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Role Of The Wrist In Tennis – Part 2 – The Backhand

Hi guys Nick here from intuitive tennis.
This is part 2 of our role of the wrist video series and in today’s video we’re
going to discuss the role of the wrist on both the one-handed backhand and the
two-handed backhand. Let’s start off with the one-handed
backhand. So on the one-handed backhand if we have an Eastern grip and we take
Roger Federer’s backhand as an example, which is arguably one of the best one-handed backhands in the history of the game, you can see that Federer has
wrist extension through the entirety of the stroke and it starts off in the
preparation phase. Federer will extend his wrist into a slight L shape
when he takes his racquet back. You can see that the the strings are slightly
open as Federer initiates his backswing prior to the racket drop. Once Federer
drops the racquet the strings will continue to stay slightly open and then
as he initiates the forward phase of the swing the wrist will remain extended and
when he makes his contact there will be a slight extension of the wrist. When
it comes to the contact on the one-handed backhand we should absolutely not
use the wrist, whether it be radial deviation or flexion, we would
immediately lose control the ball. So the wrist must remain passive, it must
remain set in a slightly extended position as we begin our up, across, and back phase.
And the parts of the body they’re going to help us achieve this up,
across, and back swing path it’s going to be our back muscles and also if we
come from a bent position if we raise that front leg this can even help us
generate this swing path and the wrist will be supported through these actions
and this is why you must always try to use your entire body when you execute
these strokes and because then these actions will protect the wrist. When it
comes to the finish on the one-handed backhand there’s quite a bit of a wrist
action involved and if you take a look at some of the better backhands on tour,
Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov, you can see there is a further wrist
extension once the racket hits this phase. You can see that Federer and
Dimitrov, they bend the wrist further down which is wrist extension and this
helps them achieve a certain swing path which in their case is more of a topspin
backhand. I however find it very difficult because I’m not flexible
enough I have a two-hander, my one-handed
backhand is something I use rarely and so I have a hard time going to about
here and any further from there I can’t have my wrist extend anymore. I’m
simply not flexible enough and what I find that many players have the same
problem they’re simply not flexible enough to have this further wrist
extension. The two-handed backhand has quite a bit
of wrist action on both the preparation phase and the finish. So what happens
on the majority of the two-handed backhands is a wrist flexion on the dominant
wrist and wrist extension on the non-dominant wrist. So this is what will
happen, the racquet with most players will start up like this and then as they
initiate the forward phase of the swing the racket will drop down and you can
see that my right wrist is flexed while my non-dominant wrist, the left wrist
is extended and now what happens as we rotate into the contact you can see that
the right wrist will somewhat straighten out but not completely it will still be
in a slight flexion while the left wrist, the non-dominant wrist is
extended. The majority of the two-handed backhands on tour including some of the
best two-handers such as Djokovic and Zverev will actually have the tip of
the racket going and towards the target like this as they start their rotational
across the body swing. You can see that there’s very little wrist action
in this phase and there might be a little bit of a straightening of the right
wrist but it’s minimal and as we go into the finish now the racket will whip back
across the shoulder like this and you can see that now both wrists will be in
a slight extended phase. So the right wrist has quite a bit of wrist action. We
could start from the beginning we can see that there’s wrist flexion in the
racquet drop and then into the contact there is still slight wrist flexion and
as we go into the finish the wrist goes from a flexed state into a neutral state
and now as the racket goes across the shoulder the right wrist will actually
go into an extended position. When it comes to the two-hander this is not
something that you have to spend a lot of time thinking about. What’s most
important is that you have the correct grip which is a continental grip with
your dominant hand and between a eastern and a semi-western grip on the
non-dominant hand. The most popular way to hold the two-hander is with a semi-western grip on the non-dominant hand. So what happens is as you rotate and
accelerate the racquet what most players will achieve a racquet drop without
even trying. So this is not something that you have to manufacture. If you
accelerate the racquet properly the racquet will drop into the contact point
and so now as we drop the racket and this happens intuitively and we go into
the contact we are naturally going to straighten the racket out because we’re
not going to hit the ball like this. This would be a very unnatural and
counterintuitive position. And then as we make contact we really don’t have to
think about the wrist because naturally the wrist is going to go into an
extended position if we help the stroke with upper body rotation. The key on the
two-hander is using the core and the torso rotation and if you don’t use your
body’s rotation you will end up with a very wristy shot and I see at this type
of backhand on the recreational level with very limited torso rotation the
player will use the wrist to finish like this and this is a backhand that’s very
inferior, because now you’re generating power with a weak part of your body
which is your wrist. So you must learn to have the wrist move intuitively into the
stroke and the major source of power on the two-handed backhand is the upper
body rotation. The backhand slice can have quite a
complex series of wrist movements depending on what style of slice you
have. If we take Roger Federer’s slice as an example. Roger Federer would start
with wrist extension on his take back. As Federer initiates the forward phase of
the slice and makes contact, now Federer will do ulner deviation with
the tip of the racket going down towards the ground. Other players such as Nadal
and Djokovic will have less of the ulnar deviation at contact. Their racquet
tip will not drop down, but it will remain more in a extended position
before contact, at contact, and after contact. Something like this. A slight
wrist extension on the take-back. Slight wrist extension on the contact and then
no ulner deviation but a fixed wrist position on the finish. I’m going to
demonstrate a few backhands and let’s start off with the one-hander in an
eastern backhand grip with the wrist extension through the entirety of the
stroke and I’m gonna remind you guys that I don’t have a one-hander so I have
a hard time finishing the way Federer and Dimitrov finish. So I’m doing my
best but it’s very advantageous to keep a steady
wrist position on the one-hander through the entirety of the stroke. So now let me
try my two-handed backhand and here there’s a more complex series of
movements and I don’t really have to think about it. If I use my upper body rotation
these wrist movements are going to come very intuitively and now let me try a
few slices. Now I don’t use the Federer slice too often because I have a hard
time getting the ball over the net so I just basically have to deal with wrist
extension. Let me try one Federer slice with a little bit of ulner deviation. I’m having a hard time getting it over the net so I’ll go back to using more wrist
extension and right away I can gain more height. Join me two weeks from now
where I discuss the role of the wrist on the volley. As for now I want to thank
you for watching this video, please hit that like button, subscribe if you
haven’t already and I’ll see you next time.

