The modern forehand utilizes both the upper and lower body for power and control.
How exactly does this work?
Energy efficiently transfers from the ground up through your racquet. Your legs, hips, and glutes are the driving force behind explosive racquet speed — not your arms or how “hard” you swing. Get the ball to make contact with the sweet spot on the racquet and you’ll hit a heavy, powerful shot that will also give you complete control.
Below are five tips that can help you execute and improve your modern forehand.
Modern Forehand Ready Position
The ready position is vital because you must demonstrate athleticism and technique both in your lower and upper body before receiving a shot. You must be able to jump your highest and run your fastest from your ready position.
A low center of gravity is essential to finding balance and fluidity in your swing. Continue to develop an athletic ready position as this is the foundation of your game. An efficient ready position is how your body reacts to and hits the heavy spin and power of the modern forehand and two handed backhand.
Hold the racquet in the Eastern or Semi-Western Grip. The Eastern grip is great for handling low shots and driving the ball. In this grip, your hand should feel completely behind the racquet.
The Semi- Western grip is great for higher shots and spinning the ball. In this grip your hand feels slightly behind and slightly underneath the racquet. Use the grip that allows you to hit your biggest forehand.
Check out the My10sFriends point of video grip video on for right handed players. Use Grip #6 Eastern, or Grip #3 Semi-Western for your modern forehand. Make sure to like My10sFriends on Facebook for the latest modern forehand drills and tennis tips.
Let’s look at the elements of the modern forehand ready position:
- Feet comfortably wide apart
- Legs flexed
- On your toes
- Core engaged
- Shoulders back
- Eyes Forward
- Weight of racquet sits between the thumb and fingers of the nondominant hand
- Dominant hand loosely grips the racquet in the Eastern or Semi-Western Grip
- Right Elbow is slightly cocked back
I’ve found that most players can use extra help with the following:
- Grip. They hold the racquet too tightly with the dominant hand. This blocks the flow of energy from the ground through the racquet. Hold the racquet with more support from your nondominant hand.
- Legs Flexed. Many players tend to show a great ready position for a few shots but quickly revert to less-athletic stances. The less athletic stances make it difficult to load your energy into the shot. So focus on a solid ready position with a low center of gravity every single shot. You need to look like an athlete.
Strengthen your legs for an explosive ready position. Make sure to ease your way into a fitness routine, and always warm up to the point where you have broken a light sweat. Check out these advanced exercises on My10sFriends YouTube page. Subscribe for the latest tennis drills and tips.
Modern Forehand Unit Turn
The Unit turn is a better technique than taking your racquet back. It requires you to turn your body to generate racquet speed. A proper unit turn prepares the racquet in its backswing position in the most efficient and effective way.
The best way to practice your unit turn is:
- Face the net in your ready position
- Keeping your legs still, turn to your dominant side so that your torso is perpendicular to the net and facing the side fence
- Use your nondominant hand to keep the racquet is on its edge. You should be able to see the side fence through the strings of your racquet
- Your shoulders should be relaxed, away from your ears
- Practice going back and forth between the ready position and full unit turn
- Next, see how quickly you can perform a unit turn after doing a split step
Unit Turn Focus:
- Practice the speed of your unit turn. Ideally, you want to complete your unit turn — a few feet after your opponent’s shot has left their racquet. If your opponent is hitting from the baseline, try to find a rhythm in your preparation before their shots cross the net.
- Notice the efficiency of the unit turn. A unit turn is more efficient than a backswing because you are using larger sets of muscles including the core and back. An effective unit turn has the potential to allow you to receive and hit the fastest shots.
Modern Forehand Load
Knowing how to correctly store your energy is a crucial component of hitting a successful modern forehand. Without the energy being stored in a loaded position, you will end up using too much arm in the stroke. Proper loading allows the body to coil, and then uncoil for added spin and power.
Practice loading energy from an open stance. Notice the angles created by flexed legs. You need to stay low to duplicate this motion. When shots are coming at 80+ MPH you need to react fast. The open stance is efficient, allowing you to pivot and unpivot without extra steps into the shot.
The semi-open and closed stances are also stances that you should know in order to develop a modern Forehand.
Here are some drills you can use to practice the “load” portion of the Modern Forehand:
Drill #1: “The Open-Stance Sit”
Get into your ready position. Perform your unit turn. Pivot onto your non-dominant toes towards your dominant foot which is still facing the net. Find a comfortable and balanced position that you can sit into. Your legs and core should be working hard. Your shoulders and arms should be relaxed.
Drill #2: Measuring Sticks
Perform the above sequence.
