Should I hit a One-Handed or Two-handed Backhand?

People will argue forever over whether the one handed backhand or two-handed backhand is “better”. Ultimately it’s all about the player and their execution of the stroke. Both Agassi and Federer are great players with fantastic backhands – Agassi hit a two-hander and Federer hits a one-hander. The majority of players are now hitting with two hands, and I think part of the reason is that it just a much simpler stroke to teach properly.

The two handed backhand relies on a compact turning motion, and using body rotation to extend through the shot. It’s easy to get juniors quickly confident and hitting the ball well with a two-hander.

The one hander is more complex, and I would only recommend trying to learn the one handed backhand after mastering the two-hander. The one-handed backhand depends more heavily on following the correct kinetic chain of events – that is – you must coil your hips and shoulders, then unleash on the ball first with your legs, then hips, then shoulder, then extend through with your hitting arm, while keeping your left shoulder back and using your left hand for a counter-balance. It is more difficult to maintain complete control of the racquet, as there is the tendency for it to float behind you. There is also the tendency to have an incorrect angle of your shoulders, overutilization of the wrist, and the hitting arm too straight. In other words – I just feel like more can go wrong here. But that’s not to say that it can be a devastating shot. The one-handed backhand has some major benefits – you can extend your arm further and manipulate the ball in different ways. Hitting sharp angles is easier with a one-handed backhand, for instance, as are hitting very low balls.

I will occasionally use a one-handed backhand for sharp angle passing shots, low balls out wide as I approach the net, or short-hop half volleys.

Here is my attempt at a one-handed backhand.

Notice:

I still step with the proper heel to toe movement, and in a neutral stance rather than closed.

I keep my head down and watching the ball, even a split-second after I make contact to ensure that I do not lift my head up early, causing over-opening of my shoulders, or a mis-hit of the ball. It is only well after I have hit the ball and extended out into the court that I allow my shoulders to open up, and my body to recover. “Staying down on the ball” ensures good contact.

By tilting my front shoulder down during the coiling motion, it facilitates a higher trajectory of the ball. As I begin to swing at the ball, my right shoulder will naturally lift, and the racquet will travel a low-to-high trajectory for more of a rolling topspin backhand. I’m not sure if this is traditionally taught for the one-handed backhand, but I find that it helps me when I do hit one.

When I am hitting a one-handed backhand, I find it is extremely important to bend my legs, and use them to generate power. Using your arm to generate power on the one-handed backhand is a great way to hurt your arm, tire yourself out, have inconsistent shots, and no power.

Notice I do not use my wrist. It stays in basically the same position for the entire shot, just like a forehand or two-handed backhand.

It’s also vitally important to hit the ball well in front of your body with the one-hander. Allowing the ball to pass your front foot is the kiss of death, as it is extremely difficult to generate any kind of spin/pace/control over the ball.

Here’s a video of Federer if you don’t want to rely on mine as an example!

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