In the last 50 years the backhand has evolved from a predominantly one-handed groundstroke to a two-handed shot. The reason for this is that most players find it to be an easier to play aggressively with topspin using two hands.
The goal of this guide is to help you understand and improve this shot so that you take your game to the next level.
We will explore the following concepts:
Two-handed Backhand Technique & Fundamentals
In essence, the two handed backhand is a non-dominant arm forehand. That is, for a right-handed player the left hand will swing as if hitting a forehand. As a matter of fact, being able to hit a forehand using solely the non-dominant hand is an important skill that every two-handed player should develop.
Let’s review the fundamentals of a good two handed backhand.
Step 1: Using The Correct Grip
A proper grip is essential to hit an effective two-handed backhand.
Although there are slight differences in the way players hold the racquet, we highly recommend that you use the Continental Grip (like holding a hammer) on your dominant hand and the Eastern Forehand Grip (like shaking hands) on the non-dominant hand.
Also, make sure your hands are together on your two handed backhand. Many beginners make the mistake of separating their hands on the grip, but this severely limits your backhand.
Let’s take a look at a video to clarify this.
Step 2: Footwork on the Two Handed Backhand
The footwork on the two handed backhand is similar to that of the forehand.
You can hit the backhand with an open stance or a closed stance. Most players start out learning the closed stance backhand, while advanced players may use an open stance depending on the type of shot they’re hitting.
The only stance you should avoid is stepping across the body.
Step 3: The Backswing
For the two-handed backhand, it is important to take the racket back rotating the body as a unit and not only with the arms.
In addition, there are two acceptable ways to take the racquet back:
- Use a loop. With the loop, you keep the racquet high before dropping it towards the court creating a loop. This is a more advanced technique, but today many juniors learn this type of backswing from the beginning.
- Take the racquet straight back. This is the simpler backswing of the two. You just tack the racquet straight back, pointing down towards the court. We recommend starting with this backswing for beginners.
Watch this video to better understand the backswing options for the two handed backhand.
Step 4: The Racquet Drop and End of the Backswing
Regardless of what kind of backswing you use, it is important that you drop the racquet head under the ball at the end of the backswing enabling you to swing up and through the ball.
As you can see from the picture below, the racquet head should point towards the ground before swinging forwards.
Step 5: Forward Swing and Contact
Once the racquet drops the player will rotate the upper body and swing the arms forward.
A useful way to visualize the swing is by imagining a spring that you rotate and push down. As you release it, the spring will uncoil and lift.
That is exactly how your body works when hitting a two-handed backhand – coiling and lowering on the backswing and uncoiling as you push against the ground and turning your body around towards contact. The racquet will swing low to high towards the ball.
The contact point has to be in front of the body. At contact, the upper body will be facing forward and the wrist of the non-dominant arm will be slightly laidback as this video explains.
Step 6: The Follow Through
After contact your racquet head will remain stable and continue moving up and forwards as if pushing the ball.
After a few inches, the racquet head will start to move across the body as the body continues to rotate. The racquet will finish on the opposite side of the body, over your shoulder with the butt cap pointing forwards. At the end of the swing, the body (belly button) should face the net.
A good way to assure a proper follow through is making sure the non-dominant elbow finishes in front of the chin.
Now that you have a clearer picture of the key components and technique of a solid two-handed backhand, watch the following videos to further develop your backhand groundstroke.
Common Mistakes on the Two Handed Backhand
The following section will help you understand and correct some of the most common two-handed backhand problems.
Leaning into the Backswing
It is very important to keep the shoulders level when hitting a backhand. The shoulders should remain parallel to the ground as you swing.
Avoid dipping the front shoulder like this image below.
What if you have to hit a low ball? Bend your knees with a lunge position to get lower for the ball.
A Limiting Foot Position
Make sure you are stepping forwards in a way that allows you to transfer your weight towards your shot when you hit with a square stance.
As you will see in the video many players fail to step with the heel first and end up with their front foot parallel to the net, blocking their hips.
Lack of Rotation
Every effective groundstroke in tennis requires the use of the whole body, including the two handed backhand. Solely using the arms to hit the ball will lead to flawed and inefficient strokes.
This video will help you understand how your body should rotate on the backhand.
Two Handed Backhand Drills & Exercises
Here a few drills to help you improve your two-handed backhand.
Follow Through Drill: Point Toward Your Target
In this drill, you’ll learn how to improve your follow through on the backhand. Pointing the racquet towards your target will help you hit through the shot.
In this drill you will learn to hit with more topspin on your two handed backhand. It’s simple.
Just go out and practice left-handed forehands (for right-handed players). By focusing on using your non-dominant hand to rotate the racquet, you’ll add topspin.
Backhand Control Drill #1
This is similar to the topspin drill but you’ll start with two hands. This drill will strengthen your left hand and increase your control on your backhand.
Backhand Control Drill #2
In this drill, you do the same thing as above, but hold onto the racquet slightly long with your right hand.
This progression will help increase your control and consistency with your two handed backhand.
The Secret to the Two Handed Backhand
As you can tell, your non-dominant hand is the secret weapon to a great two handed backhand.
You should be practicing hitting shots with your left hand on a consistent basis. Then, come back to this guide to make sure you’re not running into any of the common mistakes.
One great way to make sure you have good backhand technique is to film yourself hitting backhands. Then watch our videos to compare.
If you can start with the proper grip, footwork, stance, and swing, you’ll be hitting better two handed backhands with more power and spin.
For more advanced backhand tips, lessons on technique, and drills become a member of TennisGate Online Academy!