As we watch the US Open on TV or live in person, we can continue to marvel at the grace and elegance of Roger Federer’s forehand. The few of us who have the opportunity to watch the pros practice in person at the US Open is up for a rare treat of the impeccability, fluidity and overwhelming power that Roger Federer’s forehand is known for.
Roger Federer’s forehand is a shot that has won him many Grand Slams, and at this year’s US Open, it might prove to be another victorious occasion for the master. Still, Federer’s forehand is worthy of further analysis. It is important to analyze his forehand to determine what elements players at all other levels of the game can emulate in order to improve their own forehand.
Federer’s forehand is a step above the rest on the ATP tour, but few commentators understand why. What separates Federer’s forehand from the rest of the pack is his impeccable timing and technique.
Most are quick to point out his mental toughness, but few notice that his forehand technique is actually mostly responsible for his dominance in the world of tennis.
Roger Federer is able to combine the right technical elements based on a solid foundation of world class principles to produce a modern forehand that is unmatched by his competitors.
Let us examine some of the key fundamentals behind the Roger Federer Forehand.
Federer’s Eastern Grip Combined With Modern Forehand Mechanics
Federer uses a modified eastern grip, slightly between the classic old school eastern grip and the standard semi-western grip. This modified grip allows Federer to drive through the ball more and take more shots on the rise when compared to his more extreme “Western” counterparts.
In many ways, his grip is considered more conservative than others like Novak Djokovic or Andy Roddick.
Unit Turn and Ball Recognition
Gone are the days of simply turning sideways and hitting off of a closed stance. In a modern forehand, players are now utilizing more angular momentum on their shots with added upper body rotation. In order to accomplish this, pro players are increasing the amount of body turn during the preparation.
As soon as Federer recognizes the incoming shot, he begins the forehand with a unit turn. The unit turn is a move where the upper and lower body turn sideways simultaneously around 45 degrees with the hips turning toward the direction of the incoming ball. This naturally brings the racket back as well, hence the term “unit turn.”
Federer’s Forehand Includes a Deep Shoulder Turn and Body Coil
Another element of Roger Federer’s forehand is the coiling during the preparation phase that brings his racket back and coils his upper body at the same time. This coiling works like a spring. Notice, Federer’s upper body is coiled so that part of his back is facing the net.
This is a clear indication of the great amount of coil he achieves on his forehand, and unsurprisingly this element contributes a large amount of power once he swings forwards to the ball.
One thing that sets Federer’s forehand apart from many of the WTA players and almost all club players is that he achieves a greater body coil than the rest. In addition, at the peak of the preparation, Federer’s racket is prepared in a way that allows him to lower the racket below the level of the ball via the help of gravity.
This serves two purposes. First, it enables a low to high swing pattern necessary to produce heavy topspin. Next, this builds fluidity into his swing, allowing him to produce a smooth downswing.
Straight Arm and Double Bend Forehand at the Contact Point
There has been great debate in the world of tennis on the subject of Federer’s forehand and his contact point. In slow motion video, Federer sometimes uses a straight arm forehand where the racket and arm is virtually straight on contact. Other times, he uses the more traditional contact point called the “double bend” forehand. Both are acceptable variations and will be discussed further in later articles.
It is important to note, however that contact point alone is not a cause, it’s an effect. If a proper swing occurred up this point, the contact point should naturally come in place. Most players don’t need to consciously focus on the contact point itself.
Federer’s Windshield Wiper Forehand
Another important concept behind Roger Federer’s forehand is his follow through.
The follow through is important because it shapes the arc and path of the ball once the ball leaves the racket. In the modern forehand, a relatively new follow through called the “windshield wiper” forehand follow through is now popular amongst pros and many high level players alike. This follow through is one where the racket swings across the body on the “same side” like the blades of a windshield wiper inside a car.
This type of follow through increases the rotation and spin of the shot, because the ball is virtually being “peeled” from low to high in a rapid succession using a high level of racket head speed, when compared to the classic over the shoulder follow through.
Can Roger Federer’s Forehand Be A Good Model For You?
There are many more technical elements that make up the Federer forehand, but the basics have been covered. Even though many players won’t have a chance of hitting their forehand exactly like Federer, there are still important fundamental commonalities behind his shot that can be modeled by players at all levels.
Stay tuned for more technique articles from Optimum Tennis in the near future. We will be analyzing more top player’s tennis strokes for you.