Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Talking Two-Handed Backhands- American Men Edition

One of the hardest things for fans of American men's tennis can be watching one of their own try to hit a two-handed backhand.  It wasn't always this way, as not too long ago Andre Agassi possessed one of the best in the game.  However, while there are a few exceptions, many of the American men currently in the top 150 have serious technical flaws in this stroke.  (Notably, the problems often involve using too much wrist, swinging too far from their body, or using too extreme of a grip).  The result is a shot that merely "brushes" the ball over with little on it, allowing their opponent to tee off and immediately gain control of the point.

Given that the two-handed backhand is not the most difficult of shots, and plenty of good juniors, college players and lower level pros possess excellent ones, its puzzling why so many Americans struggle so much with this shot.  It's perhaps more puzzling why they or their coaches (either currently or when they were younger) never bother to change their form.

One reason for the flawed backhands could be that these players coasted in juniors with their big serves and forehands.  Thus, their junior coaches never bothered to drastically mess with the form of a player who was having success.  If true, this is a shortsighted way of developing players and one would think they'd see the bigger picture and value of fixing the stroke.  Furthermore, by the time these players started getting the attention of the USTA, the USTA coaches should have jumped in and help them make the necessary changes.  However, the USTA clearly missed a generation's worth of backhands.

By the time a player gets to the top 100 in the world, perhaps they figure I've made it this far, now isn't the time to change my form.  However, it's hard to understand why a player who does everything else extremely well but has one clear weakness wouldn't want to fix an obvious technical problem.  (As much as they all run around their backhands-even if it takes them into the doubles alley- they clearly realize that they have a problem).

Fortunately, the backhand problems that have plagued the current generation don't seem to be as much of an issue with the younger generation of emerging American teenagers.  Either these players realized they had to learn to hit proper backhands on their own or the USTA realized their mistakes, but the result is definitely an improvement.  It's just too bad everybody involved didn't fix this issue sooner.

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