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How to rip forehands like Rafa Nadal


Originally published on: 26/02/10 16:29

Resident Tennishead coaching guru Dave Sammel begins by telling us a story. He says Andy Murray told one of his fitness trainers, Jez Green, that the toughest forehand in the world to deal with belongs to Rafael Nadal. Fact.

Why? Because of the height over the net he achieves and the spin he gets on the ball. Some forehands he’s faced, says Andy, are pacey, but nothing’s as heavy as Rafa’s which leaps off the court at you and pins you onto your back foot, forcing you to retreat and hit at an awkward height.

With this in mind, we thought it’d be quite nice to know exactly how the Mallorcan magician does it so we can all go away and work on ripping forehands like Rafa.

We looked on with camera and notebook close to hand as Dave got down to work on turning British teenager Yasmin Clarke’s forehand into a more potent weapon.

First things first the grip. Dave says you need to be using a semi-western or full western grip.

If, like Yasmin, you’re right-handed then your weight should be shifting from right leg to left leg as you play the shot, but also exploding upwards into the ball too.

Dave says it’s all about pushing up from the ground – exploding upwards and through the shot with your legs. This explosion of power upwards, combined with a super-fast racket-head speed and upper body rotation should mean that your body is airborne as you make contact with the ball.

The racket head should be coming from underneath the height of the ball and brushing up the back of the ball to generate massive spin with the racket making a steep climb and the follow-through dropping off.

If you get it right you should be able to hit this shot as hard as you can from mid-court and the spin will still bring the ball down inside the baseline.

Dave tried to get Yasmin to concentrate on hitting with a ‘looser’ wrist too to increase spin on the ball. He did this by making her take her little finger off the bottom of the grip.

The big man also says that when you begin to change your technique, to begin with, forget about where the ball is ending up just focus on achieving the technical changes you’re concentrating on.

A useful point worth passing on is that Dave had Yasmin hitting from hand feeds to begin with, then he introduced racket feeds from a basket and then introduced some movement.

After that, Dave introduced a sequence one forehand and one backhand volley, both from basket feeds. Only when he was satisfied that the technique was sound did he have Yasmin hitting forehands in a rallying situation. The lesson: even pros aren’t too good to benefit from hand and basket feeds now and again.


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.