Wawrinka marks the return of the one-handed backhand

Wawrinka marks the return of the one-handed backhand

Watching Stanislas Wawrinka’s stunning performance at this year’s Australian Open has been one of the highlights of 2014 so far. If his victory in the final was arguably spoilt by the injury of Rafael Nadal, nobody could deny his brilliant win against four-time victor Novak Djokovic.

He has been a player in great form. Having seen Wawrinka play Nadal at the O2 finals in London at the end of last season, it was clear that he was a player brimming with self confidence. Nadal managed to beat him 7-6 7-6 on the day, but the Swiss clearly had the shots to really trouble the world number one. Just a couple of months on and Wawrinka has turned those missed chances into defining moments.

Stanislas Wawrinka backhand
Stan Wawrinka hitting his favourite shot at the O2 finals. Source: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

It goes without saying that to win the Australian Open you cannot rely on one shot alone; the winning mentality and belief in your overall game is essential. However, Wawrinka’s one-handed backhand was one of the outstanding shots of the tournament.

In recent times, this style of backhand has become unfashionable, with Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray showing the great power and angles that the two-handed backhand can provide.

The unpredictable Richard Gasquet and the great Roger Federer are two of the few remaining players to use the shot, and it has been questioned as to whether it will be eradicated all-together. Nowadays, it is the two-handed backhand that is taught by tennis coaches across the globe.

Stefan Edberg
Stefan Edberg had one of the best backhand shots in tennis. Source: AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy

But, the new world number three has shown the way to bring the most elegant shot in the game back into the spotlight.

The difference with Wawrinka’s backhand is that it fits perfectly into the attacking shotmaking that makes his overall game so dangerous. A strong serve, lethal forehand and ability to take the ball on early allow the Swiss shotmaker to hit winners with his most potent weapon.

Looking at his backhand alone, he has wonderful control over his technique, in a similar vein to Stefan Edberg. Yet, with Wawrinka he can impose this shot against the power of the very best. He can withstand the powerful groundstrokes of Djokovic and Nadal and produce backhands of sheer quality either cross-court or down the line.

The new Australian Open champion showed in Melbourne that he can play the backhand at the right time, producing the perfect shot at the end of some brutal rallies. So, maybe Wawrinka will inspire a new generation of players to play the one-handed backhand. Either way, watching him win his first Grand Slam, with a great attacking flair, has been truly spectacular to witness.

Stanislas Wawrinka wins the Australian Open 2014
Stanislas Wawrinka with the Australian Open 2014 trophy. Source: http://sports.ndtv.com


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  1. Dan Martin

    February 5, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Reblogged this on Tennis Abides.

  2. Sandra

    February 5, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    I absolutely love watching him play and like you I have appreciated his one handed backhand. However, I don’t think it is the shot for young players to emulate. I see so many juniors attempt the one handed backhand and to be honest the strength and maturity it takes to master the shot is elusive to most young players. My son was taught a two handed backhand and when he hit puberty his coach taught him the one handed backhand. Once he became proficient at the one handed his coach put him back to the two handed. Why I asked. He answer was short and sweet. Each technique has it’s strengths and weaknesses. He can get more power from his two handed but his reach is limited. So why not have a one handed back hand to pull out when you get stretched off the court.
    Wawrinka certainly showed us how effective the one handed back hand can be.

    • Joanna Kamenou

      February 5, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      Thanks for your comment, it’s great to hear the approach that your son’s tennis coach took. The coaches who I’ve met have only taught the two handed shot. I think it’s a good thing that he was taught both techniques.

      For me, Wawrinka’s backhand is special from most of the others because of the power that he can generate from it especially when playing against players with a powerful forehand.

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