Serena Williams has been dominating the world of women’s tennis for over a decade, picking up Grand Slam victories since the early 1990’s. Even today, as new women’s professional tennis players emerge on the scene, they still struggle with defeating the merited veteran.
One of the reasons Serena dominates the women’s game is that her game evolves around a crucial aggressive baseline style of play. Her serve and her groundstrokes are world class, and she has a stronger baseline game than a lot of women on tour.
Before we examine the preparation, let’s discuss the grip. Serena uses a typical grip combination where her left hand is in an eastern forehand grip, and the right hand in a slight variation of a continental forehand grip.
Like most other pro players, Serena begins the preparation with a split step and a unit turn. If the ball is approaching her backhand side, she begins to put her weight on the left foot and turns her shoulder around 45 degrees simultaneously, which brings the racket back along with her.
Serena’s backhand is very traditional in the sense that she doesn’t use a loop backswing that is commonly taught in modern tennis. Many players today are using loop backswings as part of their forehand & backhand shots, but Serena is the exception.
Her backhand takeback is nearly straight back, and this allows her to really prepare the racket early and quickly. She is rarely ever late in making contact, because her backswing is so short and compact. This takeback works well for Serena, because she likes to take shots early and on the rise, directly on top of the baseline.
A Compact Takeback
The only drawback to Serena’s compact two handed backhand is that she isn’t able to produce the same amount of topspin (RPM’s) as some of her opponents do, which produces a much flatter shot with less margin for error.
While the compact takeback does allow Serena to flatten out her shots with power, she doesn’t quite get the momentum, fluidity or topspin that she can probably achieve with more of a rhythmic takeback on the backhand side.
Racket all the Way Back & Coiled
Another element that Serena Williams achieves on her backhand is that she makes sure to get her racket all the way back. Like we have seen with the Djokovic backhand, Serena also coils her shoulders so that her chin is touching her right shoulder at the height of take back.
This position then allows her to maximize the amount of torque and rotation she will get in the swing, since her body is fully coiled.
On most two handed backhand shots on tour, pro players usually hit off of neutral or closed stances, as this allows for the linear transfer of weight (forwards into the court) to help generate pace and power.
Serena Williams, on the other hand, utilizes an open stance occasionally on her two handed backhand shot. Although this stance is unorthodox for the two handed backhand, Serena is able to set up in position and on balance so she can get away with using this stance on the court.
Another thing that Serena does really well on her backhand is that she really drops the racket head below and underneath the ball, so that she can swing from low to high. Because her backswing is so compact, this movement almost seems exaggerated, but it allows her to almost accentuate the low to high swinging pattern.
Notice that right before she swings forward to contact, the butt cap is pointing underneath the ball, and the racket is at least a feet underneath the future point of contact. This is a key position of all top two handed backhands on tour. Serena does this exceptionally well.
Once Serena drops the racket head well below the ball, she then begins the forward swing to contact. Serena William’s contact point consists of a bent arm hitting position, where both of her arms are bent at contact.
This provides her the leverage she needs to “push” through the ball, by almost letting the ball sit on the strings.
Classic Follow Through
Serena Williams completes her follow through in a textbook fashion, with her racket pushing all the way through the contact zone, while extending her arm all the way out towards the target. Often, she will finish the shot with the racket pulling all the way across and wrapping around her right shoulder in the completion of the shot.
Serena’s classic backhand shot may not be awe inspiring or flashy like some of the other pros, but certainly, she is a perfect model for players to emulate if they want to improve their own two handed backhand shot. Serena Williams meets many of the checkpoint technical commonalities of a world class two handed backhand and her backhand is a steady shot that might win her several more titles before retirement.
This article was written by Coach Ed of Optimumtennis.net