The Backhand Debate: Two Handed or One Handed?

Any proper tennis coach is going to try and make a student as comfortable as possible on the tennis court, especially a beginner. Often it comes down to personal preference and natural feel when choosing whether to use a one handed or two handed backhand. When making this decision you must ask yourself, is there a competitive advantage to using a one handed backhand as opposed to a two handed?

It’s no secret that the two handed backhand has not only become more popular among professionals, but coaches are more inclined to teach it as well. Especially in the women’s game, the one handed backhand has nearly become extinct. Some arguments for teaching the two handed backhand include a quicker preparation for each shot, as well as a more stable and controlled impact and backswing resulting in a much heavier hit ball. Just take a look at Alexandr Dolgopolov who is currently 19th in the tour rankings. His two handed backhand is compact, allowing him to conserve energy and quickly prepare for the next point. Most importantly he is still able to generate power even with such a short stroke. Often if an inexperienced player tries a one handed backhand the stroke is less stable at impact, it takes more time to prepare, and it takes longer to regroup for the next shot because of the elongated backswing. So why not teach the two handed back hand to all youth players?

For almost every study there is usually one outlier. In this case, his name is Roger Federer. It’s impossible to argue with the grace and fluidity with which he hits his backhand. Have you seen the rolex comercials? His strokes are effortless even when he’s wearing a suit. Federer is able to not only able to produce a compact swing but also generate an incredible amount of power. He can hit his backhand from anywhere on the court from a number of different angles. Yeah sure, Federer is a freak athlete who has been perfecting this stroke for years but his effectiveness comes down to technique which includes proper footwork and unparalleled upper body control (see video below). People argue that it requires great strength to hit a one handed back hand, but Federer’s wiry frame silences those critics. Is Federer so unique an athlete that only he and a hand full of others are capable of consistently pulling off this shot, or is it simply a matter of teaching the technique early and correctly? If taught and executed properly this can be one of the most effective tennis shots.

The problem is, to master, and more importantly teach, such a flawless stroke takes hours and hours of practice. Is the two handed backhand more effective than the one handed? Federer’s stroke would suggest that if executed properly, no. The fact is, the two handed backhand is easier to teach and easier to hit for a beginner. Honestly, Federer’s backhand may be the last of its kind. Does the convenience of teaching two hands outweigh the effectiveness and versatility of a one handed backhand? Sadly enough, yes.


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