A mere glance at the pro game will tell you that there's more than one way to crush a forehand. Roger Federer's approach is almost classical, with its smooth swing and old-school grip. Rafael Nadal’s forehand won’t be found in a textbook, but it hardly ever misses. Whether you hit your forehand from an open or closed stance, or use an Eastern or full Western grip, like the one shown here, you must be one thing when you swing: very, very loose. Jimmy Arias, whose forehand brought him to No. 5 in the world rankings, says this is something his father stressed from the time Arias was a child. “You need to keep your arm completely relaxed,” Arias says. “Too many people try to get power by muscling the ball. You just have to let your arm go. It won’t fly away, it’s attached to your shoulder.”
• To get the most out of your forehand, you need to master balance. Arias says to keep some distance between your feet so you have a wide base of support. If you can set up properly every time, the rest of your stroke will take shape.
• Arias has another word to remember: rotation. The core and shoulders do a lot of work on a good forehand. Your shoulders must first turn back, and then uncoil. Good rotation will prevent you from relying too much on your arm.
• Most people hit a forehand from an open stance today. That’s fine, as long as your weight continues to go forward into the shot.
Master Other Strokes:
Originally published in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of TENNIS.