Forehand

Forehand

[fawr-hand, fohr-]
For information on the forehand of a horse, see forehand (horse)

The forehand in tennis is a shot made by swinging the racquet across one's body in the direction of where the player wants to place the shot. For a right-handed player, the forehand is a stroke that begins on the right side of his body, continues across his body as contact is made with the ball, and ends on the left side of his body. It is considered the easiest shot to master, perhaps because it is the most natural stroke. Beginners and advanced players often have better forehands than any other shots and use it as a weapon.

Most forehands are hit with topspin because it helps keep the ball from landing outside the court. On some occasions, such as an approach shot, a player can opt to hit with backspin.

Players with great forehands often build their main strategy around it. They set up a point until they have a good chance of striking a powerful forehand to win the point. A well-known tactic is to run around a ball on their backhand side in order to hit a forehand cross-court, called the inside-out forehand.

Grips

Main article: Grip (tennis)

There are four main grips for executing the forehand and their popularity has fluctuated over the years. They are the western, the semi-western, the eastern, and the continental.

Western

The western was widely used in the first two decades of the 20th century. For a number of years the small, apparently frail 1920s player Bill Johnston was considered by many to have had the best forehand of all time, a stroke that he hit shoulder-high using a western grip. Few top players used the western grip after the 1920s, as many of them moved to the eastern and continental, but in the latter part of the 20th century, as shot-making techniques and equipment changed radically, the western forehand made a strong comeback and is now used by many modern players. Some consider it to be an extreme or radical grip, however. The maximum amount of topspin can be generated with this grip, and as such, it is used to great effect by many clay courters, most notably by Rafael Nadal.

Semi-Western

The semi-western grip is also widely used today, and falls in between the western and the eastern. It is popular with players who want to hit a fair amount of topspin.

Eastern

The eastern grip widely replaced the western in the 1920s and thereafter was used by such World No. 1 players as Bill Tilden, Ellsworth Vines, Don Budge, and Jack Kramer, all of whom were considered to have very powerful forehands. Many beginners start with the eastern grip because of its comfortable feel. It is often described as shaking hands with the racquet. Forehands hit with the eastern can have either topspin or backspin, as the gripping hand is on the same plane as the racquet, and can thus be tilted up for topspin or down for backspin rather easily.

Continental

The continental grip was popular with many Europeans of the 1920s and 1930s and with many Australians of the 1940s and 1950s. The continental has the advantage of being used for all strokes: serves, volleys, forehands, and backhands, without having to be shifted in the player's hand, as is the case with all the other grips. It is particularly well-suited for hitting low balls — "taking the ball on the rise" — but is generally considered inferior for most forehands.

Two-handed forehand

No matter which grip is used, most forehands are generally executed with one hand holding the racquet, but there have been fine players with two-handed forehands. In the 1940s and 50s the Ecuadorian/American player Pancho Segura used a two-handed forehand with devastating effect against larger, more powerful players. His frequent adversary and even greater player Jack Kramer has called it the single finest shot in the history of tennis.

Monica Seles also used a two-handed forehand very effectively, with 53 career titles that included 9 Grand Slam titles.

Some players will use a two-handed forehand when they need a sure-fire in. The constricted movement will generally generate less power.

Great forehands

In his 1979 autobiography Jack Kramer, who had a great forehand himself, devotes a page to the best tennis strokes he had ever seen. He writes: "FOREHAND—Segura was best, then Perry, followed by Tilden and Vines (although I never saw Big Bill's till he was in his forties). Of the moderns, Năstase's forehand is a superb one, especially on the run." At a professional event in 1951 the forehand drives of a number of players were electronically measured. Pancho Gonzales hit the fastest, 112.88 mph, followed by Jack Kramer at 107.8 and Welby Van Horn at 104. . In the 1980's, Ivan Lendl was famous for the smoothness of his forehand and his ability to strike the ball hard, no matter where he was standing on the court. But the first player who really revolutionized the forehand was probably Andre Agassi, who was able to take the ball on the rise and strike it harder than everybody else. This trend was followed by many players in the 1990's, such as Jim Courrier, Sergi Bruguera, Victor Lamm and the great Pete Sampras.

The forehand has been used as a major weapon by many players for years. Amongst the male players, some of the notable players with great forehands:

And amongst the female players:

Notes

In his 1979 autobiography Jack Kramer, who had a great forehand himself, devotes a page to the best tennis strokes he had ever seen. He writes: "FOREHAND—Segura was best, then Perry, followed by Tilden and Vines (although I never saw Big Bill's till he was in his forties). Of the moderns, Năstase's forehand is a superb one, especially on the run." At a professional event in 1951 the forehand drives of a number of players were electronically measured. Pancho Gonzales hit the fastest, 112.88 mph, followed by Jack Kramer at 107.8 and Welby Van Horn at 104. [1]

The forehand has been used as a major weapon by many players for years. Amongst the male players, some of the notable players with great forehands:

Bill Johnston, 1920s amateur Bill Tilden, 1920s and 1930s amateur and professional Ellsworth Vines, 1930s amateur and professional Jack Crawford, 1930s amateur Fred Perry, 1930s amateur and professional Jack Kramer, 1940s amateur and professional Pancho Segura, 1940s and '50s professional, first 2-handed forehand Björn Borg, Ivan Lendl Jim Courier Pete Sampras Andre Agassi Andy Roddick Rafael Nadal Roger Federer Daniel Köllerer

And amongst the female players:

May Sutton Bundy, 1900s amateur Helen Wills Moody, 1920s and 30s amateur, Dorothy Round, 1930s amateur, Jadwiga Jedrzejowska, 1930s amateur, Christine Truman, 1950s and 60s amateur, Sue Barker, 1970s professional, Martina Navratilova Steffi Graf, one of whose nicknames was "Fräulein Forehand" Monica Seles (two-handed) Lindsay Davenport Venus Williams Serena Williams Maria Sharapova Justine Henin (whose forehand Davenport has frequently credited as a 'major weapon') Kim Clijsters

Sources

  • The Game, My 40 Years in Tennis (1979), Jack Kramer with Frank Deford (ISBN 0-399-12336-9)
  • The History of Professional Tennis (2003), Joe McCauley

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