Using The Inside Out Forehand
The forehand is often referred to as the sword whereas the backhand is deemed the shield on the tennis court, and sometimes the best form of defence can be attack! One of the most effective uses of this shot is to break down your opponent’s backhand, using the inside out forehand. But, if you are not too familiar with the inside out forehand and would like to learn the ins and out of this lethal shot, look no further!
What Exactly is the Inside Out Forehand?
The term inside out refers to a forehand that is hit from the ‘backhand’ side of the court, meaning you move over to your left for a right hander or your right for your left hander and hit a forehand where you would normally hit a backhand.
The inside out refers to hitting diagonally across the court as opposed to down the line when hitting the forehand from this position on the court.
If you were to ‘run around your backhand’ and hit your forehand down the line, this would be called an inside in.
There are a number of benefits to using the inside out forehand both in terms of your own consistency, as well as your ability to put your opponent in a difficult position and gain the upper hand in the rally.
When to Hit it
It’s all very well learning new shots in tennis, and adding weapons to your arsenal is definitely a great way to improve your game. But, if you don’t have the ability to choose the right shot at the right time, you won’t be very successful on the court.
This is especially true when we talk about the inside out forehand. Whilst there are a lot of benefits to hitting this shot in general, if you choose the wrong time to hit it or do not execute the shot effectively, you can leave yourself in no man’s land!
This is because you are actually trying to run around your backhand and get your forehand into play here, which does leave a lot of court space open on your side of the net.
Whilst you’ll hopefully be getting your strength into play, if you are off balance or miss time the forehand you hit from your backhand corner, you leave the entire court open for your opponent to expose.
Therefore, you should aim to hit the inside out forehand only when you have enough time to get around the side of the ball, such that you can take a full forehand swing at the ball and not be rushed or pushed around.
Doing this will ensure you have enough space and time to hit a strong, heavy forehand that will push your opponent behind their baseline and potentially outside their side line.
What’s more, hitting a forehand cross court from your backhand corner is actually a safer play than going back down your own line, since you are hitting into a much larger court space and are hitting over the lower part of the net.
Plus, if you hit the ball inside in and your opponent is able to get to the ball in good time, they will have a forehand (assuming they are a right handed player) and an open court to hit into, not an ideal situation for you!
However, if you try to run around a ball that is either coming too quickly or is actually too far towards your backhand side, you may not have enough time to get your forehand into play.
This will leave you stuck between both shots, meaning you have given your opponent a whole lot of court to hit into but not actually gained any advantage by doing so. Simply put, you’ll be a sitting duck!
You also shouldn’t just hit an inside out forehand for the sake of it. Whilst the inside out forehand is a great weapon to deploy, if you hit it too often you can easily become predictable and your opponent will likely start cheating over to their backhand corner.
This basically negates any benefit you may gain from hitting your forehand inside out, so don’t be afraid to change it up and go inside in, simply to keep your opponent on their toes.
The idea of hitting the inside out forehand is to build the point and push your opponent out of their comfort zone, not necessarily to win the point outright then and there.
With this in mind, you should aim to play with a lot of net clearance and therefore margin for error.
Hitting a couple of inside out forehands in a row can be enough to get your opponent out of position and open up the court for you to play the inside in forehand, play a crafty drop shot or even ghost in and put away a straightforward volley.
One of the key elements to hitting the inside out forehand that some players may not even consider is actually recognising your opportunities to use the shot before they arise.
Seeing your opponent move to their backhand side and open up their racket face, or reach for the ball with one hand will tell you that they are about to hit a slice backhand.
Seeing them rush over to the ball on either wing and lunge like they are under pressure is a clear sign that they won’t be attacking the ball, instead they will be throwing up a loopier shot that you may be able to attack.
These are the sorts of opportunities you may spot that can really help you to get ahead of the game and edge over to your backhand side early to make sure you get your forehand into play with plenty of time to spare.
Another thing to bear in mind is the difference playing against a left hander will make to your usage of the inside out forehand.
It’s not to say that you shouldn’t hit the inside out forehand at all if you are a righty playing against a lefty, but you should definitely look to change things up by exposing their backhand as your primary source of attack, then open up the court and approach the net with the inside out forehand.
