The Tennis Curmudgeon


What Backhand?

“The backhand is the most pleasing stroke in all of tennis. I revel in the opportunity to hit each one.” – Johnathan Smythe-Hyde

“I hate backhands!” – Everyone Else

What’s happened to the backhand since Smythe-Hyde’s day? I mean, sure, your every day hacker isn’t supposed to be able to hit a backhand with any semblance of quality. It’s the stroke that keeps a good hacker down. But pros, you know, the people making all kinds of money to be experts are running around their backhands.

What’s up with that?

That’s like going to a surgeon and having him say he can only operate on your right side. Pros are supposed to have an explosive arsenal at their disposal off both wings.

So imagine my shock when I grabbed a frosty beverage to enjoy a day of tennis watching on the Tennis Channel. My beloved bride was gone for the day. She was out shopping or gambling or shopping with her gambling winnings. I didn’t care. It was a day of tennis and a full volume on the hearing aid.

But right off the bat something was askew. A pro then another and another as the day rumbled into night was running like a long distance runner all the way to the other side of the court to avoid hitting a backhand.

That is so wrong on so many levels.

This man had spent most of his life, up to this moment, perfecting the game of tennis inside his mind and body. But he forgot to put in a backhand? That’s like building the Taj but forgetting the Mahal part. I remember when I was out there grinding out tournaments we’d love to run into a player who’d run around his backhand. That was like a bye! A walkover! All we had to do was remember what the great Bill Tilden wrote in his opus, Match Play And The Spin Of The Ball, play to an opponents strength until the match gets tight. Then exploit their weakness.

With a backhand protector you had no other option. So, on the big points a slice here, a wide angle there and he was forced to attempt to hit a backhand.

That’s why I was so shocked to see this approach at the very top levels. Has the game devolved to such a state that this is being taught in the highest levels of tennis camps? Are they afraid that attempting to hit a backhand will open them up to ridicule? Let me tell you, Mr. Backhand Denier, refusing to hit half the ground strokes in your chosen profession is opening you up like a trout at breakfast time.

So, come on, upper echelon of the tennis world, if not for you then the little ones. The mites and midgets and squirts coming up with their short rackets and long shorts. Give them the full and complete game that’s been passed down through the generations.

Solid, crisp, clean ground stokes off both wings!

For the children!

‘Til next time, may your forehands land deep and your backhands full of pace,

Dennis

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