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©2000 by Dr. Martin G. Baroch

Besides the serve, forehand is the most common stroke in tennis and by most considered to be their weapon, their killer stroke. But on the other side it is also the stroke with the widest range of variety in its production. Played on the dominant side of the body (right-handers on the right), forehand gives us almost endless number of elbow positions in the space during the backswing and thus endless stroke varieties (and of course also mistake possibilities…). This is the reason, why we can see so many different forehand strokes on the courts all around us and even among the top pro players.

In general one of the biggest differences between the hobby players and the top pro players is in the use of the body. The world best players are mostly using the body as the main source of power for the stroke. The hobby players in contrary then tend to use for the power purpose mainly the hitting arm, however this posses only around 12% of the entire power potential in the body. This misconception is then one of the main reasons for the typical tennis injuries from overuse like the tennis elbow and also the reason for the weak ball control, while the arm muscles should be used mainly for coordination purposes instead of power generation.

Also the own visual picture of the stroke and the instruction given is often misleading. Many consider swinging with the racket around the body up to the left shoulder as the main principle of the powerful stroke (wiper motion, showing bottom of the racket to the opponent, etc.). Swinging around is in most of the cases right thing to be done, but it is not the main principle of the stroke, rather its side effect. The main principle of a powerful stroke lies in the vast shoulder turn and balance transfer of the body from outside into inside.

Majority of the world class players are doing the backswing for the open stance forehand with quite high racquet position (above the head), elbow rather closer to the body and perfectly turned shoulders. In the end of the backswing, the shoulder line goes approximately towards the target with the left shoulder being in the front. In this moment, the weight and tension are on the righ leg and there is also an enormous tension in the trunk muscles created by turning the trunk back and staying in the open stance with the feet (the feet line is in more or less right angle to the stroke trajectory).

The own hitting starts with pushing of the right leg, uncoiling the body, which goes up and rotates its right half from outside and back into inside and front. This body rotation is the dominant force moving the racket against the incoming ball, which should be struck way in the front of the body, puting the entire force of the body rotation into the stroke. The follow thru consists of excellent shoulder turn with the shoulder line going towards the target again, but this time the right/hitting shoulder is in the front and touching the chin after making a turn of 180°. The racket swings around as a effect of this vast body/shoulder rotation, with the thumb of the right/hitting hand pointing towards the ground. The arm is then staying away from the body and thus helping to finish complete body turn.

Compare this forehand description to yours and to the strokes of the players around you in the club. Most of you will have much less shoulder turn in the backswing stage and then also much less of the turn in the follow thru. But this here just described vast shoulder turn is the base of the efficient forehand stroke. Instead of thinking about the swinging with the racquet around you, try to get your hitting shoulder up to the chin with the entire arm completely loose on every forehand stroke, but still keeping the position away from the body. This together with the body balance transfer from outside into inside during the stroke gives to your stroke much more power and also control based on the relaxed (not swinging) arm. In addition your arm will be also in less danger to develop the tennis elbow.