ANALYSIS: Breaking down the Nick Kyrgios forehand
Respected coach David Sammel expertly breaks down the deceptively effective Nick Kyrgios forehand to see what we can learn from it.
Nick Kyrgios is best known for his devastating serve, but the Australian’s forehand is a masterclass in a strategic and personalised play style.
Tennis is very much a ‘feel’ sport and in order to improve on this, you need to experiment by softening your hand and grip and wrist during the shot. See what happens to the ball if you wrap over it faster, with a looser grip and wrist.
But, if you are a coach, the uniqueness of the shot after contact is why it is important to see the output and effectiveness of a technique before changing it.
Those are the lessons we can learn from the Kyrgios forehand, but let’s break it down frame by frame.
Nick Kyrgios’s arms are relaxed as he lines up the forehand, but his shoulders and back are fairly hunched. As a kid, he was probably taught to engage his shoulders to generate more power.
This is a common trick for youngsters, but Nick certainly doesn’t need to do this – it’s a difficult habit to break, though. Both arms are in sync and his weight is perfectly balanced on his back leg.
Again, notice the beautifully synced arms; both are raised at the same height and Nick’s right wrist is laid back in an ideal pre-strike position, leading with the butt of the racket.
He is watching the ball extremely closely, as all good players do, and is ready to transfer his weight forward from his right leg onto his left leg as needed.
This is where his forehand gets a little unorthodox: he lets the ball come to him. He’s late in defending the incoming ball, so instead of transferring weight onto his left leg, he is forced to drive upwards.
But this photo shows why Nick can play so well from awkward positions: although he’s late, he is able to hold his upper body in balance, his shoulders are flat and his head remains still.
Another unique aspect of the Nick Kyrgios forehand is his lack of hip rotation. Most players rotate the hips so that they end up parallel to the net. But, even without this, he has not allowed the ball to ‘bully’ him into bending backwards.
His weight has extended off the ground in an upward leg drive (making the most of his 6ft 3in height), which helps with the power behind the hit.
Nick retains great balance in the air. His arm doesn’t extend far forward before wrapping around the body, which creates more spin. Most players would struggle to generate pace or length with such small extension.
It is only Nick’s amazing feel and control of the ball that allows him to manipulate the ball with such a fast wrap so close to his body.
The follow-through is very different. His hips don’t rotate fully, staying at 45 degrees to the net, with his arm tucked into his stomach. This isn’t ideal, unless you have Nick’s feel and control. He’ll also land with a narrow base.
This isn’t ideal for explosive movement but, for a big guy, he moves very well. This shows his strategic skill: he doesn’t wrap this close to his body every forehand.
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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 davidsammel.com/books.
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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