Photo Study of the Roger Federer Forehand

01
of 09

Racquet Face Down on Backswing

Racquet Face Down on Backswing
Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Here, Roger illustrates a fairly standard racquet position for the farthest-back point of his backswing. Having the racquet point at the back fence is entirely standard, but Roger's stringbed is closed (facing downward) more than one would usually see with the grip halfway between Eastern forehand and Semi-Western he is using. The racquet should face downward somewhat on the backswing, because it naturally opens up as you swing forward.

From the position of his hips, it appears that Roger is using roughly a 3/4-open stance, which will add considerable rotational energy to his swing.

02
of 09

Wrist Laid Back

Wrist Laid Back
Michael Steele / Getty Images
If you watch Roger's forehand closely in person or on TV, you'll see that his racquet accelerates extremely quickly in the last 18 inches or so before it meet the ball. In this photo, you can see the key to this acceleration in the laid-back position of his wrist. Here, Roger has already executed much of his swing, and his wrist is about to whip forward in response to all of the energy from the movement that has already occurred in the larger parts of his body--his legs, his upper body, and his upper arm.
03
of 09

Rotational Energy and Wrist Starting to Whip Forward

Rotational Energy and Wrist Starting to Whip Forward
Mark Dadswell / Getty Images
Federer's shirt helps us see the rotational energy he is about to deliver to the ball as he hits this forehand with a semi-open stance. Here, Roger's wrist has just begun to whip forward in response to all of the energy from the larger parts of his body, such as the rotation of his upper body.
04
of 09

Sliding Into Forehand on Clay

Sliding Into Forehand on Clay
Michael Steele / Getty Images
Roger gives us a good illustration here of how to slide into a forehand on clay. Note how the front foot is angled across the direction of the slide, and the back foot is tilted onto its inner edge. These foot positions offer the most twist-resistance for the ankle if the player should hit some kind of bump or slow spot on the court while sliding.

Unless you're sliding toward the net, which is relatively rare, you'll usually need to hit with an open stance as Roger is here.

05
of 09

Meeting the Ball Mid-Thigh High

Meeting the Ball Mid-Thigh High
Quinn Rooney / Getty Images
This photo is most interesting in comparison to the next, where Roger meets the ball higher. Generally, for a topspin forehand, which requires meeting the ball with a roughly vertical racquet face, the lower you meet the ball, the farther back your racquet can be--within a fairly small range.
06
of 09

Meeting the Ball Upper-Belly High

Meeting the Ball Upper-Belly High
Quinn Rooney / Getty Images
In comparison to the previous photo, here Roger is meeting the ball significantly farther forward, which is normal for a higher point of contact. Note that the position of the racquet itself is, as in the previous photo, nearly perfect, with the racquet face vertical and the long axis of the racquet horizontal.
07
of 09

Just After Contact

Just After Contact
Chris McGrath / Getty Images
The position of the ball tells us that Roger struck it just a tiny fraction of a second before this photo was taken. If you project backward to where the point of contact must have been, you can see how much topspin Roger must have put on the ball by noting how much his racquet has risen in that tiny bit of time. You can also get a sense of the rotational energy in Roger's swing by comparing the angle of his shoulders to that of his hips.

Roger is offering a valuable tip here with his eyes, too. The best way to make sure you see the ball well is to look at the point of contact for a split second after you've hit the ball.

08
of 09

Inside-Out Forehand

Inside-Out Forehand
Michael Steele / Getty Images
Here, Roger's racquet has whipped forward to within a few inches of meeting the ball, and it appears that his wrist will still be laid back slightly at the point of contact. This is the inside-out forehand, the favorite of many of the top pros, where you angle the ball toward what would be the backhand side of a right-handed opponent.
09
of 09

Hitting Off Back Foot

Hitting Off Back Foot
Chris McGrath / Getty Images
Shortly after contact with the ball, Roger's racquet is facing downward more than usual here, probably due, at least in large part, to his hitting this forehand with his weight on his back foot. Most players tend to pull across the body and turn the racquet more on the follow-through when hitting off the back foot, because when you hit off your back foot, you can't drive forward into the ball as much, so the follow-through naturally goes forward less. One way to compensate for being unable to drive into the ball is to hit heavier topspin. Judging from how much Roger's racquet has risen in comparison to the height of the ball, he hit this shot with heavy topspin. When you want to hit a high, deep topspin, you'll often deliberately lean on your back foot to create just enough tilt in your stringbed to give the ball a high trajectory while still brushing upward for the spin.