The modern forehand that’s used on the
professional tours can be hit with a wide variety of grips, arm structures,
different takebacks, different finishes, and even different contact heights. And
when we look at the modern forehand there are only two technical elements
that are ubiquitous at the high level of the game. And number one it starts with a
loop accompanied with the non-dominant arm. So all high-level players will start the
forehand with the racket up high and the non-dominant hand holding the racket and
also all high level forehands will have a loop. The racket will start high and
with the non-dominant hand holding the racket usually by the throat and then as
it goes back it will drop from a high position into a low position. All
high-level forehands will also make contact with the dominant shoulder in
front at about 95% of the forehands. The only time this will not be the case is
in emergency situations. Under normal circumstances all high level players
will make contact with the dominant shoulder in front. And the way these two
technical elements sync with each other, the holding of the racket with the loop
and the dominant shoulder being in front at contact is crucial to understand how
the kinetic chain is created on the modern forehead. The reason why all high-level players
have these two technical elements in common is that without them a high-level
forehand is simply impossible. Let’s take a look how these two items are synced
with each other. From the ready position we’re gonna see that the ball is
directed to our forehand and we’re simply gonna turn towards that side
while holding onto the racket. And now as we are holding the racket the tip of the
racket must also be pointed towards the sky which will give us our looping
action. And now we can let go of the racket and while we take the racket back
a non-dominant hand will stay stretched out across the body. And we can see here
that the racket is going back while the non-dominant hand is still stretched out
across the body. It’s an important part to remember so that we don’t initiate
the rotation too early. So the racket is still going back, non-dominant hand is
stretched out across the body. Now the next part on the forehand is ubiquitous
technical element number one. This is what all high-level players have in
common. Now there are differences in back swings, there’s even differences in how
the non-dominant arm is stretched out across the body, but all high-level
players will sync this part of the forehand the same. So when the racket
starts to drop the non-dominant arm starts to go across the body. You can see
here as the racket is dropping the non-dominant arm starts to pull away.
This has to happen simultaneously. Non-dominant arm pulls out of the way
while the racket starts to drop from the loop. And consequently because we synced
the forehand in this particular way, once we hit the forward phase of the stroke
which is right here, this is the butt cap pointing towards the ball, the racket is
now going to be going forward. Our chest is already positioned towards the ball.
And now as the upper body rotation continues the closer we get to the ball,
the more we open up so that when we are extremely close to the ball our chest is
already parallel to the net which will guarantee us that we’ll make contact
with the dominant shoulder in front. And because we’re making contact with the
dominant shoulder in front, this part being the ubiquitous technical element
number two, now the racket has a clear path to travel across the body in a
circular fashion in other words there’s nothing in the rackets way, the body is
not blocking it in any way. Naturally this stroke turns into a circular
rotational stroke. And the rotation continues until the chest is eventually
pointing towards the side fence. If we put these two technical elements in
context of the entire forehand swing we can see that sequencing the torso
rotation correctly is what sets high-level forehands apart. So the
non-dominant arm is the first link in the chain. As it starts to pull away the
racket simultaneously starts to drop. As we hit the forward phase the
hips start to get involved into the stroke and as we make contact now the
legs are going to accommodate the finish simply shifting the weight from the
dominant side onto the non-dominant side. The number one forehand mistake at the
recreational level by far is the dominant shoulder being behind right at
the moment of contact. So at the lower recreational levels this is an extreme
case where usually players are completely sideways. They’re playing
the forehand like this. But even at the better recreational levels up to 5.0
level. Players will still make contact with the dominant shoulder slightly
behind at contact. And the difficulty with this type of contact is that
players are not exactly sure where they’re making contact. So whether the
dominant shoulder is slightly behind or in front. So players have to go by feel.
