One handed backhand vs double handed backhand. Which one is better?

Both shots are very different from eachother. I don´t think that one option is better than the other but it´s important to understand what the differences are to decide which one would be best for you. Each of them come with it´s own strengths and weaknesses, but both of the shots can be world class when done right. Which backhand is right for you? Let’s look at the pro´s and cons of each approach, but first……

Statistics!

There was a time in tennis where no one was using the double handed backhand. The one handed backhand was back in the days the go to shot. These days the one handed backhand in modern men’s tennis seems to be dying out. Below figures certainly prove that.

Let´s take a look on the ATP players, how many play a double handed vs a one handed backhand?

  • Top 10 ATP: 70% double HB – 30% one HB
  • Top 20 ATP: 75% double HB – 25% one HB
  • Top 30 ATP: 73% double HB – 27% one HB
  • Top 40 ATP: 80% double HB – 20% one HB
  • Top 50 ATP: 82% double HB – 18% one HB
  • Top 60 ATP: 85% double HB – 15% one HB
  • Top 70 ATP: 86% double HB – 14% one HB
  • Top 80 ATP: 86% double HB – 14% one HB
  • Top 90 ATP: 87% double HB – 13% one HB
  • Top 100 ATP: 87% double HB – 13% one HB

Ranking of 08/02/2021

So what is the reason that most pro´s these days play with a double handed backhand?

  • Racquets and strings have changed dramatically over the past 20-30+ years. As a result, players can hit faster shots and play the ball with dramatically more topspin.
  • The top players of today´s game, like all elite athletes, are fitter, faster and stronger than before.
  • Tennis today is much more baseline-oriented than it was. As a consequence, consistency has become more valuable. Successful baseline play is based on starting power of the point and being able to avoid errors. The two handed backhand may be a less beautiful looking shot than the one hander, but it is also more reliable: the extra hand on the racket means it is easier to handle incoming pace and spin. Another aspect that comes into play is that players with a double handed backhand are better equipped to deal with high bouncing balls which is especially important in the era of heavy topspin.

Pro´s and cons of both the double handed and one handed backhand!

The double handed backhand

Djokovic hitting his double handed backhand

Pro´s:

  • Easier to learn

The double handed backhand is easier to learn for many players. Especially kids and starting tennis players, have no such strength in the wrist, arm and shoulder to execute the one handed backhand well. Another important part to take in consideration is coordination, being more easy on the double handed one. Actually one of the most important parts of the one handed one is coordination (finding the ball at the right time).

  • Power

The extra hand on the racquet will make it easier for many to generate more power on the backhand. Strength is a big factor why many players prefer the double handed backhand over the one handed backhand in the last 5-10 years.

Have you noticed that the best serve returners in the game are mostly players with a double handed backhand? The double handed backhand is naturally a shorter motion compared to the one handed backhand, which is a very big plus in the return of serve.

  • Consistancy

The two hands on the racquet will enable you to perform a more controlled backswing and a more stable position of the racquet at impact, resulting most players to be able to more or less the same shot over and over again.

  • Disguise

The upper hand on the double handed backhand is more far out from your body. Which will help you to be able to play the ball at different contact points. Playing with the double handed backhand gives you the advantage to make last second adjustments to your shots. The luxury of being able to hit the ball at different contact points is disguising the shot that you are about to play (keeping the intensions of your shot to yourself as long as possible).

Con´s:

  • Lack of reach

On the double handed backhand your contact point with the ball will be close to your body, making it a hard shot to play when the ball is not really in your strike zone which will result in a push rather than an efficient motion.

  • Fewer options

Generally speaking, not for every double handed player! Players that play a double handed backhand might not feel secure in shots that are mostly played with one hand holding the racquet, such as the backhand slice and the backhand volley.

The one handed backhand

Federer hitting his one handed backhand

Pro´s

  • Variety

The one handed backhand and the backhand slice go hand in hand. The slice variation can be used for multiple shot selections. It can be used as an attacking shot, think about the backhand slice approach shot to finish the point at the net the ball after. It also can be used as a good defensive option, lobs or defensive slice shots. The one hander will even help you feel more confident at the net, think about the backhand volley or overhead.

  • Reach

One handers have the edge when it comes to handling balls out wide because this backhand can be extended further compared to the double handed.

Con´s

  • Lack of strength

To hit a powerful one handed backhand just must be very strong in the wrist, arm and shoulder. Especially injury wise. Few players have the strength and skill necessary to for example strike the ball on the backhand return, most one handers just block the ball back on the return, making your game more vulnerable to attacking players.

  • Difficult to time

The one handed backhand requires a bigger backswing so your timing nearly has to be perfect. There is not a lot of room for error here. If you are off balance or receiving a bad bounce is more tricky to play with a one hander.

Conclusion

Mostly because the two handed backhand gives you more stability and support, it allows the top players in the world to easily return serves, put the ball deeper into the court and start the rally in a relatively neutral position even during the return games.

So, based on this trend, should everyone use two handed backhand? The answer is no. At the end of the day, it is just a personal preference.

Try to see what works for you! there is no one size fits all on the the court. Try to see what feels good for you, and let a good coach guide you on improving and maybe even choosing a style.

Good luck working on your backhand next time you step out on the court! 🙂

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