One-Handed Backhand: Reach, Slice, and Deceptive Power

If you’re a tennis fan, you’ve undoubtedly seen the beauty of a one-handed backhand. This elegant stroke is a sight to behold, with players generating incredible power and control with just one hand. While the two-handed backhand has become more popular in recent years, many players still prefer the one-handed backhand for its finesse and versatility.

Despite its beauty and potential, the one-handed backhand is relatively rare in modern professional tennis. Many players opt for the two-handed backhand for its perceived power and stability. However, some of the greatest players of all time, such as Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, have made the one-handed backhand their signature shot. These players showcase the incredible potential of the one-handed backhand in the right hands.

If you’re looking to improve your backhand, the one-handed backhand is definitely worth considering. With proper technique and practice, you can develop the finesse and power of this iconic shot. In the following sections, we’ll take a closer look at the one-handed backhand, its advantages and disadvantages, and how you can improve your technique.

Advantages of the One-Handed Backhand

If you’re looking to add some variety to your game, the one-handed backhand is a great shot to learn. Here are some advantages of using a one-handed backhand:

Enhanced Reach

The one-handed backhand offers enhanced reach, which is perfect for wide balls and defensive play. With a longer reach, you can get to balls that you might not be able to reach with a two-handed backhand. This can give you an advantage over your opponent by allowing you to return shots that they might not expect.

Slice Generation

The one-handed backhand naturally creates underspin, which is great for disrupting an opponent’s rhythm. By using the one-handed backhand, you can create a slice that can be difficult for your opponent to handle. This can force them to make errors or hit weaker shots, which can give you an advantage in the match.


The one-handed backhand provides greater potential for deceptive shots such as drop shots and angle changes. By using the one-handed backhand, you can disguise your shots more effectively, making it harder for your opponent to anticipate your next move. This can give you an advantage by keeping your opponent off balance and forcing them to react to your shots.

One-Handed Flair

The one-handed backhand adds a classic touch to your game. It’s a shot that requires a certain amount of skill and finesse, which can make it a crowd-pleaser. By using a one-handed backhand, you can add some style to your game and show off your skills on the court.

Challenges of the One-Handed Backhand

If you are looking to improve your backhand tennis stroke, you may be considering the one-handed backhand. While this stroke can be a valuable addition to your tennis game, it does come with some challenges you should be aware of.

Strength Demands

One of the main challenges of the one-handed backhand is the significant wrist and forearm strength required to execute the stroke effectively. This stroke relies heavily on the wrist snap to generate power, making it more difficult to execute than the two-handed backhand.

High Ball Difficulty

Another challenge of the one-handed backhand is its difficulty in generating power against high topspin shots. The one-handed backhand tennis swing requires a flatter plane, which can make it challenging to get under the ball and generate the necessary topspin to bring the ball down.

Learning Curve

Mastering the technique of the one-handed backhand takes dedication and practice. The stroke requires precise timing and technique, making it more difficult to learn than the two-handed backhand. However, with consistent practice and proper coaching, you can improve your one-handed backhand stroke and add it to your arsenal of tennis skills.

Fundamental Technique

If you’re looking to improve your one-handed backhand in tennis, it’s important to understand the fundamental technique. In this section, we’ll cover the grip, stance, footwork, and swing path.


The grip is one of the most important aspects of the one-handed backhand. The most common grips used are the Eastern and Semi-Western grips. The Eastern grip is more traditional, while the Semi-Western grip is more modern. It’s important to find the grip that works best for you. You can experiment with different grips to find the one that feels most comfortable for you.


The stance for a one-handed backhand depends on the situation. You can use an open stance, semi-open stance, or closed stance. An open stance is used when you want to generate more power, while a closed stance is used when you want more control. A semi-open stance is a balance between the two. It’s important to practice all three stances to find the one that works best for you.


Footwork is essential for proper positioning and weight transfer. The key is to stay balanced and maintain a good center of gravity. You should use small steps to move around the court and position yourself for the shot. You can practice your footwork by doing drills that focus on movement and positioning.

Swing Path

The swing path for a one-handed backhand is different from a two-handed backhand. It’s important to have a compact backswing and drop the racket head below the ball level. This will help you generate more power and control. You should finish your swing over the shoulder to ensure a smooth follow-through. Practice your swing path by hitting balls from different angles and positions on the court.

Variations and Advanced Applications

If you’ve been practicing your single-handed backhand and are looking for ways to take it to the next level, there are a few advanced techniques you can try. In this section, we’ll cover some of the most effective variations and applications of the one-handed backhand.

Topspin One-Handed Backhand

The topspin one-handed backhand is becoming increasingly important in the modern game. To execute this shot, you’ll need to use a modified grip that is closer to Western. This grip will allow you to generate more topspin on the ball, which will help you hit with more power and accuracy.

To hit a topspin one-handed backhand, you’ll need to use a longer, upward swing path. This will help you generate more racket head speed and spin, which will give you more control over the ball. With practice, you’ll be able to hit topspin one-handed backhands with ease and accuracy.

