Tennis strokes | How to improve your forehand

The forehand is a staple shot in any tennis players repertoire. The ability to deliver a strong and accurately positioned ball on your dominant side is the building block for the rest of your game.

What is the forehand?

The forehand is a dominant side shot that makes up a high percentage of the shots you’ll see used in any given match. This makes it an important technique to drill. Unlike the double-handed backhand, the forehand feels comfortable for most beginners because it’s a natural movement on the dominant side of your body.

What does a good forehand shot look like?

We’ve worked with ATP tour professional Paul Jubb to give you a step-by-step breakdown of how you can improve your forehand:

How do I perform a forehand?

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. Before selecting your shot, try and anticipate what your opponent is going to send you. This allows you to correctly position yourself before the ball arrives on your side of the court
  2. When setting up for a forehand return, move towards the ball and adopt a “closed stance”. This means you’re stood side on with your weak foot in front and your dominant foot behind approximately a shoulder width apart
  3. Next, set yourself and turn your hips and shoulders back and to the right. This creates a coil that generates power from the hips which moves up and into the shoulders
  4. Swing your racket from low to high when addressing the ball. You should connect with the ball at approximately waist height
  5. The forehand swing should end with your racket up and over your opposite shoulder. You can gauge the amount of power you can put on your forehand by where your racket comfortably ends up at the end of your swing.

Top tips for a great forehand

  • Anticipation: always try to anticipate your opponent’s shot selection. It’s no good setting yourself for a forehand if they’re sending you a backhand slice to your weak side
  • Coil yourself: the coil technique is where power is generated. Bring your racket back in a “C” shape and address the ball in a “low to high” movement
  • Follow through: the shot doesn’t end when you address and strike the ball. A good follow through where your racket ends up over your opposite shoulder is a good indicator that you’re playing the shot correctly.

Why is the forehand so important?

As a beginner, you’ll spend a lot of your time playing the forehand. This is because beginners lack the ability to adjust tempo and switch the position of the ball accurately, making forehand to forehand rallies commonplace.

Is the forehand a good beginner shot?

If you’re learning to play tennis at a club, the forehand is probably the first shot you’ll learn. It’s a comfortable, dominant side shot that feels natural to a beginner and that has a tonne of variation for intermediate and advanced players.

Are there variations on the forehand?

Traditionally, there are six different variations on the forehand. For beginners, it’s best to focus on your technique until you’re comfortable with the fundamentals of the shot.

Once you’ve nailed these, you can start working on adding power and spin. Take a look below to explore some of the variations on the forehand for intermediate and advanced players.

  • Flat shot
  • Topspin
  • Slice
  • Inside out
  • Moon ball
  • Swing volley

Make the forehand your own

If you watch professional tennis, you’ll soon notice that every player has their own unique play on the shot. It’s these unique distinctions that make the sport great to watch and play.

Whilst the fundamentals never change, the best players make the shot their own. Find out what your strengths are and use the unique shape of your body to your advantage to make the shot your own.

Last updated Tuesday 10 October 2023

First published on Tuesday 10 October 2023