Photo Study of Roger Federer's Backhand

2018 Australian Open - Day 14
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Swiss tennis phenom Roger Federer uses a backhand grip that's just slightly toward the Modified Eastern grip from the Full Eastern. Federer starts his backswing with the racquet above the anticipated point of contact; the racquet will drop in a compact loop before he begins his forward swing. Having his left hand on the racquet throat helps Federer make sure he turns his back somewhat toward the ball and sees the ball over his shoulder, thus loading his core muscles for a short but powerful rotation that will bring his upper body to a square (sideways) position at contact.

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Start of Forward Swing

2018 Australian Open - Day 8
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At the start of his forward swing, Federer has dropped his whole racquet slightly below the ball.

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Middle of Swing

Roger Federer's Backhand - Middle of Swing
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Meeting the ball with the head of the racquet dropped below the hand would not be advisable, but at mid-swing, it's an excellent way for Federer to position his racquet to create topspin by brushing up the back of the ball. By the time Federer meets the ball, his racquet will be parallel to the ground again. Roger could have also dropped his hand below the ball, but this is a fairly low ball, and dropping the racquet head is easier. Federer's very closed stance (with his right foot closer to the sideline than his left) is not ideal, but it's less restricting on a one-handed backhand than on a forehand, and it's often unavoidable when you've run for a backhand. Federer does a great job of making sure his weight is on his front (right) leg, with just the toe of his left on the ground.

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Upward Drive

2018 Australian Open - Day 14
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About to meet this ball with a low-to-high, topspin swing, Federer is getting a visibly significant part of his upward drive from his right leg.

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Ideal Height of Contact

2018 Australian Open - Day 14
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Federer is meeting this ball probably a bit later than he would wish but with the racquet nicely parallel to the ground and at an almost ideal height for a one-handed topspin. Federer's right leg has almost straightened, having nearly finished its upward thrust. His shoulders have turned to a perfect, square (parallel to the sidelines) position.

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Topspin on Higher Ball

Roger Federer's Backhand - Topspin on Higher Ball
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For most players, this ball is near the upward limit for height of effective topspin. Federer sometimes hits topspin backhands above this height, on balls as high as his shoulders, but they're relatively weak, lacking the pace he can deliver on lower balls. At the ball height shown here, Federer can still deliver good pace, but less than with the ball a foot lower. Federer is meeting this ball with an excellent racquet position and the ball nicely centered on his strings.

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Just After Contact

Roger Federer's Backhand Just After Contact
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An instant after contact, Federer's topspin is evident in how far his racquet has risen. His shoulders remain perfectly square, and his head and eyes remain exceptionally well locked onto where he met the ball.

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2018 Australian Open - Day 10
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Federer shows us an excellent example of a one-handed topspin backhand follow-through, with his hips and shoulders still sideways, his right (hitting) arm above his shoulder and his left arm extended backward as a counterbalance. The raised rear leg is entirely optional.

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Slice on a High Ball

Roger Federer's Slice Backhand on a High Ball
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On a ball this high, Federer has a choice between hitting a slice or a relatively weak topspin or flat shot. The slice he has chosen will produce a lower bounce, especially on grass, that may help limit his opponent's ability to get under the ball enough to hit a strong topspin back. If his opponent doesn't get the next ball to kick up as high, Federer will probably have a much better chance to hit an aggressive reply. Note the contrast in Federer's legs as compared to the topspin backhand; instead of his right leg lifting him as part of an upward motion, Roger has his entire weight on his left leg, and his right will absorb his weight as his body moves downward and forward along with his racquet.

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Slice on a Lower Ball

Day Five - Nitto ATP World Tour Finals
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A ball at this height is ideal for topspin, but it also allows for a more powerful backhand slice than the shoulder-high ball on which slice is only the better of two sub-optimal choices. The low, driving slice Federer hits on this type of ball can be an effective offensive shot that skids so low to the opponent, it often forces a weak reply that sets Federer up for an easy winner. Such a slice would also make an ideal approach shot if Federer were hitting it from inside his baseline.