Which is Better? The Two-Handed Backhand vs One-Handed Backhand

Today we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the one-handed and two-handed backhands. This video is for players with a PlayYourCourt rating is for all skill levels.

Hey guys, Scott and Nate from PlayYourCourt.com. Today we’re going to discuss which is better: the two-handed backhand or the one-handed backhand.

All right guys, in this corner we have the two-handed backhand regarded as one of the fiercest weapons on the court. But we saw Andre, we see Novak dominating this stroke. It’s a legit weapon. And in the other corner, we have the aesthetically pleasing–

It’s basically just Roger Federer.

Silky smooth.

Let’s be honest, it’s Roger Federer.

Eh, Gasquet, Wawrinka.

Roger Federer,

There were others.

is really the argument.

Hit it, right?

All right, so guys we’re going to compare these two strokes, the one-handed backhand and the two-handed backhand. ‘Cause a lot of you out there are debating like what you’re going to do. And–

And you should all know how much better the two-handed backhand is.

He’s a big, big advocate of the two-handed backhand, but I’ll tell you a story, okay, and this’ll be quick. Don’t turn off the video. I’ve messed with this recently and I’ll tell you why. So being on the court as a teaching pro, one of the things that is a prerequisite is that you are holding multiple tennis balls in your non-dominate hand. And the reason being is if I’m hitting in and a student makes a mistake, I want to quickly jump back into the situation and feed another ball, right?

And pockets just won’t do.

Yeah, I mean it’s awkward, you’re reaching in. If you’re out there teaching, you’re reaching into your pockets, you’re not playing with a high level player, that’s awkward, all right. So because of this, I started to develop what felt like a pretty solid one-hander. I won’t say good, it felt solid. But what I found is that I was able to swing a little freer. The footwork, different. I won’t say better, but different

Hitting Two -Handed

Yeah, when I hit it well, ah man, it was like hitting a good golf ball just just off, right? But I grew up with a two-hander, all right. And so I had to like really weigh the options. I spent 8 hours a day hitting a one-hander, maybe 2 hours a day hitting a two-hander. If I’ve got a collegiate level kid or I’m out hitting with Scott or a buddy or whatever, the one-hander is getting a lot more use.

All right, so let’s dive into it Scott. Let’s kind of see what the tail end of tape is. Right, like the high ball, this is where you’re going to really see the two-hander I think performed.

But let’s debate it here. Let’s talk a little bit about it.

It’s going to be a quick debate.

All right what do you have? What’s with the two-hander?

I’ve never met an individual with a one-hander, other than maybe Roger Federer that’s comfortable up here.

Creating Leverage

Okay, yeah, I’ll agree with that. So the two-hander, when we’re getting this high ball we’re obviously creating more leverage cause we got the second hand, right? And this is going to be a lot more about coiling. On the two-handed backhand, you coil and uncoil much more than you do on the one-handed backhand. And let’s just face it, two hands are going to be stronger than one. And this is the reason that not just a check mark goes in the two-handed box for the high ball, but a big check mark cause this is a huge difference. This what we saw Roger really have to adjust to because of Rafa’s high kicking ball, all right. Now going back to what we said about only Roger. Like I tell you what the game changer is though, is that Wawrinka’s grip, where he’s a little further behind the grip, man you want to talk about lacing the ball. It used to be that you could get more power off the two-handed backhand, especially off the high ball, but–

Well, it’s cause on the two-hander your left hand, or for me as a right-handed player, the left hand or your top hand, should be doing all that work. So this is more natural, than this, right?

Without that Wawrinka grip adjustment, it’s just going to feel funky up here with a one-hander. And that’s why the two-hander, historically and in most cases has been so much stronger up top.

You got it. Yup, and so like obviously Wawrinka, that grip is very, very advanced. But there are ways. I mean, Gasquet’s got massive top spin. But man the one-hander is just sexy. It is. It’s, look everybody wants a one-hander.

