Recently, and on two separate occasions I expressed my concern with the disproportionate and counter productive manner in which players train the inside out forehand. I believe that a drill like training cross court backhands properly should dominate your regimen and running around it to hit a forehand should be an after thought. Still trained, but not nearly as high of a priority as learning to love to be in the backhand rally. On both occasions I was scoffed at and referred to a recent article by Craig O’Shannessy that discusses how important Novak’s Forehand is to his winning game. Now Mr. O’Shannessy never mentions that running around your backhand is important but coaches are certainly using the stats to justify this, in my opinion, ineffective training model.

Stats can certainly be confusing. For example…What was the percentage of net points a player won? Only 3 out of 11? So then should this player not go to the net? Or maybe the stat needs more backstory. Where was the player approaching from on the court? What was the average ball speed and depth on their approach shot? Or maybe they floated the first volley and then got passed. I can’t tell you how often I see poor volley technique being used. A player floats their first volley then is passed on the next shot. The announcers are so quick to praise the great passing shot with no mention of the poor volley fundamental. However that’s for another article.

The stat mentioned in Mr. O’Shannessy’s article is that Novak struck 42 more forehand winners and made 145 fewer errors than his opponents at the 2023 Australian Open. Great right!? Every player should try to hit as many forehands as possible! Wrong…

Here’s a stat from the same tournament. Novak Djokovic hit 92 more backhands than his opponents. 92! In my opinion Novak was so successful when running around his backhand because he chose the right ball to do it on. He wasn’t looking to merely “Control” with the inside out forehand. You need to be able to do that with the backhand. He was waiting till he could “Hurt” with the inside out forehand.

THIS would be an interesting stat… Watch how far Novak Recovers after he hits a backhand. He recovers further to the middle of the bisecting rally angle. Maybe just one step further to the middle but if you don’t think one step closer to the middle is significant at high level tennis then you haven’t watched too much high level tennis. So many players recover less to favor the forehand side in hopes of being able to run around the next one. Inevitably they are left to defend the down the line backhand. That backhand being taken very early by Mr. Djokovic btw.

Another stat you should know. Where on the court was Novak hitting forehands? Probably not as far back and on the backhand side as most other players. He is typically hitting inside out forehands when the ball is slower, shorter and slightly more center.

Having been involved in player development from beginner to professional for the past 20 plus years I can honestly say all I do is try to get kids to not run around their backhands on a daily basis. Everyone wants to hit the forehand. You can punch harder than you can back slap and the brain relates much better to the palm. You’ve never opened a door with the back of your hand. I promise you, it ain’t tough to teach someone to look for a forehand. It’s tough to get a player to love their backhand. So yes, if you’d like to hit more forehand winners…learn to love your backhand.

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