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Bollettieri Q&A: Fighting power, backhand grips

Thursday, September 22, 2011 /by

Dear Nick, I am a pretty solid player and play quite a few USTA tournaments. I can beat good players and get far in the draw, but the moment I play someone with a lot of power, I end up being overpowered. I have pretty good strokes and footwork, but somehow I cannot even put on a good match against these players. I am tall (6-foot-3) yet lack their power. What should I do to be able to compete with these players and even beat them? It would be nice to finally win a big USTA tournament.—Overpowered and Overwhelmed in Chicago

The first thing you need to do is accept the truth, which is this: “I cannot compete with power players.” So what’s the solution? Make your powerful tormentors less powerful. How, you ask? By changing the pace of your shots. Mix in slices, high-rolling shots and dink shots, and increase your serve percentage with more kick serves. You can also try to apply pressure of your own by going to the net when your opponent hits more defensive shots.

There are ways you can learn to better handle power, too. You need to develop a stronger lower body foundation so you can stand your ground when the ball is hit hard at you. And here’s my final tip: Don’t throw in the towel before the match begins. There is a way to beat these players. Just keep trying.

Hello Nick! I live in Spain and I’m coaching my daughter Elizabeth. I have a question about the backhand. She uses this grip combination: an Eastern forehand on the top hand and an Eastern backhand on the bottom hand. As far as I know, Andre Agassi used the same grip combination for his backhand. My question: If in the future she would like to change her backhand from a two-handed backhand to one-handed backhand, will it be a problem for her? When should we start to change? What is your recommendation?—Christian

For her grips, an Eastern forehand on the top hand is good. For the bottom hand, just make sure it’s not a strong Eastern backhand grip. I prefer it if players use a grip between a Continental and a weak Eastern for the bottom hand.

As far as switching to a one-handed backhand, I’ll just say be careful. It’s difficult for me to answer this question without knowing more about your daughter’s physical makeup, speed and results to date. But there may be no reason to change, especially if she is comfortable with a two-handed backhand. It has worked for many top players.

Have a question for Nick? Write to him at

Nick Bollettieri of the Bollettieri Tennis Academy has trained many collegiate and professional players, including 10 who reached the world No. 1 ranking.


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