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Tech Talk: Don’t underestimate Cameron Norrie's backhand
The British player's lefty backhand is as flat as they come, and the technical explanation behind it proves his execution to be even more impressive.
Published May 25, 2023
THROWBACK: Cameron Norrie's Hot Shot of the Day.
Everyone talks a big game about wicked forehands and targeted serves, but what about the underrated backhand? On this week's Tech Talk, let’s show some love to the Cameron Norrie backhand.
After all, it's been arguably Norrie's deadliest weapon amid his rise up the ATP rankings, turning him into a Top 20 mainstay and peaking at world No. 8 last year.
So what’s the secret to this lefty wizardry?
Unlike his heavy-spun forehand reminiscent of Rafael Nadal’s, Norrie’s backhand is as flat as they come. And the technical explanation behind it proves his execution to be even more impressive.
Often compared to Jimmy Connors’ backhand, the key is the body’s positioning. The take back of the racquet is above the ball, and the body leans forward as it steps in to make contact.
An important note is that the racquet isn’t coming from a low-to-high position as it normally does on the forehand side. Instead, Norrie's racquet head remains in line with the ball, and the contact is in front of the body as the momentum is pushing towards the court.
Norrie's style of backhand comes with two major tactical advantages. One is the ability to change the direction of the ball more easily, and the other is that the shot comes off as a variation of itself. Just as a forehand can produce a variety of shots from a heavier ball to a flatter ball to a slice, this backhand style is already one of its variants.
In most cases, this backhand style is one variant of the player’s backhand arsenal whereas Norrie creates an arsenal based on this variant.
Add this to being left-handed, and the advantages keep piling on.
“He is a player who reminds me a little bit of a left-handed version of a David Ferrer,” said Jim Courier in a media day interview. “He is very difficult to beat, doesn't get tired, doesn't beat himself often.”
Normally, this backhand technique is seen when players go to change directions and take away time from their opponents. Even in those cases, producing this repeatedly and successfully is an underrated and under-respected skill.
While this backhand is not the most technically difficult shot to master, it needs to make sense for your game. An offensive playing style would look to use this more often and probably has, without realizing, used it when changing direction and taking the ball on the rise.
If you’re the kind of player who prefers heavy spin, executing this shot at the Norrie level likely wouldn’t be worth spending your time on. This would instead be a great variation to learn, similar to the slice, to change the pace and keep your opponents guessing.