A great serve can make a big difference to your game, but your forehand is your most natural shot (because the ball comes to you on the dominant side of your body) and it's the shot from which you can generate the greatest amount of power.
And while there are many things you need to get into place to develop your forehand into a weapon that opponents will fear, there is one area only the smart players know about and practice: the forehand finish.
No single forehand technique will help you in all situations. A well-rounded player will perfect several forehand techniques and know when to use them.
Here are some guidelines for three of the main forehand finishes (with some video). Familiarize yourself with each and watch how quickly you'll have the tactical advantage on court.
1. Classic Follow-Through
This is the forehand your local pro probably tells you about every week.
This is where you finish with your racquet over the shoulder on the non-dominant side of your body (left shoulder for right handers).
How it's done: Stand in the middle of the court on the baseline and have a partner feed balls straight to your forehand at a comfortable height (between knee and waist high).
Hit the ball using one continuous swing with the path of the racquet going straight up so that you finish with the knuckles of your racquet hand facing inwards next to and level with your face.
2. Windshield Wiper
This is the modern version of the forehand and the one you see many of the pros using on a regular basis.
How it's done: Stand in the middle of the court on the service line and have a partner feed balls straight to your forehand at a comfortable height (between knee and waist high).
Use a semi-open stance (right foot furthest right and behind the line of the left foot, if you were watching from the side). Hit the ball over the net and into the service boxes on the other side of the net using one continuous swing.
Make sure the path of the racquet is going up and across your body so that you finish with the racquet level with the elbow of your non-dominant arm. The knuckles of your racquet hand should be facing inwards and level with your chest.
The difference here is that the racquet finishes about elbow height (again on the non-dominant side of your body).
3. Buggy Whip
This is seen as the ultra-modern forehand finish that players like Nadal and Sharapova are famous for.
In this version, the racquet finishes over the shoulder on the dominant side of the body (right shoulder for right handers).
How it's done: Stand in the middle of the court halfway between the service line and the baseline. Have a partner feed balls to your forehand side, but this time a bit deeper so that the ball bounces almost level with where you are standing.
Hit the ball over the net using one continuous swing with the path of the racquet going up the same (dominant) side of your body so that you finish with the knuckles of your racquet hand facing outwards and level with your face.
You can also practice these shots without a racquet using a shadow swing, which is always great for improving your "muscle memory." If you don't have a partner, you can drop the ball for yourself to get a feel for the shots.
By mastering these three versions of the forehand in these set ups you will find yourself quickly being able to adapt to using them in a multitude of situations -- and you'll begin to get a feel for the ones you like to use more often.
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