact – this is the mental picture that you should have in your head. In fact, the hips stop their rotation, then the shoulders stop and are only slightly open, then the arm flies through – just as one crackes a whip. When you rotate the shoulders all the way around and THEN contact the ball (so common),it is impossible to generate power. I would advise all players to explore staying sideways (which is really 45 degrees to the path of the incoming ball) into contact and then letting the rotation happen.
    Jon

    • Tomaz

      Hi Jon,

      I agree but the forehand or any other stroke is not black or white thing.

      I often say that rotation is overrated.

      But they way I see is there are two forehands (and two backhands):

      1. We use the kinetic chain where we transfer momentum through body and as you point out, we need to start the rotation with the body, then STOP it so that we use the whip effect with the arm.

      In fact we decelerate the shoulder to make accelerate the arm, the we decelerate the upper arm so that the forearm accelerates and we can also decelerate the forearm so that the wrist accelerates.

      But that can happen only on slower balls where we can actually release so much and still time the ball well and hit it well.

      2. On faster shots, we actually CAN and DO rotate all the way through the shot without releasing the chain.

      We cannot release because timing the ball is so difficult so we need to firm up the stroke in order to control the racquet head and make clean contact.

      It’s not the PURPOSE of every shot in tennis to generate maximum power. In fact, most shots are played with placement and control as the key intention therefore we often times do not use the whip effect as the source of power because it doesn’t give us maximum control.

      But again, I think rotation is overrated and emphasized too much.

      I hope to explain these details and differences in one of my future articles.

      • Jon C

        I like your thinking on the fast balls – haven’t really thought about that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>