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Hit off the back foot like Verdasco


Originally published on: 28/09/10 11:44

‘Hit off the back foot like Fernando Verdasco’ featured in the July 2010 issue of tennishead magazine. For more details on how to subscribe, click here.

Objectives: Spin city. The goal when playing a defensive shot is to make your opponent’s next shot as awkward as possible to try and regain the upper hand in the point. Hitting with height will help you find the court, but hit with plenty of spin to avoid giving your opponent an inviting mid-court ball. Spin is all down to high racket head speed as you strike the ball, so avoid getting too tentative when under pressure.

Grip it and rip it: Wipe that windscreen. One way of generating extra topspin on your forehand is to introduce a ‘windscreen wiper’ follow-through. You can see the start and end stages of this technique below – in frame four, Verdasco meets the ball out in front with his wrist ready to rotate the racket head to brush the back of the ball at high speed. By frame five, his wrist has turned the racket face through 180° in a windscreen wiper motion.

With a drive onto the baseline approaching fast, Verdasco starts to get himself into position by taking his racket back early and bending his knees as he fixes his eyes on the ball.

Here Verdasco is fully coiled: his shoulders and hips are beautifully turned in line with each other and his legs are ready to explode upwards into the contact.

Key point: Verdasco’s elbows are at the same height at this point, showing he is perfectly balanced

The pace of the incoming ball means Verdasco hasn’t got time to meet it out in front so he improvises, gaining time and space by shifting his weight to the back foot.

Verdasco drives up from below the ball, using both the back leg and the racket head to inject topspin and pace, gaining further momentum as his shoulders and hips rotate.

Key point: He keeps his head still during the drive, resisting the temptation to let it turn as his body falls back

After making contact in front of his body, Verdasco has rotated the racket face with his forearm with a windscreen-wiper action during the follow-through to put extra topspin on the ball.

Golden rule: You are unlikely to be hitting a winner off a ball that forces you to retreat, so aim to give your shot width or length – or both!

The full rotation of the shoulders and the speed of the swing plus the landing of the right leg in an excellent wide base has helped his upper body right itself from the backward lean and regain full balance.

Key point: At no time did Verdasco take his eyes away from the contact point, which would lead to a loss of control and balance. Magnificent!



Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.