Modern Forehand Problems at the Recreational Level

Modern Forehand Problems at the Recreational Level

Have you tried to learn the modern
forehand and have found some difficulty in executing some of these technical
elements. Well today’s video I’m going to show you the most common problems with a
modern forehand at the recreational level. So what you see from some professional
players it’s a unit turn that’s quite large. So some players for example Djokovic they
will turn and the non-dominant hand will stay on the racket past the middle of
the body. It will go towards the back shoulder. Now if you’re a recreational
player and you try to adapt this type of turn, what I’ve found is that most
recreational players will not be able to come out of a turn that’s this large and
they’ll end up making contact with the ball with the dominant shoulder behind. Now the professional players use this
extra big turn to their advantage. Even though they’re turning this much they
still sync the stroke properly and end up making contact with their dominant
shoulder in front. But what I recommend to the recreational level players is not
to allow the non-dominant hand to go past the middle of the body. So we take
this baseline as the middle of the body. Do not allow your non-dominant hand to
go past this point. If it does go past this point as you’re turning you might
not be able to come out of this turn. So this is where you should stop when the
non-dominant hand reaches the middle of the body, this is where you separate the
non heading hand from the hitting hand. And what will happen as a result of that
you will be able to quite easily come out of this turn and make contact with
the dominant shoulder in front. Now some professional players like Nadal
and Federer will straighten their arm once the racket starts to drop and this
is called a straight arm forehand. And recreational players try to copy this
and the only problem with trying to copy a straight arm forehand is that the vast
majority of tennis players worldwide plays the forehand with a bent arm. And
this is true at the recreational level, at the junior level, or even at the
professional level. And what happens to players that play with a bent arm
forehand at contact is that no matter how hard they try to straighten the
arm back here they will go into a bend once they make contact anyway. And you have to realize that when the
ball meets the strings that part of the stroke is over in milliseconds so
players are actually not aware how they’re making contact whether they’re
bent at contact or straight at contact. Now they might be able to feel the
straightening of the arm back here and they might be even able to feel the
straightening on the arm in the finish here. But in this area of the stroke that’s
happening super fast you are not going to be able to feel whether you’re
completely straight or bent at the moment of contact. So whether you play
your forehand with a bent arm or a straight arm it really doesn’t matter
and this part comes down to genetic predispositions. Very few players will
have a straight arm from day one. So they don’t think about it they might even not
be aware that they play of the forehand with a straight arm and they perform
this naturally. And now most other players will play the forehand with a
bent arm. This is also true because of genetic predispositions. So if you play
with the forehand with a bent arm there’s absolutely no reason for you to
try to straighten the arm because what’s going to happen most likely no matter
how hard you try to straighten the arm in the preparation phase it will go back
into a bend anyway. Every forehand has a wrist lag. Now this
is true for forehands even with wooden rackets. So players back in those days
will still have the wrist lag behind the rest of the body. Now on the modern
forehand the wrist lag is more prominent because most ATP players will close the
strings as they drop the racket and now once the wrist lag is initiated the
racket will flip into this position right here. So some players see this movement and
now they try to recreate it. The big problem with this is that high-level
players are not consciously executing this action. This is simply a result of
the torso rotation of the body and swing acceleration. So if you are consciously
trying to make a wrist lag you’re gonna do what I call a fake wrist lag and you
will only be able to do so by slowing your stroke down. So what’s going to
happen you’re gonna have to come into this position and then freeze the racket
like this and then as you go forward you consciously have to flip the racquet
back. Now if somebody tries to do a fake wrist lag this is very easy to see and
you will see you’re slowing down the stroke in this crucial phase and it
looks like that person has a hitch in their strokes. However, if you watch high
level players you will not be able to see the wrist lag because it’s inside
the stroke. It’s beautifully flowing in and out of that movement and it’s
happening at such a speed that it looks natural. So do not try to consciously execute the
wrist lag forget about it and let it happen naturally. A wrist lag is a
result of the proper rotation of the torso and stroke acceleration. So if you
accelerate your stroke correctly you will end up with a wrist lag and you
will never be conscious that it’s taking place. And finally the vast majority of ATP
players will have a vertical swing path at contact. So in other words the tip
of the racket will point towards the side and it will vertically go over the
ball this way. And this is often interpreted as a movement of the wrist.
So some recreational players will try to roll the wrist in this fashion. They will
simply roll over the ball this way and what happens if you do an isolated
movement of the wrist at contact you will only be able to do so by slowing
your stroke down and you will therefore lose power and you will also lose
control. What you have to realize is that all professional players and this
includes Nadal have a passive wrist at contact. In other words when Nadal
hits his forehand you can check this out in super slow motion footage the wrist
is passive in this moment. So he will hit the ball here and then as the racket is
going up the wrist is not moving. Now it gets activated around here when he hits
this spot around the shoulder then he starts flicking the wrist and start
going like this but the crucial moment of contact the wrist is passive. And the reason why the wrist is not
actively rolling over the ball is because we would not be able to generate
a lot of power with a small fragile piece of the human body such as the
wrist. In addition to that if you make an isolated movement of the wrist at
contact you will also lose control and many recreational players who do this
type of flicking of the wrist start spraying the ball they also start
framing the ball. They start hitting the edges of the frame. And also what happens
if you’re consciously thinking about using the wrist at contact you will
start slowing the stroke down way prior to contact and the stroke will abruptly
be shortened. So it looks something like this if I try to use my wrist I will
roll it here and the stroke will end somewhere around here. So what you have to do instead is not
think about the wrist at all. Usually what happens if you don’t think of the
wrist at all the body will not allow you to hurt it. So if you think of the finish
instead, you think about finishing really strong. Naturally the wrist will be in
place as you finish across the body like this. Now I have another video that’s titled
how to perform the kinetic chain on the forehand and this video is great because
it discusses the two ubiquitous technical elements on the forehand. In
other words, two things that every single high-level player does. So it’s crucial
that you learn these two technical elements if you want to have a high
level forehand.