Now you’re gonna feel if you make contact with the dominant shoulder way
behind. This is gonna feel terrible but you might not necessarily feel
difference between a forehand that’s struck in this manner or in this manner. You
have to remember that this part of the stroke where contact is made is over in
milliseconds. So the only way to achieve a proper contact on the forehand is by
syncing the non-dominant arm with the racket drop correctly. And you have to be
careful when you’re learning the syncing of the non-dominant arm with the racquet
drop to time it correctly. This timing is very subtle you can very easily start
opening up too early and you end up losing the ball. So you have to remember
that the stroke accelerates gradually. So when the racket is starting to drop is
usually dropping very slowly, so you start getting that non-dominant hand out
of the way very slowly also. And then as the racket starts to come down and go
into the forward phase the stroke accelerates rapidly. So the mistake you have to avoid is starting
to pull this arm away to quickly. Start slowly and get the racket over here,
start going back, hold this position and then as a racket drops, you slowly start
coming in this way with the non-dominant arm. And then just let the acceleration
of the racket take its course. As the racket accelerates you’re gonna pull
this arm out of the way rather quickly. And it what’s going to happen as a
result of that you will be guaranteed to make contact with the dominant shoulder
in front every time. How about the legs? Is the kinetic chain
going from the ground up, and then traveling through the hips, and then
through the arms, and then finally into the racket. Well it doesn’t make sense
because if we look at high-level forehands we can clearly see that it’s a
top-to-bottom kinetic change. So the first thing that starts is the letting
go of the racket and the non-dominant hand starts to pull away while the
racket drops. And now we start rotating the torso. Now the hips are usually still
in place in this moment and as the racket starts going forward now the hips
are involved. And now as we make contact now the legs start to get involved and
we usually start to either pull back or pull to the side with the non-dominant
leg to accommodate the stroke. If you did the forehand the other way, where you start
getting the kinetic chain from the ground up you will usually see something
like this the leg will spring up and then the hips and then the racket and
you will open up way too early and this will look extremely rushed and hectic.
This is not what a modern forehand looks like. You can clearly see that the legs
always come at the end of the stroke and that is to accommodate the finish. And
just think back to how you learned the forehand, so you didn’t start with the
kinetic chain, you started just simply in a stationary position swinging the
racket only with the arm to get a feel for the ball and then slowly with time
you started using your body more to accommodate the arm. And we obviously
cannot play tennis without the arm, the arm is hugely important. And some people
believe that the arm is swinging completely by itself. That’s clearly not
the case. The body is there to support the arm. Yes a forehand or a serve or
backhand that’s struck perfectly feels like we’re not doing anything with the arm
because the entire body is synced perfectly with the stroke. But just think
if you have an arm injury, if you have a wrist injury, or an elbow injury, or
shoulder injury you’re completely unable to play tennis. The arm is obviously an
important piece to the forehand. And I don’t want to confuse you about the legs
because the legs are possibly the most important thing when it comes to high
level tennis. Without legs when you’re playing high level tennis you’re
absolutely no chance because number one you will not be able to set up the ball
correctly and also you need a lot of stability when you’re striking the ball. So that is something that is crucial when striking a modern forehand. You
must have a lot of stability there and I usually recommend a wider stance so we are firm into the ground so we don’t lose balance as we execute this powerful
stroke. On the ATP Tour players will usually
leave the ground on the forehand but this is not because they’re jumping on their
forehand it’s simply because the contact point is higher. So on the ATP Tour
there’s a lot more spin and players will make contact well above their waist,
usually somewhere around their ribcage to the chest area. So what happens is
they’re still executing the same forehand that I just showed you the only
difference is they have to adjust for the higher ball so they’re lifting and
they’re doing this syncing at the same time and the momentum of the stroke
usually carries them off the ground. On the WTA Tour on the other hand players
are still utilizing this syncing of the non-dominant arm with the racquet drop
and they’re also making contact with the dominant shoulder in front, but the legs
are usually stuck in the ground so in other words they’re staying low and
they still have all the correct technical elements of a modern forehand
and the reason why they’re playing the forehand like this is because the ball
has a tendency to be lower. Balls are more flat so they have no reason to leap
off the ground they will very often stay low as the executing the forehand. How can you as a recreational player
learn this forehand? We have to realize that the second part is going to happen
as a result of the first part. So you will make proper contact with the
dominant shoulder in front if you sync the forehand correctly. So what you can
do is hold the racket by the throat and start quite high. And now as the racket
is starting to go back you’re gonna remain in this position, you’re not gonna
start to open up yet. And then when the racket starts to drop you’re gonna start
getting your non-dominant side out of the way. And you have to try to do this
simultaneously. So as the racket is dropping from the loop you then start to
open up. You got to make sure that you don’t open up too early. So if you open
up as the racket is going back this will open you up too soon. So you have to make
sure that you hold this position for a little while and then as you feel the
racket dropping down that’s when you start opening up and then you simply
just continue to open up and this will guarantee you that you’ll make contact
with the dominant shoulder in front. And now simply continue this rotation until
your chest is pointing towards the side fence.

Dennis Veasley

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