But I’m going to go with you, put the check in the two-hander for high balls.

Stroke Versatility

All right guys, in the next round we are talking about the versatility between the two strokes all right. And what we’re really talking about is–

I’m afraid the one-hander might take this one.

I agree with you. This, the versatility, what we’re discussing, is the ability to transition forward, all right. And, also to incorporate the slice. Both really important whether it’s offense or defense. And I’ll tell you

We know the slice wins right away, right? ‘Cause if you’ve got a one-hander, your hands up here on the throat, so all you’re really going to do is this quick change, hit the slice back in right?

Yeah, so and that’s where we need to focus here, is the ready position. The ready position on the two-handed backhand makes the transition a whole lot more difficult and less versatile. So on a one-handed backhand the hands up here on the throat, on the throat of the racket. So really quick grip change, all right. It’s almost automatic as soon as you want to

Yup and then moving forward it’s really easy to kind of disguise it too, if you want to work over from the topspin over to the slice. The two-hander, a little bit more complex, because you’re starting with your hands lower, whether, you know, the ATP guys are more here. Recreational athletes are more here. You just got a lot more to move up. And then you’re having to struggle between options.

Keep your hands together

Everybody I coach that’s below maybe the equivalent of a Division I top college tennis player, make sure if you have a two-handed backhand your hands are together. I see a lot of us try to copy players we see on tour, with that hand up here. And then there’s just not enough time, or timing isn’t strong enough to slide down, get the racket back, find the timing. If you’re having a hard time with your backhand and you’re copying this move on your two-hander, that’s probably the issue.

So, really unless you’re playing at a very high level, please on your two-handed backhand keep your hand together in your ready position. Sorry, carry on.

So if you’re wrestling with the one-hander and two-hander, and slice is a big part of your game, might lean towards the one-hander here. Moving to the net, if you’re a net rusher, might lean towards the one-hander.

This just explains everything. My slice backhands awful, my backhand volleys awful. But I have a fantastic two-handed ground stroke, backhand ground stroke.

Two-Handed Backhand and Return of Serve

You’re going to get a lot like on the kick serve, you’re going to get a lot of high backhands. It takes way less time to quickly turn with the two-hander.

I’d say the return of serve is maybe the biggest component that’s edging the two-hander out over the one-hander. For me personally, I told you earlier, like considered making the change. I enjoy hitting the one-hander. But man the return of serve made me change my mind really quick. My better return is actually my two-handed backhand. It’s compact, right? Just working through the hips and shoulders.

Yeah, you switch to that one-hander and all of a sudden you’re chipping everything right?

This is not exclusive to Nate. I mean I see this all different types of players. Teaching pros even that are getting in the habit like Nate was of hitting one-handers, all of a sudden when they’re waiting to return serve, because it’s so easy to switch to that slice, they’re defaulting to that slice when they should be just ripping through it. So, I love the two-handed backhand on the return of serve cause I think it actually tees you up to attack when you should.

Singles vs Doubles

And let’s talk about it’s the difference between singles and doubles too. In singles, you can absolutely get away with chipping.

Yeah and it’s like you can do so in doubles a little bit. But it’s, if you’re trying to chip cross court, you’ve got somebody poaching over and over. And so you’ve got to really have the ability to chip lob and then work the cross court. Maybe little short angles. It’s just tougher to do. You’re looking into, you’re creating a whole new aspect to the game, because you’re not coming over the ball. Whereas the two-hander, it’s almost as good if not as good as the one-hander, where you’re able to rip cross court and isolate the person in the backcourt. You’re not worried about poaching so much in doubles. And in singles we have, you know, the return plus one, where you can isolate the offensive. And here the two-hander gets the check.

Oh yeah absolutely a check mark for the two-hander here. So two-handers up two to one, my man.