Extend your non-dominant arm away from your body. The non-dominant arm helps measure the distance between your body and the ball. Any adjustments are made by using small steps to the ball, rather than moving your arms. Maintain an athletic stance to successfully transfer your weight into the shot. The timing of extending your non-dominant arm away from your body requires quick anticipation and preparation.
Modern Forehand Explode
You’ve already done the hard part. You’re balanced up in your loaded stance to receive your opponents shot.
All that’s left now is to uncoil your body and stroke to create a whip-like motion. Racquet head speed is created from connecting to the lower and upper half of your body to create rotational power. To stay efficient, your body must remain balanced throughout the follow-through of the stroke.
It’s important to realize that you aren’t trying to hit the ball hard. Instead, you are focused on seeing the ball early. Go after your contact point with good extension of your arm and racquet. If you feel like you’re working too hard in the explode phase, you probably are! Remember — your arms are along for the ride. In fact, the arms and hands are the last steps in the chain of energy transfer into the shot.
When the ball is struck correctly you should hear a POP sound off the sweet spot of the racquet.
Check out more modern forehand drills with My10SFRIENDS Secrets of the Modern Forehand Video Course. Create effortless spin and power training with MY10SFRIENDS Swing Resistance Cover and modern forehand training program.
Drill #3: Freeze the finish
You need to know where your explosive stroke ends. Racquet speed must be maintained until the bottom of the racquet is pointed across the net. An accelerated finish will create effortless spin and power. You must prevent tension in your arm, hand, and fingers that is causing racquet deceleration. With practice, you will gain racquet speed that can be used to create spin and power.
Why this works-
Great players all possess a “split second of stillness” after the completion of their stroke. This is the moment after the energy has fully transferred through the shot but before recovery has taken place. Separating the finish and recovery into two distinct positions will allow for explosive and a balanced first step to the ball.
Have a partner hand toss shots that bounce in your strike zone as you start in the loaded stance.
- Explode and uncoil your body as you hit
- Maintain great balance
- Exhale throughout the shot
- Find a similar follow through for all shots in your strike zone
- Freeze the finish of the swing and keep your chin still until your shot has hit the back fence
Modern Forehand Reaction
Reaction speed is an important element of the modern forehand. The quicker you react, the quicker you can get into your unit turn and load.
You can improve your reaction time through anticipation — allowing you to predict with high probability the kind of shot your opponent will hit and where it’s heading. Prepare your plays in your mind so you can be ready to execute. Each of these components needs to occur when the ball is a few feet off of your opponent’s racquet. Be relentless with your preparation and as you learn to keep a lead in the match.
For example, you’ve hit a wide topspin dipping shot to your opponent at the net. Your opponent stretches wide for the low volley. You anticipate with high probability that your opponent will lift the volley safely. “When it’s low, you go!” You close forward to take away his time and finish the point.
You reacted quickly because you noticed the position and balance of your opponent. Furthermore, you recognized a pattern of play that allows you to take time away from your opponent. Be aware of subtleties in your opponent’s movement and pattern of shots and enhance your own reaction time.
Drill #4: Visualization
Visualization can improve your reaction time
Picture yourself returning every serve, and sticking to your plays in the match. Visualization exercises help athletes in every sport, so spend a few minutes every day picturing just how quickly you will react to the opponent’s big shots.
Can you visualize what your best topspin forehand looks like traveling cross-court for an angled winner? At what height will it cross the net? How steeply will the topspin drop? How much of a bounce will the ball take? Be specific in your visualizations to increase your reaction time.
An athletic ready position is at the foundation of sending and receiving the heavy spin and power of the modern forehand. Flex your legs to create a low center of gravity in this stance. A proper unit turn puts your racquet into a position to create an efficient and accelerated swing.
Practice loading your energy before exploding into your modern forehand. Basically, proper loading allows the body to coil, and then uncoil for added spin and power. Uncoil your body with a smooth stroke with power created from an efficient flow of energy. Go after your contact point with good extension of your arm and racquet.
Lastly, improve your reaction time through anticipation. The quicker you react, the quicker you can set up for the incoming ball and dictate play.
Keep practicing these modern forehand drills as you develop your stroke into a weapon with heavy spin and power.
How your modern forehand is progressing? What struggles do you have creating effortless power and spin? Leave a comment and Coach Eric will get back to you.
USPTA Elite Professional
Director of Tennis at My10sFriends Academy
Director of Tennis at Woodfield Hunt Club in Boca Raton, Fl
Graduate of Ferris State University’s Professional Tennis Management Program