How to Hit the Inside Out Forehand
We have discussed the benefits of hitting the inside out forehand and how you can actually recognise the times you should and shouldn’t try to do so. So, the next step is to understand how you actually hit the inside out forehand to create the maximum impact.
The first thing to call out from a technical perspective is that you are aiming to hit around the side of the ball closest to you.
This may sound obvious, but if you are not used to hitting the ball inside out it may be a bit of a strange feeling, particularly on high balls if you are trying to create an angle.
When you play a forehand cross court, obviously you want to hit up the back of the ball to direct it towards the intended target with topspin.
But, you will also be hitting around the outside of the ball, the side furthest away from you in order to create an angle and actually send the ball towards that cross court location.
This is a pretty natural feeling shot if you are used to it, as your racket will be travelling across and wrapping around your body in order to create the desired angle.
However, when you hit the ball inside out, you’ll actually be hitting the side of the ball closest to you, as you want the ball to be moving away from you.
This is why it is so important to give yourself plenty of room between your body and the ball, as you’ll need more space to create the desired angle and get the ball moving away from your opponent.
In fact, you actually want the ball to almost be hit with an element of side spin as well as topspin, as you strike it with a bit of a windscreen wiper motion as you brush across the side of the ball.
This is a lot easier to achieve when the ball is higher, as you can swing with a flatter or almost downward trajectory, which is a lot more conducive to the flatter swing path and sidespin you need to add to your inside out forehand.
With that being said, let’s dive a little deeper into the specific differences between hitting an inside out forehand on a high ball compared with a low ball.
Higher balls tend to present better opportunities to do more with an inside out forehand than low balls.
This is because you can pick between hitting the ball flatter through the court with more power and a little side spin, getting your body far around the outside of the ball and creating an acute angle with a shorter, more spinny ball, or use your legs to drive a heavy, kicking topspin forehand that pushes your opponent far behind their baseline.
Hitting an inside out forehand on a higher ball (particularly a slower ball hit with backspin) makes it a lot easier to hit slightly down on the ball, so you can hit a lot more power and use your body a lot more in the shot production.
You can really land some hammer blows on your opponent’s weaker wing (assuming it is a right hander’s backhand) and open up the court ready for you to come in for the kill.
If the ball is deeper in the court, you’ll be best off aiming high and ripping a heavy inside out forehand cross court to keep your opponent pinned behind their baseline.
Whereas, if the high ball is shorter in the court, say inside the service line, you may be able to crush the ball with a flatter, more powerful strike.
The key is to recognise the right opportunity to hit the inside out forehand and move over to hit it early.
Lower balls can be a little more difficult to hit using the inside out forehand, but they are definitely worth mastering if you want to approach the net effectively.
If you have a heavy, penetrating inside out forehand from the back of the court, chances are you’ll have to hit a few inside out forehands from lower balls, simply because you’ll be forcing your opponent to use their slice so much!
Sure, you can simply approach the net with your own slice backhand, but this can limit the damage you can do and ultimately may give your opponent enough time to regroup and hit a decent passing shot.
In order to keep the pressure on, you’ll want to give yourself enough room to hit around the side of the ball and be sure to prepare your racket a bit lower so it is more in line with the incoming ball.
Bear in mind that the ball you are receiving will probably have a fair amount of slice on it, so may actually skid quite quickly into your body.
It is therefore worth overestimating the amount of space you’ll need to produce your inside out forehand and actually give yourself more room than you may think you’ll need.
The key thing to remember on the lower ball is that you are looking for placement rather than power here.
You need to get the ball up and down quite quickly, so adding plenty of spin to your ball to ensure it can get over the net but quickly dip down inside the court is key.
Ensuring you have a loose wrist and can whip up the back of the ball quickly will really help ensure you achieve this, but bear in mind it will be harder to hit the ball with sidespin as you’ll need to hit with more topspin to get the ball coming back down inside the baseline.
The inside out forehand is a great weapon to employ on the tennis court. There are a range of different uses for it and the shot can be hit from a range of different ball heights.
Learning how to take control of points using your forehand will add a whole new dimension to your game, so get out there and give some inside out forehands a try!
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