Tennis Forehand Drop Techniques – Control Vs Power

– Hi, Tomaz from Feel Tennis. You may have seen two different types of dropping the racket, from the preparation, you might’ve seen that players sometimes drop the racket more on the edge as I like to call it and I also teach it that way. And sometimes the players drop the racket on the face of the racket. Not like this but more on the face. These are two main different ways of dropping the racket and you might be confused, what should you do. There’s also a third type of the forehand where the player is actually not going through the vertical phase so much but they go more like this, like Jack Sock is going. Or even Federer, sometimes he’s going more like this and then they accelerate really fast. If you’re confused a little bit and want to know which one is better or what are the pros and cons of each type of dropping the racket then stay tuned, this video will explain it. Before I go on to explaining the different types of wrist actions on the forehand, I want to explain one concept that I call a stable wrist.

I’m gonna use my friend David here to demonstrate. A stable wrist is when the wrist is in full extension. It’s fully laid back. The way you can show that to a player, the way I show it or you can show it to your friend is I will push the racket inside a bit like this. It’s even better if the arm is straight. I push the racket and then I’ll ask David you can open your fingers. That’s how the player can feel I have a stable wrist because I don’t need to use my muscles or my wrist muscles to stabilize the racket to keep it straight.

I don’t have to grip the racket tight because the wrist cannot go anywhere else. It’s now in the fully laid back position. There’s nowhere else to go. That’s what we call a stable wrist. When we have a stable wrist and we hit the ball well in front and the wrist is stable then we don’t require any tension in the wrist. We don’t require a tight grip because you can see the racket is stable in the hand.

But if, on the other hand, for example David hits the ball a bit late or too much to the side and if wrist is not fully laid back and if I now apply pressure, he has to use these muscles in the wrist, to be really strong to resist the pressure. So his wrist is not stable by itself. He has to stabilize it. He has to keep it firm and the way he does it, he uses his muscles and therefore he tightens up his grip a lot and therefore he loses the lag, the wrist action and he also loses feel. He cannot spin the ball well, he cannot adjust to the ball well because he’s all tight. The wrist is not stable, you have to stabilize it yourself. It’s important just to understand this concept that whenever you’re hitting a forehand at contact point, you want to have a stable wrist, which means you don’t have to do anything with your wrist because your wrist has moved back as much as possible and there’s no way to go and that’s why we can be quite comfortable when we’re hitting a forehand because we don’t have to do anything.

It’s just biomechanics of the arm and the wrist is holding in place and is giving us good stability. The biggest mistake that players do when I explain to them or when they hear or learn about the cocked back wrist or laid back wrist is that when they are preparing their forehand, they do it initially and immediately themselves. When they start the forehand they say “My wrist needs to be laid back”. We don’t want that because then the wrist and the forearm lose the elasticity and they don’t help us hit. What’s important to know is that whatever drop technique you’re using, the wrist must fall into the laid back position by itself. We must allow it. One way I show that is that I hold the player’s hand like this and I just ask the player to have a big, loose wrist and I’ll use the arm and what I do is I just do like this and what they realize, what they experience is that they can create a lot of power, they can feel that the racket hits the net very forcefully and yet they are not using their wrist to do it but it just happens because when I move the arm back and then I suddenly go forward, what happens is that the racket falls back by itself.

If we have loose enough wrist and we allow it, so we allow this to happen, you can also do like this a little bit. (smacking) So David can feel like it’s quite easy. He’s not doing much, I’m just using his arm and using his wrist like a hinge maybe and he gets a lot of power very easy. When he hits, can we try one more? When he hits in this position, he will feel a very stable position. This hitting of the net also gives this feeling of very stable racket face and contact point. The player just experiences that most of it just happens.

I’m not using his wrist to do something. I’m holding the arm here and I’m just asking him to hold the racket nice. You don’t have to add or do everything, yes? It’s quite a lot of power because I go back and forward. When I go back and forward, the wrist will fall back because of the racket’s weight. The racket’s weight is going to have a momentum that’s going this way. While the racket’s going this way I pull forward and the wrist falls back into place and now it’s stable. We don’t have to squeeze the racket, we don’t have to hit, it will all just happen. Again, the tricky thing is that you have to let go of your wrist just before you’re about to hit the ball and find this feeling of a very stable wrist. For most players that’s not so easy to do because the typical club player does exactly the opposite.