It may seem like it’s more complicated, but it’s actually not. You’ve got to get your entire body behind the ball on the two-hander in order to coil. ‘Cause remember when we talk about the two-hander, is that you have to have the ability to get the shoulders and the hips working together. So if the foot work, if you’re not behind the ball, this becomes really difficult. But you had mentioned the two, I’m sorry, the open stance backhand. That’s what makes it debatable.

It’s tough. I really only know a few people in the world that have a two-handed open stance backhand. I feel good about one of thems name is Serena Williams. So it’s a hard shot to hit. It’s a really hard shot to time with your footwork and hit a ball that you’re confident in. And maybe you can pull it off, but it’s typically not going to be as strong as if you stepped in.

Switch Stance

You taking the extra step. Getting behind the ball, trying to square those hips and shoulders up.

And for you really advanced guys, yes our collegiate students are working with switch stance. This is essentially where from when they’re hitting, they’re working around and getting their feet around. That’s super high level too. That is an equalizer on the movement on the two-hander. But this videos for a wide spectrum, this isn’t for the higher and 5.0 plus where we’re talking about collegiate level players, etc. This is, you know, a little wider range.


Yeah, so here’s the idea guys is with the two-hander you can afford to be a little bit late, all right. Even maybe a little bit early. Because of the two hands you have more plow, you’ve got more stability and balance working through that ball. And it’s a little bit like the forehand. We get enough velocity through the forehand, we can be a little bit late and still pull that ball off with the rest of the mechanics being proper.

Think about the logistics of this too. If you have a two-handed backhand your top hand should be doing all the swinging. It effectively functions, is a, for me I’m right-handed, a left-handed forehand–


With my bottom hand on there for stability. So we’re basically recreating all the benefits that we get of timing on the forehand side with the two-hander.

The one-hander, the contact has to be better, because the lack of stability. With that being said though that’s part of the attraction to it. Like people that are hitting like really solid one-handers, the contact, it forces you to keep that ball out in front, right? Really, really hitting with a solid swing with a fluid contact to hit the ball correctly. ‘Cause if it’s–

It’s also one of the main reasons us as coaches don’t let you mess with a one-hander until you’re playing at a high skill and have mastered the two-hander first, right? We don’t coach a lot of beginners to start with one-handers for that exact reason. The contact is just–

Adults that are starting a little bit later in life typically we introduce the two-hander. The one-hander is too, usually brought in if they just have a knack for it. If the big fellas like Scotty here that just can’t necessarily get around on the ball. You still have a two-handed–

Two-hander wins again right?

No, we discussed this. And so really I don’t think it’s fair to give either one a winner. Ordinarily we would’ve said the two-hander. But you’ve got to–

I think it’s fair to give the two-hander the win, but–

The one-hander now has gotten so big. I mean you’re looking at absolutely screaming winners. Winners up in the 90 mile range for Federer and these guys. And important to note, the second most recorded RPMs on the tour right now in the ATP is a one-handed backhand. So number one–

Bulk of Power

I would say the bulk of power, the bulk of players are finding more power in the two-hander. But we’re going to leave that one be, all right? So yes if Scott and I, we’re in agreement believe it or not. Two-handers, I think, is the preferred stroke, just primarily off that return of serve and handling the high ball. But if you have a one-hander awesome. I wish I had started with a one-hander, cause they’re so cool looking.

They are cool looking. And guys again this is just a pros/cons list. We’re not saying if you have a great one-hander switch to a two-hander. We’re just pointing things out, where if you’re undecided between the two, in our personal opinions, we would probably lean towards a two-hander, for the reasons discussed. As always guys we just want to help you improve your game. Obviously if you’re a brand new tennis player you’re not weighing the benefits of one-hander versus two-hander. You need much different instruction. And if you’re a high level player, you’re not wavering either. So do us a favor, click the button in the link below, answer some questions for Nate and I about your specific skill level. Jump inside the community, we’ll send you custom video coaching every week based on the things you’ve got going on with your specific game. And we’ll even pair you with local players at your same skill level for practice and for matches. Just click the button or the link below and we’ll do the rest.

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