Off backhands—sliding—running forehands
Great analysis as usual, few questions.
1. "This also reveals why Federer had difficulty against Nadal: as a righty with a single-hander, it was hard—too hard, usually—to flatten out his backhand off the Nadal forehand." Will this scenario be an issue for every right-handed one-handed backhand player because where Fed had this issue I don't remember Wawrinka, Blake or Thiem having this problem unless I recalled wrong and if so is this problem of flattening out Nadal's ultra heavy forehand at you towards his forehand always going to be a critical issue for a right-hand one-handed BH player? How could they combat this problem?.
2. Thanks to you and Matt Willis' "Sliderman" you recommended I have come to understand the prominence especially on the backhand side of sliding, recovering and just movement in general and how at it's extremes Novak's displays on his BH can be superlative. However Novak is a wielder of the two-handed backhand, is the stuff he does with his two-handed backhand both technique-wise and movement/recovery/sliding-wise possible to translate to a one-handed backhand? Is anyone doing or did what Novak does with his two-hander with their one-hander on the tour right now or back then and if not how would you direct such a person wishing to nuance their one-hander in such ways?
3. I know from your last piece and you mentioned it here that you are working on the topic of lag/lack thereof and I was wondering if in that piece you would cover the following. Why is it that even if you have a large crop of forehands following the "Ferris wheel" approach you get variations of why some do well on some court surfaces and some not??? Always surprised me after finding your thread and reading "the death of the forehand part 1" for the first time why someone like Wawrinka struggles on the grass but Federer not at all yet Wawrinka exploits the clay and hard courts so much better than Fed could (maybe not hard court but clay court definitely)?. Or why such a large "WTA style" takeback in the hands of Robin Soderling made so much damage on the clay despite a "large takeback" but a shorter compact swing like Fognini's is almost unheard of getting him to the semis or quarters (aside from his 2011 run) in Roland Garros?. Where is the line drawn where the "Ferris wheel" forehand stops becoming an aid with its more quieter swing and less moving parts and now a "personal deviation" is more of the factor that top dogs like Roddick or Sampras consistently made Wimbledon finals where Wawrinka hasn't made one Wimbledon final despite him having a devastating forehand and vice-versa with Roddick and Sampras not ever making Roland Garros final but Wawrinka winning one?. Are Djokovic and Agassi's forehands maybe the best in terms of surface versatility (slam wins on every surface/consistent threat on every surface all the time and not a one-time luck win like Federer Roland Garros 2009) and if so why if they all had the Ferris wheel forehand?.
PS: Are you Zoid from Talk Tennis?.
Wondeful analysis as always and great conclusion to the series overall.
One question to make sure I understood this piece and other ones good. That comparison between Sampras’s, Fed’s and Novak’s footwork reminded me of Alcaraz’s movement between Roland Garros and Wimbledon. At the french (and on outdoor HC for now) from your piece he was looking closer to Fed’s and at Wimb way closer to Nole’s. Given the added moving part that constitutes his inverted head start that can make a cocktail for running FH errors but when he cleaned his footwork that’s when he put on his best performance from that side.
If so, given the fact Djokovic uses it on all courts and it’s becoming a norm, don’t you think Alcaraz would be able to make the change on all surfaces too? That would make his FH the perfect tradeoff and goat in the making imo. Perfect combination of lag and control (with his ferris wheel and extended wrist he already has a deadly combo as unlike shapo’s for example, he can attack and absorb relentlessly unless you REALLY stretch him).
Anyway, even with those small efficiencies (that + the setup on his backhand) I think it ain’t enough to consistently exploit as Wimbledon was a reminder imo. He has 4 great patterns.
PS: Also loved the addition of a meme to illustrate your point. As you said many times, the greats adapt.
Fantastic read Hugh. I was wondering would you have any recommendations for any books related to tennis technique and the mechanics involved? I'm a novice when it comes to tennis but I'm interested in learning more.
Interesting that you didn't touch on straight vs bent arm forehands in the big 3. Is it fair to say Novak's bent-arm forehand lends itself to being more of a shield?
Hugh, awesome series and excellent piece to cap it off! Felt like a walk through time reading through and understanding the evolutions in movement. A couple questions if you will:
- On the point about how Djokovic starved Nadal of shots from the Deuce court, can elaborate on what exactly made Nadal so dangerous from that position?
- Is there anything to note from a technical perspective for hitting an effective “off” backhand?
Cannot wait to to see the piece on lag, keep them coming!
Can you really argue with a straight face that Sampras had a great forehand? It was flashy for sure, but it as a shot in isolation is leagues below the best as I see it. It's implausible that one of the best 4-5 serves ever with a GOAT level forehand was regularly getting bounced on clay. It's more that the relative weakness of the shot got exposed with longer point when he couldn't lean on his serve as I see it