How to hit off the back foot like Fernando Verdasco

Every shot you face in tennis is unique, so be ready to adapt your technique as the Spaniard does tackling this deep forehand

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1. With a drive onto the baseline approaching fast, Verdasco starts to get himself into position by taking his racket back early and bending his knees as he fi xes his eyes on the ball.

2. Here Verdasco is fully coiled: his shoulders and hips are beautifully turned in line with each other and his legs are ready to explode upwards into contact.

3. The pace of the incoming ball means Verdasco hasn’t got time to meet it out in front so he improvises, gaining time and space by shifting his weight to the back foot.

OBJECTIVES - SPIN CITY
The goal when playing a defensive shot is to make your opponent’s next shot as awkward as possible to try and regain the upper hand in the rally. Hitting with height will help you fi nd the court, but hit with plenty of spin too to avoid giving your opponent an inviting mid-court ball. Spin is all down to high racket head speed as you strike the ball, so avoid getting too tentative when under pressure.

GRIP IT AND RIP IT - WIPE THAT WINDSCREEN
One way of generating extra topspin on your forehand is to introduce a ‘windscreen-wiper’ follow through. You can see the start and end stages of this technique below – in frame four, Verdasco meets the ball out in front with his wrist ready to rotate the racket head to brush the back of the ball at high speed. By frame fi ve, his wrist has turned the racket face through 180° in a windscreen-wiper motion.

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GOLDEN RULE

You are unlikely to be hitting a winner off a ball that forces you to retreat, so aim to give your shot width or le ng th – or both!

4. Verdasco drives up from below the ball, using both the back leg and the racket head to inject topspin and pace, gaining further momentum as his shoulders and hips rotate.

5. After making contact in front of his body, Verdasco has rotated the racket face with his forearm with a windscreen-wiper action during the follow through to put extra topspin on the ball.

6. The full rotation of the shoulders and the speed of the swing, plus the landing of the right leg in an excellent wide base, has helped his upper body right itself from the backward lean and regain full balance.

DRILL - BACK TO FRONT
To work on your defensive drives, get your coach or a friend to handfeed a series of deep and short balls that force you to retreat and play the deep ball o the back foot, making sure that the deep feed really pushes you back. Once you have a feel for playing o the back foot, step things up by rallying with your practice partner, targeting each corner of the court as they play both deep and short balls back to you.

 

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