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Modern Forehand Overview
Borg Forehand Due to incredible advancements in racket technology, along with the "topspin revolution" initiated by Bjorn Borg, forehand technique has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Over the years players have improved upon Borg's forehand, culminating in a modern forehand that is both extraordinarly powerful as well as extremely consistent due to topspin.

Unlike the long, linear, even swinged strokes of the 70's (straight back backswing and finish with your racket pointing towards your target), modern technique maximizes angular momentum through coiling and uncoiling motions of the body. It also replaces the notion of "swinging" the arm and racket with pulling and pushing motions of the arm along with torquing motions of the forearm and hand on contact.

The modern forehand is so different from what is conventionally taught that you will see it has more in common with a baseball swing, a side armed throw, and a boxing punch. These movements from other sports offer the human body much more powerful forces to tap into than the long linear swings of conventional tennis teaching.

Here I will quickly outline the biggest changes in forehand technique:


1. Top players today use the semi-western grip (also called the "frying pan" grip) or a western grip to hit the ball. This puts more of your hand under the handle (knuckles facing the ground). By getting more of your hand under the handle, it allows you to lift the ball upward more powerfully with your arm. This hand position on the handle also lets you push more forcefully forward. In fact, the motion looks exactly like a boxing uppercut motion.

2. Top players today almost all create a bent arm hittng structure. By bending the arm and bringing it in closer to the body, you can get faster rotation from the body. Think of a figure skater twirling with arms fully extended and then bringing the arms in closer to the body. The angular momentum increases as the arms pull in.

The double bend hitting structure, which was first recognized by John Yandell of tennisplayer.net, provides the structural stability and mass to provide maximum spring of the ball and strings.

3. Top players today initiate their forehands by rotating their shoulders rather than swinging their arms. The racket actually lays back and the arm pulls the racket forward, butt cap leading the way as the shoulders rotate. This leads to the crucial slot position which leads to lag from the racket and arm drag behind the opening shoulders. Through this slot position and subsequent lag, the player gets a burst of angular momentum coming into contact.
4 Top players today face the net on contact and the shoulders actually keep rotating around after contact due to the force from all the angular momentum.
6. Top players muscularly accelerate on contact by lifting their arm upward and shifting the weight of their arm into and through the ball. A torque is also applied from the hand and forearm which leads to the windshield wiper motion.

8. Top players use springing motions from the legs to establish rhythm and timing to their strokes.
9. Top players use use wide hitting stances for support and balance as they rotate their upper bodies into the ball. The notion of stepping into the ball has been replaced by powerful rotating motions around the body's core.

 

   

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Here you can get a sense of what the modern forehand looks like. Notice how Serra pulls the racket, butt cap first, into the ball by lifting/pulling his arm forward as he rotates his torso into and through the ball. Then he accelerates on contact with his entire arm and shoulder, by lifting upward, and pushing forward, finishing it off with a "windshield wiper" motion from hand/forearm torque. The modern forehand is powerful and explosive, with plenty of topspin. It looks nothing like our traditional notion of taking the racket back and swinging the arm and racket forward and through the ball.

Learn the Windshield Wiper Forehand!