Can I show? The typical club player does exactly the opposite. When they’re about to hit the ball, when they’re about to go forward, they are starting to tense up their wrist in order to hit strongly with the racket. When they tense up with the wrist, the racket doesn’t lag in whatever technique. It doesn’t lag and the wrist never reaches the stable position so they always have to be very strong in the wrist. That’s why a typical recreational tennis player has no power on the forehand. So the solution is very counter-intuitive. Instead of trying to do more you have to do less in your wrist. When you do less, the lag will happen, the wrist will fall back into a stable position. You will start to feel that you don’t have to squeeze the racket tight and from this position, when the wrist is laid back, your forearm muscle will also stretch and it will shoot out the wrist a little bit in any direction. Maybe in this direction or even in that direction. This mechanism, this elasticity then just happens, but first we must allow it.

We must allow the wrist to fall back into the laid back position. That’s the key point here, that the player feels that this happens by itself and that there is a lot of power so that’s why I use their arm a little bit so they feel that they can do even like this for example themselves. You will feel that it’s a lot of power so you can imagine what will happen with the ball if you hit the ball with this much power and yet you feel that you are not doing much. You’re just using your wrist like a hinge. So now that you’re familiar with the concept of a stable wrist, let’s take a look at those three forehands or different types of dropping the racket head and what the differences are. If you are dropping the racket on the edge and typically, the racket will seem to go on the edge if you have an eastern forehand or a semi-western forehand, if you’re semi-western you go a bit more like this. Only if you have a western forehand then it will always go on the face down, or sometimes even like this.

If you have an eastern or semi-western forehand grip, then when the racket is dropping, I say it’s dropping on the edge so in the direction of the back edge. When we drop the racket in this position, then the wrist reaches a very stable position very early in the stroke. When I’m somewhere here, and coming here I’m already in a very stable position so there is just a little bit left when I rotate my hips and the racket will lag a little bit more behind me, then it will be perfectly stable. But if I go this way then my racket and my wrist is positioned correctly very early in the stroke. I’m here and I already feel my wrist is almost in the same position as it will be when I make contact with the ball.

If I go like this and I drop on the edge, my wrist is almost there. Only when I pull forward it’s going to lag a bit more and fall into place. It’s very early in the position, early in the stroke. That makes it much easier for me to time my stroke, because I can hit the ball here or here or here or here and my wrist is already stable and positioned and my racket face is in the right alignment or in the right angle. It’s like perpendicular or almost perpendicular to the ground. So that give me very good control of the racket head.

It makes it easier for me to time the ball but I have slightly less power. If I demonstrate one forehand like that, you can see that when I start, my wrist is already set. It’s already almost set, it just falls back a little bit when I pull forward. In case of a forehand when we drop the racket from this position like this, like Roger Frederer or Grigor Dimitrov, then what happens is that my wrist is not in a stable position now and when I go forward it is starting to position itself and is going to position itself in a stable position just before contact. Most of my swing forward, the racket is not positioned correctly and my wrist is not positioned correctly. Just when I hit the ball it’s going to position correctly. That means if I make a small mistake in timing, I’m a bit too early, I’m a bit too late, then my racket will not be perpendicular, almost perpendicular and my wrist will not be laid back.

I might hit the ball something like this. Let me try and demonstrate. Even here when I get a very nice ball from David, I’m not consistent. For me it’s difficult to play like that, I can play but I can feel that my racket is positioning in the right position, just very, very late before contact. I find it very difficult to play like that.

I can play on an easy ball but I find it difficult to adjust to high topspin, low slice, fast balls, and so on. So what is the advantage of this drop? Why do players use it? Because it allows them to accelerate the racket head more. If I go like this with my racket and my wrist cannot move a lot, so it’s more stable from the start, so I cannot accelerate the racket head that much. If I drop the racket like this and my wrist is very loose, now when I pull back, the racket will really fall back and then I can accelerate it very fast. The reason why the pros are doing that is because they can accelerate the racket head faster. If I try like this, I can really accelerate the racket, but what you didn’t see is that I hit the back fence.

