Photo Lesson: The Basic Two-Handed Backhand

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Grip and Beginning of Body Turn

grip and beginning of body turn
(C)2007 Jeff Cooper licensed to, Inc.

The basic two-handed backhand shown in this series of photos is hit with the most common two-handed backhand grip, which is well suited to hitting the moderate topspin this stroke will have.

This photo shows the very beginning of the turn toward the backhand side from ready position. In full ready position, the racquet would be held as shown, and both feet would point toward the net.

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Middle of Backswing

middle of backswing
(C)2007 Jeff Cooper licensed to, Inc.

The simplicity and compactness of the backswing for a basic two-handed backhand contribute greatly to the ease of learning the stroke. You needn't complicate the backswing as you get better: Most of the pros use a simple, compact backswing, too. You'll see a few use a more looping backswing.

As you bring the racquet back, turn sideways and prepare to step forward.

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Backswing Complete

racquet fully back; large step forward
(C)2007 Jeff Cooper licensed to, Inc.

At the point farthest back on your backswing, the tip of the racquet should point at the back fence.

A sizeable step forward gets your weight moving forward, helps keep you sideways, and makes it easier for you to push forward and upward with your legs as you swing.

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Middle of Swing

weight on front foot; racquet below ball
(C)2007 Jeff Cooper licensed to, Inc.
The basic two-handed backhand groundstroke, hit from this square (sideways) stance, gets most of its power from linear motion -- from the legs, body, and arm moving forward and upward. The racquet's position roughly a foot below the ball will result in the strings brushing up the back of the ball to create moderate topspin. The long forward path of the racquet will deliver solid power. Most of the body weight is now on the front leg.
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One Frame Before Contact

one frame before contact
(C)2007 Jeff Cooper licensed to, Inc.

One video frame (1/30 second) before contact, the center of the racquet's string bed is still roughly eight inches below the ball. Having the racquet head lower than the hands at this point helps get it below the ball, which is near the lower limit of comfort for a two-handed stroke. Two-handed backhands have a higher range of comfortable points of contact than do one-handed backhands. As long as the racquet's long axis comes back to nearly horizontal at the point of contact, the dropped racquet head at this stage will help the stroke by giving the racquet more distance to rise as it meets the ball. The more upwardly the racquet face is moving at contact, the more topspin the stroke will produce.

If the ball were higher, the dropped racquet head you see here would be less necessary, and for any ball height, you should avoid dropping the racquet head much more than seen here, because it could result in your "golfing" the ball, which would tend to make you hit long.

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Just After Contact

racquet meets ball
(C)2007 Jeff Cooper licensed to, Inc.

Here, the ball has just left the strings after the racquet met it a few inches forward of the front knee. As noted earlier, this ball is met near the low end of the comfortable range for a two-handed backhand. If the ball were higher, it would ordinarily be met farther back -- as much as a foot farther back at the high end of the comfortable range. With the double forehand two-handed grip, the point of contact would be a few inches farther back, and with a more Western two-handed grip, the point of contact would be a few inches farther forward.

Try to have the long axis of the racquet roughly parallel to the ground, your body sideways, and your eyes locked onto the point of contact.

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Early Follow-Through

early follow-through
(C)2007 Jeff Cooper licensed to, Inc.
Here, less than 1/10 second after contact, at the most forward point of the swing, the racquet has moved roughly seven feet forward from where it was at the full backswing, and it has risen more than three feet from the low point of the swing. This stroke had a good mix of forward drive and topspin, with significantly more of the former.

This photo captures the idea of driving the ball out toward your target, which will help your aim and consistency while still allowing you to create moderate topspin.

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End of Follow-Through

end of follow-through
(C)2007 Jeff Cooper licensed to, Inc.
Generally, the longer and faster your swing and the looser your arms, the farther over your shoulder your racquet will end up on the follow-through. Players who can generate lots of power with a very compact motion generally end their follow-throughs with the racquet more out in front.