Kelly Gunterman

Improve Your Backhand – Book Excerpt From “Tennis Made Easy”

Having trouble with your backhand? The following chapter from Kelly Gunterman’s book “Tennis Made Easy” may help you execute the shot better the next time you play. To improve your game, buy or download his book here https://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257715/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_BsAYybKY4RG27 via @amazon

 

The backhand has remained a bit more traditional than the new more open stance forehand. That being said let’s try to make some adjustments in the backhand to make it more of a strength on the court. No longer will our opponents say “just hit to his/her backhand and you’ll win the point”. Our goal is to be equally strong off both sides.

The forehand and two handed backhand are based on rotational swings with the dominate arm swinging across our body. We need the rotation of our hips and shoulders to clear our body from the path of the swing and allow the racquet to accelerate through the ball. The one-handed backhand is much more of a linear swing, with your arm swinging away from your body. Here, keep our body much more sideways and balanced to accelerate the racquet through the contact point of the swing.

One handed backhand;

Hitting the backhand with one hand is a little less stable than the two-handed backhand but with the proper footwork, grip and timing this can be a very graceful and effective shot with a lot of variety. We can drop the racquet head [photo] and close the face to hit with a great deal of topspin or we can start the racquet head higher [photo] and more open to hit through the ball with underspin or slice. Slice, topspin or flat backhands are similar in body movement. The difference is the starting position of the racquet, the plane of the swing through the ball and the follow through

[Sequential photos of one handed slice and topspin backhands]

Back to basics:

• Step first with the foot on the same side as the ball. ( the left foot for right handed players) This turns your hips and shoulders while preparing you to move to the ball. At this point the racquet should be prepared (take the racquet back) for the shot.

• Weight is back when the racquet is back. Try to hold your weight on the back foot until the swing starts forward, transferring the weight as the racquet moves through the contact point of the stroke.

• In the backswing close the racquet face to hit with topspin, [photo] or open it to hit with underspin. [photo] This can be done by rolling the knuckles toward the court for topspin and to the sky for slice. Dropping the racquet head much lower, below the contact point of the swing, allows you to generate a great deal of top spin. Use your free hand to pull the racquet back, this helps you control the angle of the backswing and generate the desired spin on the shot.

• Step into the court with the right foot (right handed players), not across your body. [photo] By having the weight transferring in the direction of the shot it allows you to swing faster through the ball, which generates a much stronger shot.

• Contact with the ball is slightly in front of the right foot. The more closed and down the racquet head is in the backswing, the more the contact point has to be front of the body. If the racquet face is slightly open and underspin is the goal the contact point is much closer to the body.

• As you start the racquet forward pull your free hand back (much like an umpire making a safe sign) to keep your shoulders sideways to the net. This simple move helps keep the racquet head moving through the contact point and allows you to follow through the plane of the ball to get the desired depth and spin.

• For topspin finish high and in front. Release the wrist on the follow through like throwing a Frisbee. The release of the wrist adds racquet head speed, which increases power through the full swing.

• When hitting the ball with underspin or slice avoid chopping at the ball. This swing feels as if you are sliding the ball off a table top with a very smooth motion through the ball. The wrist rolls under the contact point allowing the racquet to impart underspin. The racquet finishes up and slightly open on the follow through. [photo of finish]

• Recover back to the athletic ready position anticipating the move to the next shot.

If you are trying to develop topspin or slice backhand it is very important that you keep your body sideways through the swing. If your shoulders open on the swing, the racquet face will also open at contact and the ball tends to go high and long. Staying sideways through the shot helps keep the racquet head moving through the plane of the ball.

Practice drill; Standing sideways with a ball in your racquet hand, hold ball next to your left hip, for right handed players, now simply throw the ball across the net to the back fence with a backhand motion. Keeping your shoulders sideways and releasing the wrist on the throw will give you a great feel for the one handed backhand. [photo] This will give you the feel of a full follow through on the one handed backhand. This drill can also give you a feel of how to direct the ball from one side of the court to the other. With the same motion throw a few balls cross court and then down the line. This is exactly the feel you will need to direct the ball on your backhand.