That’s because I don’t have good control. If I were to train four hours per day for 10 years I would develop good control through practice of my racket head because I would accelerate and accelerate and accelerate every day for months and years and so on and I would learn to control this power. But right now for recreational tennis player, it’s very difficult to control this power. Do you get more power? Yes you do but it’s very difficult to control. In the same way I could say if I give you a Formula One car now, I will give you a car with much more power but you will constantly crash. It’s just too much power for you, you can’t control it. You have to learn to drive the car a bit faster, a bit faster, a bit faster from your normal hundred miles an hour and you gradually increase the speed and it takes years and years and years to be able to drive a Formula One car at 200 miles an hour.

So again, do we get more power like this? Yes but we have less control and we have less margin of error in terms of timing. I’d like to thank Jorge Capestany for letting me use his videos of Halep and Federer for this comparison. Please visit his channel by clicking the card above. For more videos of pros in slow motion and of course for Jorge’s excellent clear, concise and really practical instruction videos. What you will see here is the difference in the forehand drop technique between Halep and Federer and I stop the video at this moment where I believe Halep has reached a very stable position with her wrist and at the same time her racket is basically at the same angle as it will be at contact.

Her wrist is stable and her racket is correctly aligned to hit the ball. As you can see that’s around 13 hundredths of a second before contact. If you look now at Federer’s forehand you will see that his wrist is not yet in a stable position and that his racket is not yet aligned to hit the ball. In other words his racket is completely closed. What you will see now is a countdown to the moment of contact and you can observe both forehands to see how Halep’s wrist is not moving anymore and how her racket face is not changing the angle anymore throughout the stroke, whereas Federer’s wrist and racket are still moving. Somewhere around this point, which is about eight hundredths of a second before contact, I see Federer’s wrist finally reaching a stable position, meaning it’s now fully laid back and it has stopped moving. His racket face is still completely closed and not yet aligned to hit the ball over the net.

We need to play it forward for a few more frames until we reach this position which happens only about 2 hundredths of a second before contact when Federer’s racket is finally aligned correctly so that the ball will now cross the net if he hit the ball. I hope you now understand how challenging and demanding this drop technique is and how perfect your timing must be in order to pull it off. In fact, even Roger slightly mishits the ball in this clip which just shows you how difficult it is to execute a forehand like that and hit the ball cleanly. When it comes to the last, the most exaggerated way of accelerating the racket head, and let’s use Jack Sock as an example.

That’s when the player prepares like this when the racket head is still pointing forward. Not even like this but sometimes like this. What do they get by that? They get even more racket head acceleration because the racket will flip even more. It will stretch the forearm even more and it will shoot out even more of the wrist or of the arm even faster. Why is Jack Sock or some players even Federer sometimes on an easy ball, he will go like this because that’s how they can accelerate the racket head even faster. If I try to do it I can do it. I can do like this. I can hit with a lot of power but I’m sacrificing control. I don’t feel good control. I don’t know exactly what will happen with the ball. Again, for me it’s too much power. I don’t need so much power. Using like a more normal forehand technique and again this is not classic, old-school forehand. This is the forehand technique, dropping on the edges, what Andre Agassi was using and he had a pretty good forehand, what most women on WTA Tour are using, Halep, Sharapova, you name it.

Del Potro is playing more like this. Janko Tipsarevic is playing a bit more like this. He’s not dropping and so on. There are a lot of players still using this technique that gives them a lot of control and still enough power. So dropping the racket on the face or going like this will give you more power but less control.

Again, the difficulty for a recreational tennis player is that you don’t have enough practice, you don’t have enough repetition to actually learn to control this power. The disadvantage that you have is that your racket will position in the right position and your wrist just at the last split second. If you make one small mistake in timing of the shot, you’re going to probably miss by a lot, whereas on the other hand when you go more like this and your wrist is already stable, you have much more margin for error in case you mistime the ball, which you will and yet you will still have enough power for our level of play..


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