I wrote a post recently on the difference between the hammer and pistol grips in the one-handed backhand. See that post for details on the two types of grips, a comparison between the two, and arguments for why I think (and virtually all professional players agree) the hammer is the one to use.
I’m adding a second part to that post because I recently discovered a bit more about the grips. The two additional points I want to make are:
- Oscar Wegner suggests a simple test to show that the hammer grip is more supportive in the one-handed backhand.
- Video analysis on my one-handed backhand with the pistol grip shows some racquet instability at contact.
MTM Coach Oscar Wegner believes the hammer grip is more supportive
When researching the grips for my last post, I learned that John Yandell advocated a hammer grip (without actually saying this) but found that the few other coaches who actually discussed the grip in any detail pushed the pistol grip.
Recently I came across this article by Oscar Wegner, who is the founder of the Modern Tennis Methodology. In it, Oscar explains the grip change from forehand to one-handed backhand and makes the following points:
This change occurs primarily in the bottom portion of the hand, closest to the little finger, while the fingers go from a spread-out position on the forehand grip to a close together position for the flat backhand grip. Not as much grip rotation occurs between your index finger and thumb. But the palm of the hand has come on top of the top portion of the racket grip to achieve a more perpendicular position of the arm to the racket. This gives you much better support while hitting topspin, too.
So Oscar is saying that you go from a pistol grip (fingers spread out) in the forehand to a hammer grip (fingers close together) in the one-handed backhand, with the index finger still staying spread out from the rest of the fingers.
In my last post on the hammer vs. the pistol grip, I said that one of the major reasons that I was changing from a pistol grip to the hammer grip was that I’d read in various forums around the web that the wrist is less stable in the pistol grip. On the backhand side, the fingers are on top of the handle so the weight of the handle is only supported by the thumb. This means you need a strong grip to keep the racquet stable, and the hammer grip is stronger. On the forehand side, the fingers are underneath the handle so the racquet is more supported and you can afford to use the weaker pistol grip.
I’m going to change the wording in this post to “racquet stability” rather than “wrist stability.” I think that it’s really the racquet that becomes unstable when it’s not well supported so this is just a little more clear.
Oscar also suggests a way you can test the strength or supportiveness of the two grips on the backhand side to see for yourself which feels stronger. The following image illustrates how to do it:
When I did this test, what I found was that when I held the racquet in the pistol grip and pushed, I found that at some point my racquet would actually start moving into the hammer grip! I couldn’t maintain the pistol grip past a certain amount of force. The hammer grip felt much more stable.
It was interesting to see another prominent coach write that the one-handed backhand grip should be a hammer (with the index spread out). And Oscar’s stability test really helped me feel the stability of the hammer grip compared to the pistol grip.
Two: Racquet Stability Problem in My Backhand – Video Analysis
I’m in the process of looking at some videos I took this fall of my one-handed backhand (when I was still using a pistol grip), and I think there might be some evidence of racquet instability instability associated with the pistol grip.
I’ve noticed that, in a lot of shots, my racquet face seems to open up at contact. I approach the ball with my racquet perpendicular to the court (or maybe even a bit closed, but then at (or after?) contact it opens up towards the sky. My intention is to keep it perpendicular or closed, and I do close it again during my follow through – it just momentarily opens up at contact with the ball.
This sequence shows what I’m talking about:
This doesn’t happen on every shot, but it happens enough that it caught my attention.
I’m wondering if the racquet opens up like this when I contact the ball in the top half of the strings – the force of the ball causes the racquet face to briefly open up. If this is the case then I think this could be an indication that my racquet isn’t stable enough. Here’s another picture from a different shot. The “blur” seems to show what happens at and right after contact.
Regardless of whether or not the force of the ball is pushing the racquet into an open position or something else is happening, it’s clear from the videos that I’m having trouble maintaining a consistent racquet face angle. I think that the stronger hammer grip could help resolve this.
Consequences of Racquet Instability
I think it’s safe to say that not having control over the behaviour of the racquet throughout the swing, and at contact in particular, is going to decrease consistency. For me, I find that I struggle with getting enough topspin on my one-handed backhand and when I miss, I typically miss high and long. The racquet face opening up at contact could definitely be contributing to my lack of topspin and a tendency to hit high and long.
This post built upon a previous one about the two one-handed backhand grip formations – the hammer and the pistol – and why I think we should be using hammer grips.
Oscar Wegner is a prominent coach who advocates the hammer grip and his stability test can be used to really feel the stability of the hammer grip.
I was using a pistol grip up until recently, and videos of me hitting backhands with that grip show that I have some racquet instability in a good proportion of my shots. This could potentially be due to the pistol grip, and I’m interested to see if changing to a hammer grip will help.
Next up I’ll be doing frame-by-frame analysis of my one-hander compared to Stan Wawrinka’s. Why not learn from the best, right? 🙂
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Anyone use the pistol grip on their one-handers with success?