I’ve done a few posts along similar lines to this one over the past couple of weeks including who is the most popular tennis player on the planet and most recently who are the biggest wasted talents in tennis. In the latter post the debate somehow got onto one handed backhands and who’s is the best in sport so I thought I’d take a look.
The single hander is one of the most aesthetically pleasing shots in the game and it’s a rarity which makes it even more pleasing to see. There’s nothing better than when two single handers face off which is why when Federer plays Haas or Wawrinka plays Gasquet it’s often entertainment of the highest order.
I’m only looking at the current crop so players like Lendl, Kuerten etc are excluded. I’ll break the shots down in terms of fluidity, effectiveness, variety and anything else that springs to mind about a players particular shot.
The backhand is often cited as Roger’s weakness but that’s mainly because his forehand is so good it overshadows what is still an excellent shot.
The biggest asset as far as I’m concerned with Roger’s backhand is the versatility and the maneuverability he has with the shot. He’s capable of top spin, slice, half volleys and in some cases pure genius.
He’s also capable of creating something out of nothing on that wing, be it suddenly changing direction of the ball, the most delicate of flicks or the gutsiest passing shot of all time.
If you had to cite one weakness it’d be against the high bouncing ball which often causes him trouble, we’ve seen it on clay against Nadal time and time again and when that wing gets peppered it can break down and make critical errors that which often holds the key to the match. But when it comes to indoor courts and low bouncing hard courts I really don’t think there’s much better out there.
Racket head control
Ability to hit a winner from nowhere
High bouncing ball causes problems
Tendency to make errors
Doesn’t hit up the line that often
It’s a pity we haven’t seen more of this backhand over the years but due to a bout of injuries Haas has missed out on an awful lot of tennis. I first really took note of his backhand at the 2006 Australian Open where he took Roger to five sets where it was seriously good.
Whilst he doesn’t have the power of Gasquet or Wawrinka; in terms of variety I think Haas is closest to Roger’s level. Dare I say he might even be able to do more with his top spin backhand than Fed can as he seems to be in total control of the ball.
Ability to control the ball with a lot of top spin
Very tactically aware on the backhand side
Very technically sound
Not as powerful as some of his contemporaries
Wawrinka is almost an undiscovered talent when it comes to his backhand, I don’t think he’s really that widely known in the world of tennis but his backhand can be pretty devastating on it’s day.
In terms of raw power I’d say he edges slightly in front of Gasquet but he doesn’t possess the variety or the tactical nouse of both Federer and Haas.
His slice whilst reasonable isn’t the greatest but when he hit’s flat, especially on quick hard courts that shot can produce an awful lot of winners.
Hit’s flat meaning it goes through the court
Can hit down the line exceptionally well
Not the strongest slice
Doesn’t possess a great level of variety in terms of top spin, angles. Hit’s primarily North to South rather than East to West.
Gasquet’s backhand is a thing of beauty, probably the most technically sound backhand on tour in terms of shot preparation and swing path it’s often like watching a masterclass when that shot is on.
Unlike Roger, Gasquet doesn’t really struggle with the higher bouncing ball and probably due to his grip he’s able to hit the ball both deeper and with more spin.
In fact I’m hard pressed to pin point an actual weakness in Gasquet’s backhand, perhaps he’s not capable of the Federer like flicks or able to conjure up a sliced passing shot when the ball is behind him but in terms of reliability and power it’s arguably the best on tour.
Ability to hit winners
Doesn’t have the greatest slice
In terms of out and out shotmaking then Philipp Kohlschreiber is probably the only one close to Federer as he too is able to create something from nothing. His only down fall is he just can’t seem to keep it up for the whole duration of a match.
At 5ft 10″ he’s one of the smaller guys on tour which makes his backhand even more impressive in my eyes as he’s not really phased by the high bounce.