The Drive Backhand

The drive backhand is a variation of the one-handed backhand that is hit with a flatter trajectory. This shot is ideal for aggressive returns, as it allows you to hit the ball with more power and speed. To hit a drive backhand, you’ll need to use a flatter swing path and a more closed racket face. This will help you generate more power on the ball and hit with a flatter trajectory.

Return of Serve

Adapting the one-hander for both slice and aggressive returns is a big asset when it comes to the return of serve. To hit a slice return, you’ll need to use a more closed racket face and a shorter swing path. This will help you generate more backspin on the ball, which will make it harder for your opponent to attack your return.

For aggressive returns, you’ll need to use a more open racket face and a longer swing path. This will help you generate more power on the ball and hit with more accuracy. With practice, you’ll be able to adapt your one-handed backhand to any situation on the court.

Training and Development

To develop a strong one-handed backhand, you need to focus on training and development. There are several drills and exercises that you can do to improve your technique and build muscle memory.

Shadow Swings

Shadow swings are a great way to practice the motion of your one-handed backhand without a ball. This drill helps you to develop muscle memory and improve your form. Focus on your footwork, strike zone, and follow-through. You can also use a mirror to check your form and make last-second adjustments.

Wall Drills

Wall drills are another effective way to improve your one-handed backhand. Focus on consistency and shot placement. Hit the ball against the wall and try to hit the same spot each time. This drill helps you to develop your timing and accuracy.

Short Ball Drills

Short ball drills are essential for developing the ability to attack shorter balls. Practice hitting short balls with your one-handed backhand and focus on getting the ball over the net with topspin. Make sure to take extra steps towards the ball and use your built-in element of the extra hand to generate power.

Strength Training

Strength training is a big factor in developing a strong one-handed backhand. Target forearm, wrist, and core exercises to improve your strength and stability. This will help you to generate more power and control on your one-handed backhand.

By practicing these drills and exercises, you can improve your one-handed backhand and become a more well-rounded player on the court. Keep in mind that developing a strong one-handed backhand takes time and practice, so be patient and persistent in your training.

When to Choose the One-Handed Backhand

Choosing between a one-handed and two-handed backhand is a strategic decision that depends on your playing style and strengths. While the two-hander offers more control and stability, the powerful one-hander can be a game-changer in certain situations.

One scenario where the one-handed backhand excels is on wide shots. With a longer reach and more flexibility, the one-hander can easily handle balls that are outside your body’s natural range. Additionally, the one-hander is better suited for hitting slices, which can be a great way to change the pace of the game and throw your opponent off balance.

On the other hand, a very high topspin ball may not be ideal for the one-hander. Without the added support of a second hand, you may find it challenging to generate enough topspin to counter a high bouncing ball. However, with the proper technique and footwork, the one-hander can still be effective against topspin shots.

It’s important to remember that choosing a one-handed backhand is not just a stylistic choice, but a strategic one. If you prefer first-strike tennis and want to take control of the point early on, the one-hander may be the right choice for you. Conversely, if you value consistency and control, the two-hander may be a better fit.


In a sport increasingly dominated by standardization and the two-handed backhand, choosing the one-hander is a statement of individuality. It’s a commitment to a style of play that demands artistry and precision as much as power. Embrace the challenge, and let your one-handed backhand be a reflection of your unique approach to the game.


Absolutely! Here’s a set of FAQ questions and answers designed for both clarity and potential search engine visibility regarding the one-handed backhand:

Q1: Is the one-handed backhand harder to learn than the two-handed backhand?

A: Generally, yes. Mastering the one-handed backhand often requires more focus on timing, wrist strength, and precise footwork compared to the two-handed, which offers more inherent stability. However, with dedication and practice, anyone can develop a solid one-handed backhand.

Q2: What are the main advantages of a one-handed backhand?

A: Key advantages of the one-handed backhand include:

  • Better reach: Ideal for retrieving wide balls.
  • Natural slice: Easier to generate underspin for disruptive shots.
  • Flexibility: Offers greater potential for disguising shots and hitting sharp angles.

Q3: Why do fewer players use the one-handed backhand today?

A: The two-handed backhand became dominant due to several factors:

  • Power advantage: Easier to counter heavy topspin with two hands on the racket.
  • Easier for beginners: Two-handed backhand offers more natural stability.
  • Coaching trends: Many modern coaches start players with the two-hander.

Q4: Can I hit topspin with a one-handed backhand?

A: Absolutely! While mastering the topspin one-hander takes practice, it’s essential in the modern game. The key lies in using a more Western grip and a longer, upward swing path through the ball.

Q5: Who are some famous players with great one-handed backhands?

A: Think of these legends when you want to see the one-handed backhand at its best:

  • Roger Federer (arguably the most iconic one-hander)
  • Stan Wawrinka (known for his powerful one-hander)
  • Richard Gasquet
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas (modern player with a classic one-hander)

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