Roger Federer and the 5 Greatest One-Handed Backhands in Men's Tennis History
The one-handed backhand is not taught to most young tennis players, because it is much more difficult to pull off than the conventional two-handed backhand. The use of only one hand makes it much more difficult to keep the racquet stable, and control suffers as a result.
Having said that, there are many players who managed to perfect the stroke, and their shots are often more impressive than those who use two hands. Obviously, some players have been able to utilize the one-handed backhand better than others throughout history.
Here's a look at some of the best one-handed backhanders in the game.
5. Tommy Haas
The most impressive aspect of Tommy Haas' backhand is probably the wide variety of shots he can perform using just one hand.
Starting at about nine seconds into the above video, we see four consecutive backhands that are all completely different. He first hits a solid topspin shot, then slices the next ball. The following shot exhibits a sharp snap of the wrist that efficiently produces topspin, and on the fourth, he opens up his stance to put the ball in the corner.
Many players on the tour can hit the ball over the net using the one-handed backhand, but Haas utilizes it in so many different ways. Obviously, this is tactically advantageous for him during matches.
4. James Blake
James Blake consistently impressed his American fans with his one-handed backhand winners like those shown above. His incredible reflexes probably helped him the most on these shots.
At about 0:19 in the attached video, he returns a powerful serve for a winner down the line. It doesn't display the impeccability of his form as much, but the fact that he is able to give his opponent an unreachable backhand shot off such a strong serve is extremely impressive.
Continuing to watch the highlights above, you will see Blake pass some of the Greats (including Roger Federer) at the net and the baseline with the topspin that he creates using just one hand. His quickness and finesse on these backhands helped him to become one of the top American players during his prime.
3. Gustavo Kuerten
The power that Gustavo Kuerten was able to produce with his backhand is what puts him up there with the best one-handers in tennis.
As we see in this clip, he would crouch down to a low sitting position and bring his racket all the way back behind his head before uncoiling and fully extending his arm.
His form when pulling off these shots enabled him to send the ball over the net with such speed and force that it was nearly impossible for his opponents to reach and return the ball. Perhaps it was his one-handed backhand that earned him three French Open titles and world No. 1 ranking.
2. Richard Gasquet
Many tennis fans will argue that Frenchman Richard Gasquet is the greatest one-hander that the sport has ever seen, and there is a lot of reason to believe so. He hits winners all over the court with his backhand by using insane topspin and speed.
His consistency on these shots marks him as one of the best one-handers in tennis, and the replay at around 1:38 in the video above is a great display of this. Here, we see him hit two of the same exact shots right in a row, both to his opponent's backhand side. The second one is hit with such strength and spin that it simply isn't returnable.
If it weren't for one particular Swiss maestro, Gasquet would easily have the best one-handed backhand in tennis history.
1. Roger Federer
The ground strokes of Swiss legend Roger Federer have put him up there with the greatest players of all time, and his one-handed backhand is no exception.
Fed has always been able to leave crowds in awe with his ability to place backhands anywhere on the court and with any kind of spin that he wants, especially from the backhand side.
He makes it look easy, too. In this point against Novak Djokovic, he doesn't even need to stop to ready himself before hitting the shot; he simply runs up to it and lets loose, sending the winner over the net.
As good as his forehand is, his one-handed backhand is arguably the most impressive part of his game, and it has helped to establish him as (potentially) the GOAT.