Two handed backhand;

The biggest difference between the one handed and two handed backhand, besides the obvious second hand on the racquet is how much your body moves through the swing. As we discussed earlier, the one handed backhand is a linear swing with the hips and shoulders remaining somewhat sideways through the entire swing. The two handed backhand requires the body to rotate through the swing as if you are hitting a left handed forehand for right handed players.

As with the one handed backhand, we initiate the swing by turning the left foot parallel to the base line and placing it slightly behind the right foot. [photo] This move rotates the hips and shoulders preparing the racquet for the stroke. Keeping your hands for right handed players close to your left hip sets you up to take a rip at the backhand. Remember, this is a left hand dominate swing that feels as if you are driving the racquet through the ball. The weight transfers from your left foot to your right by pushing off from the left foot, rotating your hips and shoulders as you accelerate the racquet through the contact point of the swing. Finish over your right shoulder with the elbows high. Imagine you are wearing a watch on your left arm; now finish with your watch next to your right ear.

[Sequential photo of the two handed backhand]

Since this shot is very similar in structure to a forehand, work the rotation of the hips, direction can be gained by pointing the left elbow to the desired target (right handed players). By the time you point your elbow to the target the ball is long off your strings but this thinking does help with developing the proper rotation on the swing. Stay relaxed and allow the body to flow with the swing.

Back to basics:

• Preparation is similar to that of the one handed backhand. Always step first with the foot on the side that the ball is coming from. Turn your left foot and step to the side to prepare for the two handed backhand for right handed players.

• Keep the weight back when the racquet is back. Holding your weight on the back foot longer allows the transfer of weight as the racquet is moving through the contact point of the swing. This helps keep everything in balance as you swing. The “old school” thinking of step in and get your racquet back just doesn’t work.

• In the backswing start with your hands close to your left pocket for right handed players. This gives you a solid reference point to start the swing. For high or very low balls there will be some adjusting to this starting point but it is a great place to start when developing a new two handed backhand.

• Use your left hand!!! For right handed players. This shot is very similar to hitting a left handed forehand. If the right hand becomes dominate the swing will be a pull rather than a drive resulting in a weaker grip and consequently a much weaker shot.

• Avoid a big cross over step as it locks your hips and limits the swing. Rotate your hips and shoulders eliminating a lot of the pressure off on your lower back. The rotation makes the swing to longer, resulting in a faster more powerful stroke.

• Follow through over your right shoulder for right handed players, as if you were listening to your watch on your left wrist with your right ear. This little trick will guarantee a solid follow through and helps keep the racquet on a low to high path resulting in more topspin.

• Finish with the back foot on the toe, which assures you have rotated your hips and works as a balance point. This looks a little like the finish of a golf swing but don’t hold the position very long; just long enough to finish the shot and maintain your balance.

• Recover back to your athletic ready position.

If you hit a two handed backhand, topspin is your shot of choice. But to hit with slice use one hand or at least release the left hand as you swing forward. It is important to keep the shoulders sideways to the net to avoid the racquet face opening on contact.

Mondays With Bob Greene: It’s a great honor to reach the number one ranking

STARS

Jelena Jankovic won the Andalucia Tennis Experience by beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3 3-6 6-3 in Marbella, Spain

Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Florent Serra 6-4 7-5 to win the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca, Morocco

Lleyton Hewitt defeated Wayne Odesnik 6-2 7-5 to capture the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, USA

Caroline Wozniacki beat Aleksandra Wozniak 6-1 6-2 to win The MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA

Rui Machado won the STATUS Athens Open, beating Daniel Munoz-de la Nava 6-3 7-6 (4) in Athens, Greece

Karolina Sprem beat Viktoria Kutuzova 6-1 6-4 to win the Koddaert Ladies Open in Torhout, Belgium

SAYING

“It’s a great honor to reach the number one ranking an
d it is a dream every girl who has ever wanted to play professional tennis shares. It is even extra special for me since my brother Marat was able to reach the number one ranking and I am happy to share this achievement with him.” – Dinara Safina, who took over the WTA Tour’s top spot from Serena Williams.

“This is what all the hard work is for, to play weeks like this and have this kind of feeling at the end. It makes going through the surgery and all the hard work worth it, so it’s good stuff.” – Lleyton Hewitt, who won the US Men’s Clay Championships, his first ATP title in two years.

“I was trying to play my best tennis but the injury prevented me from reaching my top level.” – Serena Williams, after losing to Klara Zakopalova in her first clay-court match of the season in Marbella, Spain.

