The first shot that most people learn in tennis is the FOREHAND. This shot is generated from your most dominant side (the right side if you're right handed and the left side if you're left handed.) Learning how to hit a forehand in tennis is important because this is typically the biggest weapon that most players end up utilizing during match play. The forehand gives you the most leverage and torque, creating the most power making it dangerous when performed properly.
Avoiding, misconceptions and misleading coaching mistakes in the beginning when you are learning the forehand in tennis is key to improving quickly. Buzzwords like the "windshield wiper forehand" are better to focus on later in your development when you get the fundamental stroke mechanics under your belt, this way you will be able to progress much faster, by learning how to hit a forehand the best way the first time and then building upon those fundamentals.
It's best to stick to the basics for now until you develop an advanced feel for your forehand. The first part in the forehand series will be the basics of the forehand, these are the steps that are imperative to every forehand shot. When you are finished with the basics, we will move on to more advance forehand techniques to help you turn it into the weapon you want.
In the link to the how to hit a forehand video with former ATP pro Scott Doerner below you will learn how to hit a tennis forehand with power and consistency that you can duplicate over and over again. We will highlight the same techniques that the top pros use to hit powerful and consistent forehands by breaking the shot down into a step by step process that you can master with practice. We will use video footage to show you the fundamentals of the forehand.
THE GRIP: The Forehand stroke is traditionally executed by using one of the four main choices in grips.
We go over each grip and share with you the pros and cons of each one in our GRIPPING THE RACQUET section. Once you select the grip that suits you best, you're ready to grip it and rip it!
THE STANCE AND FOOTWORK: The very first thing you will have to decide after selecting your grip, when hitting the forehand in tennis is which stance to use. As we mentioned above you have a choice between a "closed" stance and an "open" stance. There has been a lot of debate over which is better, and the resulting opinion of the top coaches and pros is that both should be utilized depending on the situation.
Let's start with the closed stance first, the "closed" stance will mostly be utilized when your body weight is moving into the court or in offensive situations that usually result in transitioning towards the net. If you were standing on a clock face and your back foot was at the 6 o'clock and your front foot was at 12 o'clock you would be standing with your feet nearly perpendicular to the net, that would be the positioning for a closed stance forehand.
The "open" stance forehand is when a player strikes the ball after stepping with his dominant leg off towards his dominant side. For a right hander, if we use the clock metaphor, the dominant or right foot is at 3 o'clock and the left or non dominant foot is at 9 o'clock. In this situation the player's feet are now almost parallel to the net. This open stance forehand is highly recommended because of it's ability to shorten the preparation work ahead of an incoming ball, there is less body movement required to get into position. This provides a more efficient and energy saving method to effectively strike the ball. Once we have established the stance that we will use, the next step in the forehand technique is the Preparation and the backswing, remembering that every shot begins with a split step about the time that the ball is being struck by your opponent.
PREPARATION AND ROTATION: In a ready position with the racket pointed out straight away from your body, you will begin by rotating your shoulders and your hips simulataneously, this will bring your racket to the side of your body naturally in conjunction with the shoulder and torso rotation. Important to remember that you hand/arms are following your shoulders and your torso and are moving backwards because of them, your hands are arms are NOT doing any actual work yet. There is a kinetic motion that is taking place as the ball travels toward you from your opponent with your body coiling to create the power you will need to hit the forehand in tennis. The core of you body should be low and knees should be bent as well. As the shoulders and the torso rotate backwards, it brings the racket face back and in a looping high to low circular motion, this is the beginning of step #3, which is "The Stroke."
THE STROKE: The elbow bends behind the body to create the low to high movement necessary for the the lift/spin to get the ball to clear the net. This is critical when learning how to hit a forehand in tennis. The racket head is up and the face of the racket is pointing outward, as the shoulders and the racket are moving in a backwards/coililng motion, the front arm comes forward and to the side to provide stability, tracking of the ball and balance. The body weight of the player should be towards the back foot and the back knee bent as long as possible before beginning the uncoiling. We also want to be careful not to overload the legs which can cause shanking or too much topspin and not enough power.
Conversely, loading lightly on the legs and pushing upward and outward to the target area produces a more powerful shot also a critical part of learning how to hit a forehand in tennis. So, now with the body coiled and the pre-strike preparations complete, our next step is swinging to the contact point with the ball.
The trunk rotates forward and the arm starts to extend in a low to high trajectory out towards the incoming ball, remembering that the size of the swinging loop will be affected by how fast, how high, and how deep the incoming ball is coming. This may require a smaller loop and a quicker take back of the racket to adjust to the incoming balls pace, depth and height. Now, as the racket is moving forward towards the contact point, the players starts to transfer his weight from the back leg to the front leg, using the back leg to push forward and fluidly transfer all of his kinetic energy towards his front leg and foot.
The swing path is directly related to the elbow positioning, so keeping the elbow bent and in towards the body at an almost 90 degree angle at the beginning of the loop is imperative. As the racket heads toward the contact point the elbow straightens and begins to be led by the racket face as it squares up to make contact with the ball. The body begins to turn and uncoil as the racket head comes around and through towards the strike zone, as this happens the front arm naturally pulls away and to the less dominant side of the body in a smooth manner. Just before Contact the racket and the wrist have begun to accelerate upwards and outwards toward the ball. The racket face is now almost squared, but still slightly closed , it is smooth and quiet throughout the hitting zone with the wrist taut and firm.
FOLLOW THROUGH AND RECOVERY: Finally, but still vitally important is that the player’s head must remain still and constant all the way through the striking of the ball. After contact with the ball, the arm and the racket head keep extending out toward the intended target until the racket head starts to go toward the opposite shoulder, the height of the ball dictates the follow through. When you are hitting higher incoming balls, the player is likely to follow through with the racket head lower on or near the opposite shoulder. A flatter or lower incoming ball brings the racket head higher up on the body when executing the follow through. As the follow through is finishing the player must regain their balance and assume the ready position, preparing themselves for the return shot from the opponent. The forehand in tennis is going to be key to your success in this game so make sure you put in the practice time that is necessary to become great at hitting it.
A quick summation of the fundamentals of the forehand in tennis are as follows:
1.Begin in a ready positions, this means that your elbows are away from the body and the knees are bent while being slightly more than shoulder width apart.
2. As the ball is approaching and the upper body is coiling to the dominant side, the racket hand should be about head high, the dominant elbow is elevated and away from the body, this is more of a side swing in a looping form than bringing the racket straight back.
3. The racket will then need to be lowered from the head high level to around the knee level while closing the racket face and angling the strings toward the ground at about 45 degrees.
4. The swing needs to follow a low to high pattern and the racket head should reach the point of impact with the ball with it being as close vertical as possible.
5. The swing continues through the ball and toward the target the player is aiming for until the right shoulder meets the chin and the racket is high above the left shoulder.