Daniil Medvedev backhand defence

ANALYSIS: A close look at the backhand defence of Daniil Medvedev

Respected coach David Sammel expertly breaks down the defiant defence of Daniil Medvedev to see what we can learn from it.

Watch any ATP match around the world nowadays and you will see how important defence from the baseline has become.

Players are generally less incline to come to the net in the modern game, preferring to try and hit through an opponent to manoeuvring past him.

That is fine, but to attack from the baseline you are going to need a solid defence from the baseline too, and Daniil Medvedev is one of the best proponents of that in the world.

A great example of that is on his backhand side. Even when pushed to the limit on his backhand, the Russian usually manages to maintain his balance and stays focused on the shot.

Let’s take a closer look.


Here we see unusual preparation for a sliced backhand. Normally you would see the left hand gently holding the throat of the racket to aid the stability of the right arm and thus the racket. Daniil Medvedev is clearly driving his legs strongly to get to the ball, so perhaps the left arm is his way of balancing the body. The actual racket take-back is traditional and his eyes are tracking the ball intensely.


Now the arms are symmetrical and he is focused on making good contact in this extreme position, straining his upper body to reach the ball and running with big steps. Many lesser players would not believe it possible to lay the racket this flat before contact: they would therefore not produce enough underspin (slice) to get the control desired and would float the ball rather than keep it low.


Note Medvedev’s great heel strike with the left leg and his fantastic contact with the ball. He has chopped down under the ball (the bottom of the racket face is in front, indicating the slicing of the ball) in the most extreme position, his left arm counterbalancing the racket arm exquisitely. He is focused on this shot, not worried about recovering for the next shot, which is a common error.


This shows how tennis is a deceleration sport and why squats are a big part of training. Putting on the brakes tests his left leg to 90 degrees, yet he still stops his upper body and head from collapsing over his leg, meaning the shot is still controlled. The head stays still and the eyes remain on the contact point, so the racket swing is not disturbed. He keep this balance until the ball is gone.


Look at the lovely flat racket face again and the strength to keep the racket moving on a smooth path, even as the braking hits maximum G-forces during this massive deceleration. It can be difficult to imagine exactly how the trajectory of the ball is affected by spin, but this picture gives a solid clue as to how high even a sliced ball will need to travel in order to clear the net.


Only now does he look behind to consider his next shot. He is still not pulling his body out of shape and will finish the braking in the next step. Recovery of a balanced body is actually easier than pulling the body against the legs to try to recover faster. Most amateurs struggle to keep their heads still and watch the contact point a second longer in order to finish the shot in balance.

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About David Sammel

David has more than 30 years’ experience coaching pros to career high rankings, many of whom have represented their countries in the Davis Cup and at the Olympics.

David, who became an official ATP coach in 2014, regularly contributes to the UK’s tennis media, including BBC Radio 5 Live, The Times newspaper and Sky Sports. In 2014, he released a psychology and coaching book – Locker Room Power: Building an Athlete’s Mind. You can find out more at

David now runs Mindset College, “the only mental skills programme that provides you with cutting-edge, tried and tested tools from the coal-face of elite sports performance.”

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Michael Graham, Editor, has been a professional sports journalist for his whole career and is especially passionate about tennis. He's been the Editor of for over 5 years and loves watching live tennis by visiting as many tournaments as possible. Michael specialises in writing in-depth features about the ATP & WTA tours.