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By TennisTom 2011

▌ © C. Tom Harton 1991-2011 ▐

Forenote: Right handedness and a closed stance groundstroke, which means that your body rotates to approximately 90 degrees to the net before you swing and make ball contact.

The subject of this instructional – wrist control – is another important element which gives beginners, early learners, and others significant problems. The wrist, which is a physiological miracle in itself, provides us with awesome variability of motion; however, in terms of tennis consistency, it presents us with two basic types of movement which cause us problems:

  • Oscillation of your wrist clockwise or counterclockwise – which, during your swing, causes the ball to go upward when you tilt your wrist and racket face upward (“opening your racket”), or downward when you tilt your wrist and racket face downward (“closing your racket”).

  • Forward or backward wrist flex – which, during your swing, causes the ball to go to your right when your wrist is flexed too far backwards, or to your left when your wrist is flexed too far forward.

Note: We will leave wrist flex to pro and higher level players who have exceptional timing and hit hundreds and thousands of balls on a daily basis.

On a groundstroke when taking your racket back (called backswing or takeback) and you reach the backmost point of your racket swing, your wrist should be bent back and momentarily LOCKED, so when your bring your racket forward your wrist does not change (flex or roll). Normally on a looped forehand groundstroke, you do not actually stop your arm at the backmost point of your backswing. However, when you are learning the fundamentals of the forehand topspin stroke, or if you are trying to restructure your swing, it is instructional to start your racket there in order to get the habit of having your wrist correctly laid back.

The specific angle of wrist bend varies between shots because the closer to your body the racket face is at contact the further you will have to bend your wrist. Also the angle will vary between one player and another because it depends on how close or far away in front of your body that you contact the ball. The main thing to remember is that you do not flex your wrist as you hit the ball. This is essential with a closed stance forehand stroke.

Take a look at the included photo below of Vic Braden, a popular world wide instructor, from his book Quick Fixes. Notice that he has his racket arm wrist bent backward at about 45 degrees and will remain bent back until considerably after the ball is hit.

Other significant things to notice in the photo below are that the ball is being contacted waist high (in his optimal hitting zone), the racket face is straight up and down (perpendicular to the court), and he is leaning into the ball, which means that he is transferring his body weight into the shot.

Here is the photo of Vic Braden hitting a topspin forehand stroke with good form…

Vic Braden

You want all of your arm swing movements to be as simple as possible.

Of course this includes wrist movement.

Review of Flex and/or Rotating Wrist Movements, Which Typically Result in Forehand Inconsistency.

If you flex your wrist to the left or to the right as you swing forward, the face of your racket is going to deviate and the ball will go either further to the left or to the right than you intended. Likewise, if you rotate (oscillate) your wrist upward or downward as you swing forward, the racket face, when it tilts, is going to make the ball go higher or lower than you want.

Racket Face Alignment for Topspin.

When you hit a topspin groundstroke correctly your racket face is straight up and down at contact (perpendicular to the court surface) or slightly downward on higher balls at contact. The low-to-high swing path of your racket causes the racket face to brush up the back side of the ball, resulting in topspin. (Note: it may be necessary to tilt the face very slightly upward on super low balls in order to clear the net.)

The Rolling Racket Face.

Some players incorrectly develop a racket swing and followthrough that incorporates a rolling of the racket face over towards the ground so that the racket face, which starts at a 90-degree angle to the court surface, ends up more or less parallel to the court surface. If your roll your wrist at (or right after) contact with the ball, the racket face will sometimes roll over slightly too quickly or slightly too late, and the flight of the ball will be lower or higher than you wanted. The remedy for this is to completely eliminate the roll (oscillation) of your wrist. Tip: On your followthrough, one way to keep yourself from rolling your wrist over at or right after contact is to catch the racket in your non-racket hand at the end of your swing, but any method you can use to stop rolling your wrist is fine. Correcting this idiosyncrasy will increase your forehand consistency.

So, relative to the above concern, an important way to develop or improve your consistency is to be aware of your wrist just before, during, and after you swing your racket forward, and NOT flexing or oscillating your wrist. One way to aid yourself in keeping your wrist firm is to repeat the words in your mind, “Wrist of steel.” Whatever method you use, be conscious of your wrist and keep it stiff as your swing forward and contact the ball.

Many players are oblivious to what their wrist is doing when they strike the ball. If you are one of those, you can now never say that “nobody ever told me.” :--))


Addendum: As noted parenthetically above, and contrary to the instruction in this writing, many professional players do flex their wrist in order to get extra power, but then they have exquisite timing and hit several thousand balls every month.

[6D-Wrist Control Relating to Forehand Consistency] [Rev 6-4-11]

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