  1. My observation of most rec players is that 80 percent do not even attempt to perform the modern forehand. Most of them have some ad hoc swing that they have used for years. The ones that do try, do it pretty well so I don’t see these exaggerated problems. Almost all problems I see are the result of not being relaxed and contact point being too far back. But I have a couple of comments for you. You say that most atp players use a bent arm. I agree with that. And then you say this is a natural thing but I disagree. I have tried both forms and find the straight arm makes more sense in the long run. If you hit the ball late like in a vertical forehand or you are simply late in timing, a bent arm will have more stress on the elbow while the straight arm will have more stress on the shoulder. Since the shoulder is stronger, I use a straight arm. Nadal hits late in nearly every shot and so it makes sense that he use a straight arm. Even if your timing and footwork is perfect, you will occasionally hit late and if you do this enough you will develop elbow problems for the bent arm forehand. I don’t know how this impacted Jokers elbow surgery but I’m sure there is a factor here. Your third point on the lag. From my experience, the lag is a natural consequence of the looseness of the arm. But the wrist flip you demonstrate is more obvious for players who have a more linear takeback coupled with a very loose wrist. My own swing is not as loopy as yours and more like Fed’s and so the flip is quite obvious. I have tried a stroke like yours and it doesn’t generate enough racket speed for me.

  2. never fake the swing nor try to adapt pro players style. This will result in you having to cope with issues (maybe also medical) you would not have otherwise. Just try to swing naturally. Like relax completely , grab a tennis ball and throw it onto a wall. All elements mentioned in this video for the forehand you will see in a most natural "ball-throw-motion". So stay relaxed, throw a ball , later grab the raquet , do the same motion and DO NOT focus on what you have seen the pros do, just do, what feels natural. Of course you can and should experiment with different motions and where you hit the ball and how you turn your body, but keep relaxed 🙂 … a relaxed swing of your own, which is about 90% correct, gives you more power with ease than a 99% imitated Djokovic forehand 🙂

  3. Great video, good explanations. I think there are some things you can learn/copy from watching pros and slow-mo videos (eg basic unit turn, supporting racquet with non-hitting hand etc) and things you can't (eg wrist-lag).

  4. Nik, great video as always. I' m a little confused on a conceptual level about what a unit turn is conventionally considered. I mean, is the unit turn that you showed in the video a full unit turn or you would reach the full unit turn with the non dominant hand already realised? I ask you this because I think that yours is the real unit turn and most of the pros perform both the unit turn and the first part of the backswing with the non dominant hand still on the throat of the racquet. As for me, I tend to release the racquet just before the way you showed, so that I can then extend the arm and be sure to be always in time; technically I complete the unit turn with the non dominant hand just realised and keep going with the backswing. Curious to know what you think about this

  5. Another great video Nik. Thanks for all your effort and happy new year. I‘m an ITF senior 50+ player. Even if I‘m playing for more than 40 years I‘m trying to change my forehand more and more to a more modern one and as you explained it‘s first of all about the unit turn supported by the non dominant hand.
    Amazing video helps me to visualize the sequences of the forehand.👍💪🎾

  6. I have recently implemented most of these concepts in my golf game and they made a world of difference. However, I think you might be giving the pros a little too much credit. My guess is that almost everyone has areas of their body they are stronger/faster in. So they hedge to find a way to use those areas more effectively. So they end up customizing their swing to use their strengths. That is why I am not in love with the concept of the kinetic chain. There is too much overlap with one part of the swing being in the backswing while other parts are already swinging forward. It is more a matter of finding the timing that works well for you. I find the only way I can get a hand movement of more than 6 inches is by slowing my core rotation more than a longer hand action is worth.

  7. My problem is my forehand is working too well and I'm able to hit the ball so hard my arm is sore after 2hrs of hitting and I'd have to ice it and rest for 2 days.

  8. If the wrist is passive at contact what is the point of lagging the racket head? This would mean that the racket head would only travel as fast as the arm can move. I always thought that lag was created so that the wrist action of losing lag would create a lever and increase the speed of the racket head at contact. You mention that the wrist does rotate in front of the body, but the ball has long gone. Obviously I have missed something, my apologies. Grateful for clarification.

  9. Best explanation of wrist lag ever! So many try to emulate static body positions that are simply produced by changes in velocity.

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