Tennis strokes | Playing and improving the double-handed backhand

The twohanded (or double handed) backhand is one of the hardest shots in tennis to nail. Thankfully, if you take the time to hone your technique, you’ll be sending balls back with increased power and accuracy in no time. Explore the basics, along with some nifty tips and tricks, below.

What is the two-handed backhand?

The two-handed backhand is a weakside shot that requires both hands on the racket. Two hands are optimal because the extra stability allows you to control balls that are above optimal height. This is possible with a single-hand variation, however returning powerful shots and serves can be problematic.

Most professional tennis players favour a two-handed backhand because the second hand generates additional power, making it harder for your opponent to return your shot.

What does a good two-handed backhand look like?

Sometimes, a visual representation is best. Take a look at ATP tour professional Paul Jubb’s doublehanded backhand below for a detailed step-by-step breakdown of how to improve the way you play the shot:

How do I perform a two-handed backhand?

The instructions below are for a right-handed player. If you are left-handed, simply inverse any instruction that mentions body side or hand placement.

  1. Grip the racket with your dominant hand at the base. The second hand grips the racket above, near the top of the grip wrap. Your second hand is there to provide stability and maximise power once you’ve got the technique down
  2. Move towards the ball as it arrives and adopt a side-on (closed) stance. Twist your body and bring the racket back around your body, keeping both hands firmly in place. Your racket should be pointing towards the back fence before addressing the ball
  3. As you address the ball, use the torque from this twist to drive through the ball. Your arms should feel relaxed, with the energy and power all coming from your body. Transfer your weight from your back foot to your front foot as you swing.

Top tips for a great two-handed backhand

  • Envision swinging from “low to high” when delivering the racket to the ball
  • Anticipation is key. As soon as you recognise a backhand is required, turn your upper body sideways to the net in preparation
  • Power comes from the body. Avoid applying power with your arms
  • Aim to make contact in front of your body.

Where can I use this backhand variation?

As a right-hander, you’ll spend a lot of your time involved in backhand exchanges with your right-handed opponent. When you’re rallying on your weak side, the twohanded backhand is your go to shot. Adjusting your torso and shoulders to power through the ball allows you to send it back with maximum velocity.

Broaden your repertoire

Tennis is a simple game with a lot of variation. Take a look below for more expert guides on how to play different tennis shots:

Why is a two-handed backhand better than one?

As we’ve mentioned, most professional players today use a two-handed backhand. This wasn’t always the case. In fact, the single-handed version of the shot was the dominant variation until the 1970s.

It’s not that the doublehand is necessarily better, it’s that the single-hand shot has faded out of the modern game over time. The single-handed variation has declined in popularity because it requires an additional element; stability and coordination in the hand. The two-handed backhand does everything just as well, without the need for a concrete grip, as the second hand provides additional stability.

This led to children being taught the two-handed backhand at grassroots level and a subsequently dwindling representation for the single-handed variation in the professional game.

Are there any downsides to using two hands?

With the two-handed backhand, you don’t have as much reach as you do with a single hand. It’s also a reduced fatigue shot, as you’re not engaging two sets of forearm muscles in the shot. It’s important to remember that if you’re playing for fun, your choice should come down to personal preference and what’s comfortable for you.

There are several famous names known for their single-hand variation of the backhand, including Roger Federer, Steffi Graf, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Grigor Dimitrov.

Last updated Wednesday 11 October 2023

First published on Tuesday 10 October 2023