Classic vs Modern Forehand: Which is Better for Your Tennis Game?

When it comes to playing tennis, the forehand is one of the most important shots to master. But did you know that there are two main techniques for executing a forehand: the classic and the modern? Each technique has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and which one you choose to use can have a significant impact on your overall game.

The classic forehand is a more traditional technique that has been used for many years. It involves keeping the joints in your arm firm and not allowing movement of the forearm or hand. This technique is often more compact and simpler, making it easier to control the ball and hit with accuracy. However, it may not generate as much power as the modern forehand, which can be a disadvantage in certain situations.

On the other hand, the modern forehand is a more segmented technique that allows for more movement in the forearm and hand. This technique can generate more power and spin, making it ideal for hitting harder shots or for playing on clay courts. However, it can also be more difficult to control and may require more practice to master. Ultimately, the choice between the classic and modern forehand will depend on your personal playing style and preferences.

The Evolution of the Forehand in Tennis

Tennis is a sport that has undergone tremendous changes over the years. One of the most significant changes has been the evolution of the forehand technique. While the classic forehand was once the dominant technique, the modern forehand has gained significant prominence in recent years.

The Classic Forehand

The classic forehand was the dominant technique used in tennis until the 1970s. This technique involved using a wooden racket and natural gut strings. Players would hit the ball with a flat swing, using minimal spin. The classic forehand was a reliable shot, but it lacked the power and spin of the modern forehand.

The Modern Forehand

The modern forehand is the dominant technique used in tennis today. This technique involves using a heavier racket and synthetic strings that allow for greater spin. Players use a semi-western or western grip, which allows them to generate more topspin. The modern forehand is a powerful shot that allows players to hit with greater speed and accuracy.

Shifts in Technique

The shift from the classic forehand to the modern forehand has been driven by changes in the game of tennis. The introduction of heavier rackets and synthetic strings has allowed players to hit with greater power and spin. This has led to a more aggressive style of play, with players hitting the ball harder and faster than ever before.

Key Differences: Technique & Mechanics

Classic Forehand

When it comes to the classic forehand, the eastern grip is primarily used, offering stability and a naturally flat shot trajectory. The linear swing path is emphasized, with a longer, looping backswing and a follow-through across the body. The classic forehand prioritizes control, placement, and consistency over power. The shot emphasis is on keeping the ball in play and making your opponent move around the court.

The classic forehand also utilizes a straight arm forehand technique, where the arm remains straight throughout the swing. This technique is effective in generating power, but it can also cause strain on the arm and shoulder over time. The classic forehand is often executed from a neutral stance, with the feet shoulder-width apart.

Modern Forehand

In contrast, the modern forehand employs a semi-western to western grip, allowing for extreme topspin with increased margin for error. The windshield wiper swing is utilized, with a compact backswing. Forearm rotation and an upward swing path generate topspin, creating a high-bouncing shot that is difficult for opponents to handle. The modern forehand emphasizes aggressive power and heavy topspin for forcing opponents off the court.

The modern forehand is often executed from an open stance, with the front foot turned towards the net. This stance allows for greater hip rotation and generates more power in the shot. The modern forehand also places greater emphasis on the head position, with the eyes remaining fixed on the ball throughout the swing.

High-speed video analysis has shown that the modern forehand generates more racket head speed than the classic forehand. This increased speed, combined with the topspin generated by the semi-western to western grip, allows for greater power and control over the ball.

Pros and Cons: Choosing What Works

When it comes to choosing between the classic and modern forehand techniques, it can be a daunting task. Both techniques have their own advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the one that works best for you can make a significant difference in your game. In this section, we will discuss the pros and cons of each technique to help you make an informed decision.

Classic Forehand


  • Enhanced shot control and placement: The classic forehand technique allows for greater shot control and placement, making it easier to hit the ball where you want it to go.
  • Flatter trajectory for penetrating through the court: The flatter trajectory of the classic forehand makes it easier to penetrate through the court, making it ideal for flatter, faster courts such as grass courts.


