Tennis Forehand Technique and Drills

In this lesson, we’ll be covering the forehand groundstroke. Here is what you will learn.

  • First I’ll teach you the proper grip and technique for this important shot, including how to hit a topspin forehand.
  • Next, I’ll uncover the most common mistakes most player make when they miss their forehand. If you sometimes struggle to make your forehand this is probably why.
  • Then you’ll learn drills that you can do to improve your forehand and turn it into a weapon on the court.

The Forehand Grip

Without the correct grip on your forehand, you will not have a good forehand. There are several options for your forehand grip. Roger Federer uses what is called an eastern grip while Nadal uses a full western grip. This comes down to personal preference but most recreational players who have good forehands use an eastern to semi-western grip.

Types of forehand tennis grips

Most players use an eastern or semi-western grip. Place your palm on the part of the grip shown above for each grip type.

Look at the diagram above and then grip your racket to see which grip you prefer. Typically a more western grip will result in more topspin while an eastern grip will have more power and be a little flatter ball.

I do not recommend a continental grip or a full western for recreational tennis players. The continental grip doesn’t allow for a lot of topspin on your forehand, so you will struggle to make them consistently. A full western grip does allow for topspin but it does not usually have much power, and it is difficult to time the shot. To master a full western grip like Nadal, you need to practice for hours a day which most players don’t have time for.

Proper Forehand Swing for Beginners

To hit your forehand, like everything else in tennis, it will start with your footwork and positioning. You’ll want to make sure your feet are pointed towards the right, and your feet should be between a 45 and 90-degree angle from the net.

David Ferrer hits a forehand

David Ferrer’s feet are pointed to the right, and if you put a yardstick in front of his feet, it would make about a 45-degree angle from the net. Beginner players may want to bring the left foot even further forward.

If you’re too open (less than 45 degrees or parallel to the net), then you will miss to the left. If you are too closed, then you will struggle to hit the crosscourt forehand with consistency and power.

Take your racket back early and low. Some advanced players, and pros like to do a loop by bringing the racket back high before dropping it. Either way, the racket will need to be low and pointed down towards the court at about a 45-degree angle. Make sure your strings are pointed down as well.

When you start your swing, make sure to shift your weight from your back foot to your front foot. Swing the tennis racket up through the ball making sure you follow through over your shoulder. The strings should brush up the back of the ball, a little around the outside of the ball too.

When you make contact your strings must be pointed in the direction you want the ball to go.

Common Mistakes Beginners Make

If you’re missing to the left then you’re likely making one of two mistakes.

  1. Your feet are in the wrong position. You need to bring your left foot around to the front and close your stance more.
  2. The other possibility is you’re swinging too early. Wait on the ball another second before you swing.

Of course, the easiest way to fix this is to just aim further right. If what you think is straight, is actually left, then what you think is right will be straight. Over time you’ll get used to this.

If you’re missing to the right then you’re making the opposite mistakes.

  1. You need to bring your left foot around to the left more and open your stance.
  2. You are waiting too long to swing. Start your swing earlier.

Again, you can try just aiming further to the left. If what you think is straight, is actually right, then what you think is left will be straight. Over time you’ll get used to this and your brain will self-correct.

How to Hit a Topspin Forehand

Watch Novak Djokavic in slow motion, as he hits topspin forehands. The motion of the racket is up through the ball, strings are slightly down, and his racket head makes contact in front of his wrist as he whips it around the ball.

If you want more topspin on your forehand, then you have to focus on two things. The first key to this is making sure you’re hitting around the outside of the ball.

To do this, you might need to close your stance a little by bringing your left foot around and swinging earlier to make sure your strings are getting around the right side of the ball. You’ll also need to lead with your racket head instead of your wrist (see image further down the page of Roger Federer).

The second key to this is making sure the racket’s trajectory up, but still through the ball. The easiest way to fix this is by dropping your racket lower on your backswing. It will force you to swing up more.

You may need to make your grip more western that your current forehand grip (see the section on forehand grip above).

Common Mistakes from Advanced Players

  1. Being lazy, not getting in position.

The first question you need to ask yourself when you miss any shot is this.

“Was I in the right position?”

For advanced players, the reason we miss is typically because we were lazy with our feet and didn’t get in the right position for the shot. Double check your footwork first because if you’re not in the right position for the shot, then whatever you do to compensate will be inconsistent and often ineffective.

2. Not getting around the outside of the ball.

One of my doubles partners from college had an issue where his forehand would break down in tight matches. He would swing out and miss long, or try to spin it in and hit it in the net.

For most players (USTA 3.5 and better) this happens for one reason. Your racket didn’t get around the outside of the ball.

When you make contact, it’s likely that your wrist is in front of your racket head. This shouldn’t happen if you want a consistent forehand. The racket head should be swinging out through the outside of the ball so that when you make contact it is even with or in front of your wrist.

Roger federer hits a forehand

Notice how Federer’s racket head is in front of the wrist when it makes contact with the ball. This allows the ball to stay on the racket longer, creating more topspin and control.

When you hit the inside of the ball, it is difficult to get good topspin and your forehand will flare out to the right. You can hit powerful forehand winners this way, but you’ll make a lower percentage of them.

Tennis Forehand Drills and Games

The best forehand drill is to find a good hitting partner and just hit a ton of forehands. Here is a good hitting drill you can go through after a good warm up.

Consistency Drill – Crosscourt forehand game to 11

Play this game off the ground, and either player can feed. Only half of the court is in. You can include the doubles alley but play singles only to make it more difficult.

You’re playing off the ground to 11, but there’s a catch. The point does not start until you make 10 balls in a row. You can adjust this number based on experience, but this will force you to focus on consistency before trying to hit winners.

Depth Forehand Drill

Play the same game as above, but count any ball short of the service line as out. This is great practice for hitting your forehand deep in the court.

For a great footwork and cardio workout, you can make a rule where backhands count as a loss of point and include doubles alleys.