“This is a great start to the clay-court season, a really good start. I proved I can beat these better players.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after winning the title in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“I know I have not been playing well the last three months, but this win has given me back the confidence I need.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning in Marbella, Spain.

“When I hit a good shot she hit a good shot back. I feel pretty good about going 3 and 2 with a top 10 player.” – Fourteen-year-old Madison Keys, after losing to top-seeded Nadia Petrova 6-3 6-2 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“I have to say that we were a bit lucky. In the semifinals we were close to losing and today we made it in the match tiebreak. It is my first title and it feels great.” – Lukasz Kubot, who teamed with Oliver Marach to win at Casablanca, Morocco, their first ATP doubles title in their third final together.

“We’re very happy with the first tournament of the clay court season. We are looking forward to going to Europe and we’re going to be over there for 14 weeks. It’s really important to win a title on the clay and getting your balance and a lot of confidence.” – Mike Bryan, after he and his brother Bob won the doubles at Houston, Texas.

“Before every match I try to isolate myself from everybody with my iPod. It’s like a ritual I have before playing and it’s absolutely necessary for me to listen to one of the songs from the ‘Phantom of the Opera.'” – Rafael Nadal, on how he prepares for a match.

“He kind of forces you into that the way he plays defense. It’s no excuse for some errors, especially the ones I made at key times. If you expect to win matches you have to put that around big points.” – James Blake, after losing to Guillermo Canas 6-4 6-4 in a first-round match at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas.

“In the tiebreak, it’s anybody’s match.” Sania Mirza, who teamed with Chuang Chia-Jung to win the doubles at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 6-3 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak).

“Mentally, when you lose 10 points in a row you have to tell yourself it’s going to be OK. That’s not easy. Some people can deal with it better than others, and I’m definitely a guy who struggles with staying calm mentally and just playing my game.” – Tommy Haas, who actually lost 11 straight points yet beat Marcel Granollers in three sets.

“I must be doing something right.” – Lleyton Hewitt, noting his career record on clay going into the US Men’s Clay Court Championships was a quite respectable 80-37. He ended up winning the tournament.

SWISS KNOT

Mr and Mrs Federer

Roger Federer and long-time companion Mirka Vavrinec are now Mr. and Mrs. The two exchanged wedding vows in Federer’s hometown of Basel, Switzerland. They first met at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when both were competing for Switzerland. Vavrinec retired from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in 2002. Last month the two announced they are expected their first child later this summer. Federer was full of announcements. After telling of his marriage, he announced he would take a wild card and compete this week in Monte Carlo after earlier saying he planned to skip the event. Federer has reached the final at the last three Monte Carlo tournaments, only to lose each time to Rafael Nadal.

SAFINA ON TOP

Dinara Safina has pulled even with her brother in one respect. She is ranked number one in the world, replacing Serena Williams. The second Russian to be atop the women’s rankings, she is part of the first brother-sister combination to be ranked number one in the world. Her brother, Marat Safin, was ranked number one on the ATP Tour in 2000. Safina is the 19th player to top the women’s rankings. Last year she became the first player to beat three different reigning world number ones in the same season, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic. Safina has won four WTA Tour titles in the last 12 months and finished runner-up five times, including Roland Garros last year and the Australian Open in January.

STRUGGLING

After losing two straight matches and her world number one ranking, Serena Williams has withdrawn from this week’s Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina, citing a left leg injury she originally suffered at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. “I need to give my leg injury time to heal,” she said. Williams was the defending Family Circle Cup champion. Williams lost to Victoria Azarenka in the Miami final, then was upset in Marbella, Spain, by Klara Zakopalova in her first clay-court match of the season

STAYING THE COURSE

It’s been a long time for Lleyton Hewitt, but he finally won his first tournament in two years when he stopped Wayne Odesnik 6-2 7-5 at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas. With his 498th career match victory, the Australian is just two match wins away from joining Roger Federer and Carlos Moya as the only active players with 500 or more victories. Hewitt, who ranks 35th on the career victories list, failed to win a tournament last year for the first time in his career while recovering from hip surgery. Hewitt won the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon the following. Ranked number one in the world in 2001, Hewitt went into the Houston tournament ranked number 88.