  • Limited power and spin potential: The classic forehand technique has limited power and spin potential, making it difficult to generate the same level of power and spin as the modern forehand.
  • Difficulty handling high bouncing balls: The classic forehand technique can be challenging to use when dealing with high bouncing balls, making it less effective on slower, higher-bouncing courts such as clay courts.

Modern Forehand


  • Generates significant power and topspin: The modern forehand technique generates significant power and topspin, making it easier to hit the ball harder and generate more spin.
  • Topspin forces errors with high-bouncing shots: The topspin generated by the modern forehand technique forces errors with high-bouncing shots, making it effective on slower, high-bouncing courts such as clay courts.


  • Initially requires greater precision for control: The modern forehand technique requires greater precision for control, making it more challenging to master initially.
  • Lacks the natural penetrating shot of the classic forehand: The modern forehand technique lacks the natural penetrating shot of the classic forehand, making it less effective on flatter, faster courts such as grass courts.

Beyond the Basics: Advanced Considerations

Adapting Your Style

As you progress in your tennis journey, you may find that neither the classic nor the modern forehand technique is a perfect fit for your game. In this case, you may want to consider blending elements of both techniques to create a hybrid style that suits your strengths and weaknesses. By doing so, you can develop a versatile approach that allows you to adapt to different situations on the court.

One key aspect of adapting your style is footwork. To use either forehand style effectively, you need quick, explosive footwork changes to get to the right position on the court. This is especially important when you’re playing against opponents who can hit the ball with power and accuracy.

Another important consideration is situational play. Knowing when to employ topspin vs. flatter shots, and understanding the court positioning advantages of each, can make a big difference in your game. For example, topspin shots can be effective when you’re trying to hit a ball over the net from a low position, while flatter shots may be better for hitting winners when you’re in a strong position on the court.

Player Examples

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to adapt your style, you can look to some of the greats of the game. Classic players like Pete Sampras and Stefan Edberg are known for their elegant and efficient forehand techniques. In contrast, modern players like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have developed forehands that rely on more torso rotation and a different hitting arm position.

Of course, there are many other players who have developed their own unique forehand styles. For example, John McEnroe’s “slap forehand” was a highly effective shot that relied on quick reflexes and a unique grip. And players like SoCalLefty G.O.A.T and Talk Tennis Guru have developed their own followings by sharing their insights and techniques with other players.


And so, the question isn’t simply whether the classic forehand is fading away. It’s whether we’re ready for the next step in its evolution. Could we see a resurgence of classic elements fused with modern power? Will a totally new technique emerge that renders this debate a historical curiosity? Only time – and perhaps your own experimentation on the court – will tell.


FAQ #1

Q: What’s the main difference between a classic and modern forehand in tennis?

A: The biggest difference lies in the grip and swing path. Classic forehands typically use an Eastern grip, prioritizing a flatter, controlled shot. Modern forehands favor semi-western or western grips, enabling heavy topspin with a “windshield wiper” swing path.

FAQ #2

Q: Is the modern forehand better than the classic forehand?

A: There’s no single “better” forehand. Modern forehands excel at generating power and topspin, perfect for high-bouncing courts like clay. Classic forehands offer greater control and a penetrating shot trajectory, better suited for faster courts like grass. The best one depends on your playing style and preferences.

FAQ #3

Q: Why did the modern forehand become so popular?

A: A few factors drove the modern forehand’s rise:

  • Slower Courts: Today’s courts tend to be slower, favoring topspin to force opponents back.
  • Equipment: Modern rackets and strings are designed to maximize spin potential.
  • Playstyle Evolution: Aggressive baseline play dominates, where the topspin forehand is a powerful weapon.

FAQ #4

Q: Should I switch from a classic forehand to a modern forehand?

A: It depends on your goals! If you’re seeking more power and topspin, learning the modern forehand could be beneficial. However, if control and precision are your strengths, refining your classic forehand might be the better choice. Experimenting with both is the best way to decide.

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