David Nalbandian has one of the most elite two handed backhands in the game of tennis. Even though we haven’t seen his dominance in the world of pro tennis lately as we have for players like Djokovic, Nadal and Murray – David Nalbandian’s backhand is still worth a closer study.
Nalbandian takes the two handed backhand to a whole new level, in a pro circuit where two handed backhand shots are usually not the forth running dictating shots.
Most players on the pro tour prefer to dominate their opponents with inside-out forehands, rather than hit backhands.
However, having a formidable two handed backhand can be a huge asset on most tennis matches, as most opponents attempt to run plays around hitting to their opponent’s backhand side.
The Technicalities of a World Class Two Handed Backhand
Regardless of whether you are hitting a one handed backhand, two handed backhand or even a forehand shot, the critical key is to begin the preparation with a unit turn. This means that you have to turn your body and hips sideways as a unit, rather than immediately taking the racket back before the actual body turn.
David Nalbandian is no exception. Once Nalbandian recognizes the incoming ball, he turns his body sideways as a unit, and at the same time, the racket comes back with it.
A Pro Level Shoulder Turn
In order to generate optimal power, topspin and depth on the two handed backhand, it’s important to complete a full shoulder turn. Like we saw in the Djokovic Backhand, a full shoulder turn is indicated by where the chin touches the right shoulder. This is a commonality amongst all top two handed backhand players.
Most players don’t achieve a full shoulder turn. In particular, club and recreational players almost never reach this position, thus they are unable to use the additional stored energy to unleash into the ball once the forward swing occurs.
David Nalbandian’s swing path closely resembles more of a pendulum motion. The key here is that Nalbandian uses a smooth, fluid and seamless motion, where the racket does not stop during the takeback. There is no hitch or pauses during the takeback (a problem many club players have in their backhand shot).
At the top of Nalbandian’s backhand preparation, he positions the racket head so that the tip of the racket points upwards around 45 degrees towards the sky.
Butt Cap Pointing Underneath the Ball
Nalbandian chooses to use a fairly straight back takeback, but one important key is that Nalbandian drops his racket head below the level of the ball seconds before he makes contact with the ball. Like on the forehand, dropping the racket head below the level of the ball is essential for generating topspin to increase the margin of safety on the shot.
Bent-Straight Hitting Arm Position at Contact
A unique element of the ATP two handed backhand is the hitting arm position at contact. At the contact point, David Nalbandian uses a hitting arm configuration where the left arm is almost entirely straightened at contact, with the right arm slightly bent.
Follow Through & Extension
David Nalbandian’s follow through consists of one where he makes contact, and then he continues to extend the racket forwards and upwards in the same direction of the intended target. Unlike on the forehand, where the racket finishes in a windshield wiper motion, on the two handed backhand, players use more of a classic finish where the racket finishes over the right shoulder.
Extension is key on the two handed backhand. It can be helpful to visualize hitting through three tennis balls before wrapping the follow through around the right shoulder, in order to maximize the effect of the ball “sitting” on the strings for a longer period of time. This visualization can be helpful for depth and pace as well.
How Nalbandian’s Backhand Can Apply to Your Game
Clearly, Nalbandian’s backhand can be an ideal model for players struggling with their own two handed backhand. Realistically, it may be difficult to develop a backhand as good as Nalbandian’s, but if you practice the fundamental key positions, you’ll be a lot closer to a better backhand than when you first started off.
This article was written by Coach Ed of Optimum Tennis