How to Hit the Jumping Backhand Overhead in Tennis

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ready position for backhand overhead

TV tennis commentators often call the backhand overhead "the toughest shot in tennis." Arguably, a few shots are much tougher, but they're always optional, whereas the backhand overhead can sometimes be your only way to save a point.

On any lob that hangs in the air long enough, you should always move over and hit a forehand overhead. The backhand overhead, because it cannot be hit with nearly as much force, should only be used on low lobs to your backhand side.

Few players can hit a backhand overhead with overwhelming power, but good placement will often yield a clean winner.

On the following pages are stop-action shots illustrating how to hit the backhand overhead.

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Racquet Preparation

backhand overhead racquet preparation

As the ball approaches, turn toward the sideline. If you hit everything else with a Continental grip at the net, you might feel most comfortable staying Continental, but many players find that they can hit the ball more squarely with a full Eastern backhand grip. Place your left hand lightly on the throat of the racquet to help bring the racquet into position.

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Loading Muscle Energy

backhand overhead muscles loading
Prepare to jump and swing by bending your knees and elbow and keeping your wrist relaxed so that the racquet hangs down behind you.
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backhand overhead mid-swing
As you jump to reach the ball, your arm will begin to straighten, but the racquet will have just begun to pivot upward, still hanging somewhat below your wrist. The more distance the racquet has yet to move at this point, the more force it will have once it finally whips up at the ball.
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Point of Contact

backhand overhead point of contact
Ideally, you'll meet the ball at your full extension, roughly a foot farther forward than your head. Your arm will have finished straightening, and all of the upward energy from your legs and arm will make the racquet whip up and forward, pivoting at your relaxed wrist. This whipping action will generate enough racquet-head speed to deliver a crisp pop on the ball. Try to keep looking at the point where you meet the ball for a split second beyond the moment of contact.
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Follow Through

backhand overhead follow through
Your follow through will be short and out in front, unlike on a serve. The racquet will have pivoted at your wrist almost a full circle from its initial, loaded position.

More than any other tennis shot, a jumping backhand overhead gives one a brief sensation of flight. A bird-like landing only fits. (The rare specimen of silver-crested, red-bellied blackbird captured here is native to tennis courts.) Despite appearances, the forward leg was in no danger from the racquet: the leg was on its way down, and the racquet was coming around slightly toward the camera.