The non-dominant hand is crucial in all tennis strokes. As in almost all sports, engaging the entire body and hitting on balance is the key to both more power and control. We take the non- dominant hand for granted. We think that it’s no big deal. When asked to utilize that hand we often feel awkward. Watch a quarterback pass the football. Watch a surfer balance while riding a wave.
Let’s Consider the Non-Dominant Hand for the Forehand Stroke
Beginning with the racket preparation, the left hand (for a right handed player) initiates the rotation by setting the racket up in the beginning of the unit turn. This action begins with the left hand at the throat of the racket and releases the racket when the racket sets across from the shoulders. The player now has effectively turned both shoulders. The non-dominant hand now helps to judge the distance from the ball in order to create proper spacing. The left hand stays up above the player’s waist as the swing progresses.
As a way to practice this motion start in the ready position at the service line and have a friend hand toss a ball to your forehand side. With your left hand in front turn, load on back foot and catch the ball in your left hand. Repeat this a number of times until you feel comfortable. Using both hands to set up the forehand is called a unit turn and is essential for better balance.
Once the swing is in progress, the left hand extends and remains above your waist, ready to rotate and clear as the racket comes forward. By having your left hand extended to the side (not out in front–like the Supremes singing Stop in the Name of Love), you will be able to stay away from the forehand with proper spacing allowing you to gain more power. At the end of the stroke the non-racket hand will be near your left shoulder as the racket arrives. Now you are ready to get your racket quickly to the ready position and prepare for the next ball. Watch Djokovic, who is a master at this movement.
Photo Credit: Carine06 from UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Another way to practice this is to hold two rackets, one in both hands. Starting in the ready position swing both rackets simultaneously and see what happens to the left hand.
And still another drill to practice the non-dominant hand unit turn. Hold the racket at the throat in the left and and initiate the movement of setting the racket up, turning the shoulders with using only the left hand. In the beginning it will feel very strange. Push the racket up and feel the stretch in the left shoulder. Your chin should be over the front shoulder. Now add the right hand on the racket and repeat the initial coil but add the sideways extension of the left arm.
Early preparation is one of the keys to a solid forehand. Many players make mistakes on this wing because of late preparation. Practice the unit turn without the ball before you bring it to the court. Feel the ease of engaging your shoulders and hips which will soon be a world class forehand.
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