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Mastering the Two-Handed Tennis Backhand

You can hit a backhanded tennis shot with two hands on the grip or with one hand, depending on which way feels most comfortable to you. The strokes look very different, but the mechanics are similar. Each stroke has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your physical strength and comfort level.

So which one should you play? First, listen to your instincts. If you're fascinated by patience, stamina, and consistency, you'll probably gravitate to the two-handed backhand. If you're drawn to variety, risk, and imaginative play, you probably have the personality of a one-handed backhand player. Other factors, including your arm strength, should impact your decision.

The two-hander is an ideal backhand for beginners who lack forearm strength or the coordination required by the one-handed backhand. The two-handed backhand offers the following advantages:

  • Ease: Using two hands makes correctly hitting the stroke easy.

  • Stability: You have more strength with two hands than one, and you can keep the racquet more stable as you swing and follow through. (The upper hand on the two-handed backhand really helps you make a firm stroke.)

  • Readiness: You can prepare quickly and do more in less time by using the two-handed stroke. You can hit the two-handed backhand with good power by using just a short backswing and quick rotation into the ball.

  • Power: Most beginners find that, for making power, two hands are better than one (just like two heads are better than one for solving problems). You can get a lot of oomph into a two-handed backhand without sacrificing control.

Strategically speaking, you may choose to pursue the two-handed backhand if you fall into one or more of the following categories as a player:

  • Players who like to outlast opponents in long baseline-to-baseline rallies love the steadiness of the two-handed backhand.

  • Players who like to drive the ball deep, aggressively pushing their opponents into making errors, like the consistency of the two-handed backhand.

On the other hand, using the two-handed backhand has the following disadvantages:

  • Hitting on the run is more difficult. Running to a far corner of the court and making a shot when you're pressed for time can be awkward when you have two hands on the grip.

  • Your reach is limited. You have a shorter reach with the two-hander, especially on balls hit low and away from your backhand side.

  • Volleying is harder with two hands on the racquet. Maneuvering and making reflex-driven shots isn't as easy with the two-hander. Players known for their great volleys (Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg, Martina Navratilova, and John McEnroe) were all one-handed backhand players. It's no mere coincidence.

  • You can't vary your shots as much (or as quickly) when you use two hands. For example, you can hit the traditional slice backhand more easily and effectively with only one hand on the racquet.

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All of the preceding disadvantages don't really impact the game of a beginner. If you're just starting out with the game, it's highly recommended that you play-test the two-handed backhand (despite the preceding list). You can always change later, when you're stronger and more comfortable hitting the shot, like many players have done.

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