Not only is the flamboyant Frenchman’s one-handed backhand a thing of beauty – it is also the most devastating shot in his repertoire
1 Gasquet has an unusual take-back – the face of the racket is open as if he is preparing to slice the ball, adding disguise – but his fundamentals are spot on. He has turned his shoulder and set himself behind the ball.
2 With his front foot now landing as he steps into the shot, Gasquet’s weight starts to move forward, bringing him up to the baseline. The racket face begins to straighten so he can hit the ball flat or with topspin. Check out the size of Gasquet’s step forward into the shot - his head and shoulders soon follow, shifting his monentum.
3 Gasquet uncoils from the point of maximum shoulder rotation, swinging the racket down and forward as his full weight transfers to the front foot, with the knee bent enough to get under the ball. He starts to drop the racket head so he can bring the strings from low to high up the back of the ball, creating top spin
Objectives- Hit the percentages on high fliers
The single-handed backhand is a tough shot to master, particularly when dealing with high-bouncing balls. It is difficult to create power when the ball reaches you anywhere above shoulder height – on these balls just focus on returning deep with plenty of height over the net onto your opponent’s weakness. Once you get a shorter ball, step in and go for it.
4 As he makes contact with the ball, his shoulders remain side-on while his back leg is to the right of his body. His eyes are focused on the contact point, while his right leg has straightened, transferring power into the stroke. Notice that Gasquet’s head remains focused on the contact point even after the ball has been struck - this helps him maintain balance through the stroke.
5-6 Even after completing the shot Gasquet holds the shoulders, hips and back leg in place. The side-on shape has directed the ball down the line, while his momentum has carried him inside the baseline.
GRIP IT AND RIP IT - Eastern Promise
If you’re just starting out with a single-hander, use an eastern backhand grip like Gasquet. The knuckle of your first finger should be on the bevel of the handle – the surface perpendicular to the strings – so that the racket face is slightly closed on contact. It is not a million miles from the chopper grip, so you can quickly adjust if you decide to hit with slice.
POSITIONINING - Best Foot Forward
Playing with a single-handed backhand means sacrificing the extra power you could produce with a two-hander, so making the most of your body’s momentum to generate power is crucial. As Gasquet demonstrates, the key to this is positioning yourself behind the ball as you prepare, and transferring your momentum forward so all your weight is over your front foot as you strike the ball out in front.
Aim to make contact with the ball out in front. from this position, with your hips side-on as you strike the ball, you can hit down the line – as Gasquet does here – or open your hips as you follow through to hit cross-court.
Photos by: AMN Images