SUCCESS AT LAST

Jelena Jankovic finally lifted the champion’s trophy this year following a disappointing start to the season. She lost her number one ranking after losing early at the Australian Open. She then dropped her opening matches at Indian Wells, California, and Miami, Florida, two American hard court events. On the red clay in Marbella, Spain, Jankovic finally got things turned around, beating Carla Suarez Navarro in the title match 6-3 3-6 6-3. For Jankovic, who was down a break early in the third set, this was her 10th career singles title, with half of them coming on clay.

STILL IN THE HUNT

Lleyton Hewitt wasn’t the only one to turn back the clock on the ATP Tour. Juan Carlos Ferrero won the Grand Prix Hassan II tournament in Casablanca, Morocco, his first title since capturing the Madrid Masters in October 2003. That was the year he won Roland Garros and lost the US Open final to Andy Roddick. And 2003 was the year Ferrero was ranked number one in the world. It was Ferrero’s first clay court championship since his victorious French Open run in 2003.

STAYING HOME

An inflamed right shoulder is the reason Victoria Azarenka won’t be playing in this week’s Family Circle Cup. In her last match, Azarenka knocked off Serena Williams to win the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Williams went on to lose her next match, then also withdrew from the Family Circle Cup with an injury to her leg. “I am really sorry that I have to withdraw from the Family Circle Cup … due to an injury in my right shoulder,” Azarenka said.  “I was looking forward to returning to Charleston and building on the momentum that I have from the past few weeks.”

SWEPT CLEAN

The US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, wasn’t pretty for seeded players. James Blake and Mardy Fish were the top two-ranked Americans and the top two seeds in the field. At least for the first round. For the first time since 2000, the top two seeded players in an ATP tournament failed to advance past the opening round. And until his win over Blake, Guillermo Canas had lost six straight first-round matches this year. That was only the beginning. For the first time since the Open Era began in 1968, no seeded players reached the quarterfinals. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, ranked 73rd in the world, was the highest-ranked player to make it out of the second round. The eventual winner, Lleyton Hewitt, was ranked 88th when the tournament began.

SENIOR SIGNEES

Goran Ivanisevic and Stefan Edberg are the first two entries for The Masters Tennis event to be played at the Royal Albert Hall in London in December. Six other players yet to be named will join the two Wimbledon champions in the ATP Champions Tour event. At least four of the six to be named will have been either a world number one, Grand Slam singles finalist or a Davis Cup winner in their careers. Ivanisevic played the Royal Albert Hall tournament in 2006, reaching the final, while Edberg played the senior event last year. Ivanisevic missed last year because of a knee injury.

STRENGTH AGAINST STRENGTH

Italy and Russia will battle for the fifth time when they meet in a Fed Cup World Group semifinal April 25-26 in Castellaneta Marina, Italy. The home team has never beaten the Russians in Fed Cup play, losing their last meeting in the 2007 final in Moscow. The last time the two nations met in Italy, in the 2005 quarterfinal, Italy won the first match before losing 4-1. In the last five years, Italy is the only nation other than Russia to win the Fed Cup, defeating Belgium in the 2006 final. That year Belgium eliminated Russia in the first round, the only defeat Russia has suffered in the last five years of the competition.

SWISS CHEESE

There will be a lot of holes in Switzerland’s lineup when it takes on Australia in a Fed Cup World Group II playoff April 25-26 in Victoria, Australia. Missing will be Switzerland’s top two singles players and their captain. Instead, Switzerland will rely on Stefanie Voegele, Nicole Riner and 15-year-old Mateja Kraljevic for the tie, which takes place on grass at the Mildura Lawn Tennis Club. The winning nation will stay in the World Group II for 2010, while the losing nation will drop to zonal competition. Christiane Jolissaint will replace Severin Luthi as captain for this tie. Luthi reportedly will be working with Roger Federer next week.

SIZZLING START

Fourteen-year-old Madison Keys made a successful Sony Ericsson WTA Tour debut by defeating Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 7-5 6-4 in a first-round match at the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Keys, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, was given a wild card entry into the tournament. Her only other experience in a professional tournament came at a USD $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, last month. Keys is currently ranked number 37 in the International Tennis Federation World Junior Rankings. Kudryavtseva is number 81 in the world in the WTA Tour rankings. Unfortunately, her first-round victory advanced Keys to a second-round matchup against top-seeded Nadia Petrova, who beat the youngster 6-3 6-2.

