I'm learning the Federer forehand! Here's why and how

06 Nov 2019
#TECHNIQUE

Yesss, you heard it well! Finally (hopefully) I'll have a proper forehand!! I mean, it's not like my current forehand is so so SO bad, but it definitely sucks a bit, let's be honest! Everybody either knows it or notices it right away anyway, so why hide it?! It's a fact!

The thing is, my forehand has been my weak groundstroke since foreverrr: it's never come natural to me, NEVER! And it's not even like I've been neglecting it compared to my backhand and serve, not at all! Instead, I've always practiced it a lot more, just because it never really felt right to me. I even changed it at some point because of some back pain, completely eliminating the open stance. That helped my back (such a relief to play pain free!), but not my game.

Hence I think it's time to acknowledge the fact that the WTA bent-arm forehand is not really my thing and move on. And mind you, I'm not usually a quitter! But this time I really think I have no choice if I want to take my game to the next level, which I do! So, if this WTA bent-arm forehand doesn't come easy to me no matter how hard I try, what's left? The Federer forehand, of course!

But how's the Federer forehand?

In my opinion, the best of all times! Ah, you know that already. Of course, how can I be so naive?!

More technically, the Federer forehand is the straight-arm variation of the ATP style forehand, which differs from the WTA forehand for its more compact backswing and heavier ball.

In particular, the straight arm at contact point is what makes Federer's forehand look so effortless and fluid, compared to the bent-arm variation, which looks instead stiffer and more muscular.

Why changing forehand NOW?

Because it feels right! And to be honest, the timing couldn't be more perfect, and here's why:

  1. My next tournament is gonna be in at least 2 weeks (at the time of my decision, 3 weeks), if not more! So I have some time to put my new ATP straight-arm forehand into gear, without even having to take a forced break from tournaments, since the break is for everyone! As I've seen so far, this kind of break doesn't happen frequently here in Finland, so why not exploit this time and learn a brand new forehand? Makes sense, doesn't it?
  2. The short-term goals I set for the end of 2019 include, among others, a heavier ball because a) I cannot go on with the little to no consistency that my flat game currently gives me, and b) I want to upgrade the power of my game. That said, the deadline to achieve this and all the other goals is coming soon, so there's no time to waste! And the Federer forehand seems to be the perfect answer to my needs: more spin means more weight, which is exactly what I need right now!
  3. Last week, during my latest tournament, something awful happened: I got caught up in fear of embarrassment because of my forehand. In fact, during the warmup I didn't put a single forehand in the court, which not only pissed my opponent off, but also kept me unfocused for all the first set. My brain was in a loop and couldn't understand what was going on, and I was terribly ashamed. So the good news is, I won't miss my old forehand! Not even one bit!

How am I learning the Federer forehand?

By doing this 4-step process over and over again:

  1. I watch YouTube videos that show the different phases of the Federer forehand in slow motion, so I can catch even the smallest details. My favorite video so far? This one, by RaquetFlex. I've already watched it so many times I practically know it by heart!
  2. I do lots and lots of shadowswings to get the movement right. As first thing, I need to break free from my old habits, and my brain seems to resist to change quite much! So shadowswings is great for sending a clear message to my nerves!
  3. I hit about a hundred forehands every day, with the ball just dropping vertically so I don't need to think of my feet. At this point, doing the movement correctly and experiencing the right feeling is my priority.
  4. I film myself hitting forehands, so I can make sure I'm learning it right from the beginning, without any little mistakes.

As soon as the movement of the racket will feel right, I'll introduce a 5th step between step 3 and 4: I'll hit forehands with the ball coming from the ball machine, so I'll also have to focus on finding the right distance from the ball.

How much progress did my Federer forehand make in 1 week?

Much! I'm honestly impressed :D Which is surprising, because if you'd asked me 3 days ago I'd had answered 'disappointing'.

The truth is, at the beginning I felt really frustrated, and somehow like there was a fight within me between 'you'll get there, just keep going' and 'just go back to your old forehand, this is just too hard'.

But now, after only a few days, it seems like I understood the new path my racket needs to follow, how relaxed my wrist needs to feel, and how little my arm's muscles needs to be involved. So it's great, and I can definitely say it was worth the initial pain and frustration! Because you know what? This forehand feels fu**ing RIGHT and EFFORTLESS!

But enough about my forehand learning process, now I want to know about you, your tastes and style!

Let me know in the comments:

Q1: what's the best forehand ever in your opinion? Do you agree with me when I say it's Federer's, or you have different tastes? And more importantly, why do you like it so much?

Q2: if you play tennis, what forehand style do you use? ATP or WTA forehand? Straight or bent-arm variation? Have you used it since the beginning, or you changed it at some point? And just out of curiosity, how would you describe it in one word?

Hope you enjoyed reading about this news and you're as excited as I am! It's such a milestone for me that I couldn't help but share it with you! If so, leave me a clap (or two) so I know you did ;)

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