Even though Novak Djokovic came short of winning his US Open title, it was definitely a spectacular 5-set match that had the fans at the edge of their seats.
Murray was simply in amazing form, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the underdog take home the US Open title.
Still, I think players at all levels can learn how to improve their own game by modeling Djokovic’s strokes – particularly his backhand.
As you might know by now, the best players in the world hit their shots as well as they do because they possess virtually flawless technique.
So What Are the Keys of Djokovic’s Backhand?
By watching Novak Djokovic’s backhand in slow motion, you can pick up certain technical elements of the stroke that you otherwise would miss in real-time on TV. Not surprisingly, Djokovic uses the same technical elements shared by other world class two handed players on tour.
Today, we’ll be breaking down Djokovic’s backhand according to the below 5 phases of the swing:
- Height of Takeback
- Contact Point
- Follow Through
Like any good stroke in tennis, Djokovic’s backhand begins with a unit turn. If you watch his preparation, his upper body begins turning synchronously, allowing the racket to begin the take back as a result of the initial turn of the body.
Typically, Djokovic uses a split step timed to the opponent’s contact point, and immediately begins turning sideways, making sure that the hips turn around 45 degrees, which initiates the lower body and torso to begin the sideways movement. Once Djokovic recognizes the incoming ball, he begins holding the racket with a continental right hand grip and an eastern left-handed forehand grip.
This “unit turn” coils the body, so that Djokovic’s chin is touching his right shoulder at the height of his preparation. This is indicative of a full shoulder turn, and a key behind every world class two handed backhand.
Backswing Style & Shape
Djokovic keeps his racket head up as he takes the racket back after the initial unit turn. This is important, because it will later help Djokovic utilize the full momentum of the swing and add more pace and topspin once he begins dropping the racket.
The racket head up position is a key amongst all top two handed backhands on tour. If you remember Agassi, he had one of the best two handed backhands in the game – and he too had a similar racket head position.
Height of Takeback
At the top of Djokovic’s backhand swing, his racket is nearly all the way back, with the tip pointing towards the back fence and the right shoulder touching his chin. This is the definition of a world class swing, because most players only take half of a backswing and then try to arm the ball once they swing forward.
A Full Stroke & Never Rushed
Unlike many recreational players whom appear rushed on every backhand they hit, Djokovic seems very relaxed and rhythmic with his takeback of the racket on the backhand. Djokovic keeps his racket head up as he takes back the racket, which helps to lengthen out his swing and create a fluid take back.
Downswing – A Low to High Swing Path
Once Djokovic has reached the top of his swing or what I call the “set position,” he then proceeds to drop the racket below the level of the incoming ball so that the butt cap of the racket faces the ball.
Djokovic’s Fluid Backswing with the Racket Head Up in The Preparation is Key
If you watch Djokovic, the lowering of the racket/wrist below the level of the ball seems seamless, and this is directly result of a more smooth “loop style” swing path. Djokovic doesn’t use a full loop (like Sharapova and Azarenka), but instead, Djokovic opts for a mini-loop with the racket tip forming a slight “C.”
Djokovic’s contact point is usually slightly in front. The left arm is usually straight, and the right arm slightly bent. In most cases, the right arm is just a “passenger along for the ride” to help support the left arm. The left shoulder is usually higher than the right indicating the left shoulder dominance in the swing.
Also notice, Djokovic’s racket is coming from a low to high angle, helping to generate topspin as well as ample pace.
A Complete Follow through
The mistake most club players make is often taking “half” of a swing and using a last minute flick to the ball with the wrist to create spin. On the other hand, once Djokovic makes contact with the ball, he continues to extend his arm and racket “out” towards the ball and executes a full and complete follow through.
By the end of the shot, Djokovic’s racket is often far behind his right shoulder, and his torso is rotated towards the net indicating that he has completed a “full” swing and has held nothing back from the shot. Some club players at this point tend to bail out of the shot by leaning back or failing to complete the follow through with the racket finishing past the right shoulder.
How Does Novak Djokovic’s Backhand Apply to Your Game?
The same technical elements behind Novak Djokovic’s backhand are the ones you need to emulate in your own two-handed backhand if you want to achieve better results. It’s time to make a positive change in your backhand.
This article was written by Coach Ed of Optimum Tennis. Stay tuned for more articles and tennis instruction.