SINO SWITCH

China’s top women players opted to leave the state-run system this year and keep their own prize money. So far, the money hasn’t come rolling in as neither Zheng Jie and long-time partner Yan Zi, nor Li Na and Peng Shuai have registered any notable wins. Each of the four players now has her own coaches, does her own scheduling for practices as well as tournaments, and has her own management team – all things that had been done and paid for by the state system in the past. Now, each player must pay their own expenses, including travel and hotels, out of their earnings. “This is a very difficult time for us because a lot of things have changed. We need time to get use to it,” Zheng said. “I hope we can get back in form as soon as possible.”

SISTERS

Serena and Venus Williams aren’t the only sisters battling it out on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine beat her younger sister Kateryna 4-6 6-4 6-3 in the second round of the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Alona, who is two years older, trailed 1-3 in the second set before winning 11 of the last 15 games. “We have different styles, but we know each other well,” Alona said. “I have to play the long points and she doesn’t.” It was their sixth meeting on the WTA Tour – their first match since 2006 – and each has won three times. Polish sisters Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska are also on the tour, with Urszula beating her older and higher-ranked sister in their lone WTA Tour matchup.

SPONSOR

BNP Paribas has signed a three-year agreement to sponsor both the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour and the Invacare World Team Cup. BNP Paribas already is the title sponsor of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, Fed Cup by BNP Paribas and Junior Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, as well as other tournaments. The company has supported wheelchair tennis in France since 1993.

STARTING UP

The inaugural International Tennis Federation (ITF) Beach Tennis World Championships will be held May 4-6 at the historic Folo Italico in Rome. The competition will be held alongside the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event being played in Rome the same week. Beach Tennis merges the disciplines of tennis and beach volleyball into a single sport and is usually played as doubles on a court of similar size to beach volleyball.

SWINGING

Kelly Gunterman is now the director of tennis at Amelia Island Plantation, a site where Andre Agassi, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Martina Hingis have all won tournaments. Gunterman played tennis in college and has trained and taught with John Newcombe and Peter Burwash.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Casablanca: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley 7-6 (4) 3-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Houston: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Jesse Levine and Ryan Sweeting 6-1 6-2

Ponte Vedra Beach: Chuang Chia-Jung and Sania Mirza beat Lisa Raymond and Kveta Peschke 6-3 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Marbella: Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska beat Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-3 6-3

Athens: Ramirez Junaid and Philipp Marx beat Jesse Huta Galung and Rui Machado 6-4 6-3

Torhout: Michaella Krajicek and Yanina Wickmayer beat Julia Goerges and Sandra Klemenschits 6-4 6-0

SITES TO SURF

Monte Carlo: http://montecarlo.masters-series.com/1/en/home/default.asp

Charleston: www.familycirclecup.com

Barcelona: www.barcelonaopenbancosabadell.com/

Sofia: www.bgtennis.bg/

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com

Estonian Tennis Federation: www.tennis.ee/

Polish Tennis Federation: www.pzt.pl/

Belgium Tennis Federation: www.sport.be/fedcup/2009/belcan/fr/

Tennis Australia: www.tennis.com.au/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$600,000 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay

$100,000 Soweto Men’s Open, Johannesburg, South Africa, hard

WTA

$1,000,000 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, clay

$220,000 Barcelona Ladies Open, Barcelona, Spain, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,645,000 Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain, clay

$112,000 Bulgarian Open, Sofia, Bulgaria, clay

FED CUP

(April 25-26)

World Group Semifinals

Italy vs. Russia at Castellaneta Marina, Italy, clay

Czech Republic vs. United States at Brno, Czech Republic, hard

World Group Playoffs

Spain vs. Serbia at Lleida, Spain, clay; France vs. Slovak Republic at Limoges, France, clay; Germany vs. China at Frankfurt, Germany, clay; Argentina vs. Ukraine at Mar Del Plata, Argentina, clay

World Group II Playoffs

Belgium vs. Canada at Hasselt, Belgium, clay; Estonia vs. Israel at Tallinn, Estonia, hard; Poland vs. Japan at Gdynia, Poland, clay; Australia vs. Switzerland at Victoria, Australia, grass