Fix Problems With Your Tennis Forehand Swing

Naomi Osaka uses a forehand tennis swing on the court.

Peter Menzel/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Does your forehand swing drive the ball off to the left or right? Do you hit too long, too short, or into the net? Fix problems with your forehand swing to play tennis more like a pro.

Overshooting, or Hitting Long

Your wrist might be turning your racquet upward just before impact. If you grab your handle more tightly just as you start your swing, this will help to keep your wrist from turning.

Tilt the face of your racquet down more on your backswing. Your racquet face naturally opens up (tilts upward) as you swing forward. You need to start your forehand swing with it facing somewhat downward in order for it to end up at vertical as it meets the ball. Hold your racquet face vertical at the point where you normally meet the ball. Without turning your wrist, pull the racquet back to your normal backswing position. It should face somewhat downward, and that's the angle you want at the start of each swing.

Your racquet head might be dropping below your hand at the point of contact. The long axis of your racquet should be horizontal on impact. If the head is far below your hand, you'll tend to "golf" the ball upward.

Hit with more topspin. If you brush up the back of the ball, the spin you'll create will make the ball fall faster as it flies forward.

Try rotating your grip slightly clockwise (for righties). This will make your racquet face open up later in your swing and generate more topspin. If you're using a Continental grip, rotate at least 45 degrees clockwise to an Eastern forehand grip. It probably won't take long for you to wonder why you ever used the Continental forehand.

You might be leaning back when hitting. Although some players hit off their back foot, it's still advisable for most to hit with weight on the front foot.

You might be hitting too far in front of your body, causing your racquet to open up too far. Try meeting the ball slightly farther back.

If you are brushing down the back of the ball, the backspin you're creating will have the opposite effect of topspin: it will make the ball float farther in the air. Backspin (commonly called slice) can be useful, but it's much more difficult to keep powerful shots in with backspin than with topspin. Use topspin when you want to hit really hard. When you want to hit backspin, try a more forward and less downward swing, which will create less backspin.

Try using a racquet with tighter strings or a smaller string bed. The racquet's usually at fault less than we'd like to think, but a powerful hitter using an ultra-oversize or very loosely strung racquet will have legitimate equipment problems.

Hitting Into the Net

You might be hitting late. If you meet the ball farther forward, your racquet will have opened up more, and you'll hit higher. If you use a big, looping backswing, it might be taking too long, and you can try a smaller loop.

Try starting the forward part of your swing with the racquet farther below the ball — at least a foot. You'll get more lift, and you'll also have an easier time generating topspin.

Try rotating your grip counterclockwise toward the Eastern position. It's not recommended to go past Eastern toward Continental.

If you're hitting a lot of topspin, aim higher. One of the biggest benefits of hitting topspin is the added net clearance it provides. Take advantage of this by aiming at least three feet above the net. Some topspin hitters average more than six feet above the net.

You might have your racquet face tilted down too much on your backswing.

If you're trying to roll over the ball to create topspin, don't. Trying to roll over the ball does nothing but make you turn your wrist in a way that will only hurt your stroke. The ball isn't on your strings long enough for you to roll over it. You create topspin by brushing a vertical racquet face up the back of the ball.

Hitting the Ball Farther Left Than Intended

You're probably too close to the ball, which cramps your arm into your body and causes you to pull left as you swing.

If your swing is at all rotational, hitting early will make you hit too far left. Uncoiling your upper body to generate power is good, but you don't want your racquet swinging around you like a gate. Try to keep the racquet going forward and up.

Try extending your follow-through out toward your target more.

Hitting the Ball Farther Right Than Intended

You're probably hitting late. When you pull your racquet back, the tip points at the back fence and the face points to your right. The face turns forward as you swing but if you're late, it sometimes won't reach that forward-facing direction.

Laying your wrist back on your backswing is an appropriate way to enhance power. However, if you don't let it snap forward naturally as you swing and it's still laid back when you strike the ball, you'll hit farther right than intended.

Try extending your follow-through out toward your target more.

Not Enough Power

Loosen up! The ball weighs two ounces, the average racquet 10 to 11 ounces. If you get a bunch of big muscles all tensed up to hit the ball, you'll be better prepared to push your car out of a snow bank than to generate the racquet-head speed you need to make a powerful shot. Don't try to muscle the ball. You'll hit harder with a loose, quick motion.

Use your whole body. Whether you're using the classic forward motion or the more contemporary uncoiling motion, your legs, torso, and bodyweight should all be contributing to your shot. Don't make your arm do all of the work.

You might be trying to use your body, but failing to translate the body's contribution into racquet-head speed. Improper timing is the most likely fault in the classic swing. If you're trying to uncoil, you need to make sure that each body segment's uncoil triggers the next, culminating in the whipping up and forward of the racquet.

Your backswing might be too short. The longer your backswing, the more time the racquet has to build up speed.