Friday, June 19, 2015

Marco Bitran - How to Hit a Federer Forehand From Your Own Backyard


If you've been following tennis for the last 10 years, you should be familiar with the name Roger Federer. No? OK, let's see if this jogs your memory a bit: 77 career titles. 17 Grand Slam titles. World Number 1 for 302 weeks. Often seen in expensive watch commercials.

Still, no? I hate to break this to you, but, it looks like you've been watching the wrong sport for the last 10 years. Before you read further, may I suggest YouTubing Roger Federer for a while?

For the rest of you, Federer no doubt embodies all that is perfect about tennis (at least for now; you never know what kind of ball-hitting machine the future throws up). His game is complete: a powerful, precise serve; a fluid backhand; and -here it comes - an atomic bomb of a forehand.

A beautiful atomic bomb, too. Simple, clean, exquisite, and most importantly, effective. So, the question is can you develop your own version of the Roger Federer forehand?

Since Fed is more of an advanced player (advanced as in "Second to God"), his forehand may not suit novice players. But the basics of his forehand are strong, and it will do no harm for us to explore it in detail here. You might just pick up a few tricks.

So let's get studying!

1. The grip

The grip is the most important, yet underrated part of your game. We're not talking about what the racquet handle is made of, but the way you hold the racquet. There are 4 types of grips: Continental, Eastern, Semi-western and Western. Today, we'll look into the Eastern Forehand Grip because that's the one Roger generally uses.

Wait, Roger who?

Roger Fed... hey, aren't you the guy who's supposed to be YouTubing right now?

Sorry about that. Back to the Eastern Grip. Hold the racquet handle in such a way that the base knuckle of your index finger is on bevel 3 of your racquet. Identifying the bevels is very simple: Hold your racquet in such a way so that the face is pointing sideways. Now the bevel that is pointing up is bevel 1. You move the racquet in an anti-clockwise direction, and the next bevel in line is bevel 2. The next one is bevel 3. Got it?

This illustration will help you understand the 8 bevels of a racquet better.

This is generally considered the easiest grip for learning the forehand. It's also very easy to switch quickly to other grips from the Eastern grip, so it's a good choice for players who like to serve and volley. You can also create shots with top spin and also play flatter, penetrating strokes.

2. The Backswing

For players who are just starting out, coaches usually drop the ball from a static height. This enables the player to develop his/her forehand (or backhand) and also, sub-consciously, solidify his/her elbow and wrist angular positions on impact. What you need to know is that during a shot, your wrist and elbow positions are going to be relatively stable; what's going to vary is your elbow and wrist angular velocity. This is influenced by a number of factors: ball speed, bounce, top spin, difference in frictional characteristics of the surface etc.

So what does Federer do?

When he sees the ball coming, he rotates his full upper body along with his racquet to his forehand side (till the racquet reaches his takeback height). Notice that he never takes his racquet behind his body. It's precisely because he gets his body into the swing. Once his upper body is fully turned, he can then unleash tremendous amounts of energy into his shot. Think of it as a rubber band in a stretched position. It's got a lot of energy waiting to be released. This is known as the Stretch Shortening Cycle.

3. The release

By now the ball has bounced on the ground. People watching have their hearts in their mouth. The Swiss is cool: he lets the racquet down from the takeback height. Now, he's got his whole body into the motion, so there's more power involved than just his arm. Just relax and let all that built up potential energy go to war.

4. Ka-boom!

Next up, contact. Federer's contact point is not that different from the contact points of most other players. What's important is the backswing.

5. The follow through

Federer usually ends his forehand across his shoulder, just like most of the pros out there. This is known as the Windshield Wiper finish and is different from the traditional follow through which ends over the shoulder of the player.

With that we've come to end of the Federer forehand. Remember, the most important part of his shot is the core rotation i.e the upper body turn which goes into the backswing.

Federer's basics are solid, so you focus on strengthening yours. Also, concentrate on maintaining a strong, balanced posture throughout your shots. You'll be fine.

And ah! Here comes Mr. Roger Who, back from his YouTube exploits. Sorry, dude, school's out, but feel free to go right back up and read this article.

I'll see you soon!

The author works for Live Your Sport, an online sports and fitness equipment store, and is a contributor to their sports and fitness blog, 'The Source'

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