The Backhand Drive


The stroke used to return balls which bounce to the left (non-racquet’s) side of the body. Like the forehand drive, it consists of a horizontal swing which imparts some top spin to the ball, and sends the ball forward swiftly to land near the baseline.

Note – This stroke should be just as easy as the forehand drive. The only reason players think it more difficult is that they do not practise and use it as much as the forehand stroke. Except for a change of grip and body position, it is much the same.

Backhand Drive Analysis

1. Grip

a. Eastern grip (there is a change in grip for the forehand and backhand drives).

1′. The racquet handle is shifted slightly so that the first knuckle is on the top side plate of the handle, palm is on top of handle, facing downward.

2′. The thumb may be placed directly up the back plate of the handle, acting as a brace, thus strengthening the grip. However, this position of the thumb is optional, many players preferring the thumb in a diagonal position so wrist action is facilitated.

3′. The opposite face of the racquet is used to hit a backhand from that used in the forehand.

2. Wrist Action

a. Adduction of the wrist, or movement of the wrist toward the body, during the backswing, and abduction, or a definite throw of the wrist away from the body, accompanying the forward swing. Since the hand is more or less on top of the handle in the backhand grip, lateral movement of the wrist takes the place of the flexion and extension used in the forehand drive, when the hand was more on the back of the handle.

b. The wrist holds the racquet well up, so that the racquet head is higher than the wrist, throughout the entire stroke.

The hand is in a strong position on the top side of the racquet handle. The thumb may be placed up the back plate of the handle. The opposite face of the racquet is used from that in the forehand drive.

Note – Players who fail to change the grip find the wrist in a weak position for action, since the hand is on the front of the handle rather than the top. If the player attempts to hit the ball with the same side of the racquet as in the forehand, the wrist faces the ball and is in an awkward position for the stroke. This happens frequently when the incorrect forehand grip has been used.

Backhand Drive

3. Body Position And Action

a. Body is at right angles to the net, with the right foot toward the net and the left foot away from the net.

b. Because the backswing is across the body, there must be decided body rotation away from the net to insure a full backswing.

1′. Thus it is best to place the right foot diagonally forward toward the left net post.

2′. The player’s back is almost turned on the net during the backswing, with the player looking over her right shoulder at the oncoming ball.

c. Weight shifts to left foot during backswing and forward onto right foot with forward swing, trunk rotating definitely toward net.

4. Back swing Of Racquet

a. The racquet is thrown back behind the left hip, elbow relaxed and wrist adducted.

b. A circular or straight backswing may be used, the latter preferable for beginners.

c. The racquet should be lined up directly behind the oncoming ball, care being taken not to have the racquet higher than the position of the ball to be hit. This fault leads to chopping down at the ball, imparting back spin, rather than top spin.

Forward Swing Of Racquet

a. The racquet is swung horizontally out, away from the body in a wide arc, with the body rotating toward the net with the racquet swing. Shoulder action starts the stroke activity.

b. The arm straightens as the swing is made, so that the arm and racquet form one long lever as the ball is hit.

c. The follow through

1. Above the shoulder, to insure ball being lifted over net. (Majority of backhand errors are into net.)

2. Racquet out in direction of the ball flight.

3. Whole arm may be outwardly rotated a little so that racquet face is slightly closed.

6. Position Of Ball At Time Of Hitting

a. Opposite the forward (right) foot at racquet’s reach from the body.

b. Waist high balls are easiest, and beginners should hit ball as it is descending from the bounce.

Note – Correct adjustment of body position to ball position is the most difficult part of the stroke.

Common Faults Of Beginners

1. Getting the body directly behind the ball, so that a push or poke is the only possible stroke.

2. Backswing too high. Following through lower than the shoulder. Result is a netted ball or a chop stroke.

3. Swinging racquet forward close to body, rather than in wide arc, resulting in cramped undercut stroke.

4. Starting the forward swing too soon, so that the ball is hit too far in advance of the body.

5. Failure to get in sideways position.

6. Failure to change grip from forehand, so that racquet is open as it meets ball. The ball is not carried forward on the strings of the racquet and a weak hit results