David Frank



  1. Robert Renk Posted on March 22, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you. Very informative. Can’t wait to try my one handed backhand 😁👍👍👍

  2. Edu Gurian Posted on March 22, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Great explanation! Thanks for the videos Nick…..

  3. David Yasui Posted on March 22, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    What about a racquet drop below the wrist (racquet head pointing down) on the one-hander similar to that on the two-hander? Wouldn't this allow for more topspin?

  4. Mike Kenny Posted on March 22, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    Great info and presentation. I noticed Fed's slice was different from many, like Lopez, so good explanation of that.

  5. George Oberlander Posted on March 23, 2019 at 11:27 pm

    Again, a nice, thorough treatment of the wrist in the topspin and slice backhands, Nick.

    Regarding the slice backhand, I've found that I can get more control, power and consistency in this stroke by allowing the racquet to come across the ball (left-to-right for righties, striking the ball around the 9 o'clock position– or right-to-left for lefties, striking the ball around the 3 o'clock position). I think this rules out any ulnar deviation such as you demonstrated with Federer's slice backhand.

  6. Donald McDonald Posted on March 24, 2019 at 12:44 am

    I ran across a video of an aged 70+ golfing pro talking about the wrists. He was the purest ball striker I ever heard. What he said was go ahead and give the ball a whack with your wrist. If you do the rest of the swing right, it will not let your wrist flex too far. He was right the long axis rotation of the arm increases so much it prevents wild wrist action as long as you relax. Applies in both one-handed and two-handed strokes.

  7. Joel Hamm R.Ac. Posted on April 9, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    Excellent again Nik. Really great work! One question:

    I am curious what you think about grip pressure as it affects the wrist.

    It is my belief that, as you say, people will intuitively gravitate to a strong contact point. It is my belief that a natural player will use comfort as a guide. As a result, my coaching philosophy is to minimize too much discussion on wrist positioning, unless they are completely off, and use words like flexibility, passivity, and firmness to nudge my clients in the right direction. This is, of course, after highlighting proper gripping of the racquet, and good momentum generated from a good foundation and unit turn.

    So here’s, the question…

    What do you think about grip pressure as it related to wrist movement? I believe that most shots are struck precisely at a slight extension of the wrist. This is because grip strength is biomechanically superior with about 20 degrees of extension. If we approach the ball passively/flexibly, the subtle firming of the wrist affects a predictable, quick and timely topspin strike, regardless of the shot (Be it serve, forehand, one hand backhand or two hand backhand).

    Does this ring true to you?



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  9. TIM Posted on July 8, 2019 at 6:50 am

    i wish i had no intuition