Roger Federer’s forehand needs no introduction.
With 20 grand slams, over 100 titles and the all time number one record, he is the greatest tennis player of all time in the eyes of many keen tennis players and his forehand has played a huge part in this!
Federer’s forehand has been a key factor in his success over the past two decades on tour.
This lethal weapon is the cornerstone of his well rounded game style, often being combined with his pinpoint accurate serve, crisp volleys and viscous backhand slice.
We will break down the ins and outs of this elegant yet fearsome shot, to help you understand just how Roger utilises his forehand so effectively!
There are many reasons why Roger Federer has one of the greatest forehands of all time, one that many tennis coaches would regard as “textbook”.
The flawless technique, wicked racket head speed and perfect balance from which he strikes it are clear to see.
However, there is more to it than meets the eye…
The mechanics of the swing itself, his grip and how Roger constructs points tactically are all key elements of what makes his forehand so great.
Federer’s Forehand Through the Years
As a junior, Roger Federer always relied heavily on his forehand to build points and win matches.
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when balls and courts tended to be quicker, many players would flatten out their groundstrokes and rush to the net.
Therefore serve and volleying along with using the forehand primarily as an attacking shot was more common than in the modern game.
Federer’s approach, technique and tactics reflect this and have evolved over his 20 year career as a professional.
Back in the early 2000s, Federer struck his forehand flatter (with less topspin) and through a straighter or flatter racket path.
This means that he hit the forehand along a flatter trajectory compared to today, resulting in a flatter shot as a result.
Whilst this suited the quicker grass and hard courts of the time, Roger still had to adapt his technique to higher bouncing balls and courts through the late 2000s and 2010s.
As Federer progressed through his career, winning many Wimbledon, US and Australian open titles on grass and hard courts respectively, he had to adapt his approach to be successful on clay courts.
This saw Federer add more topspin and net clearance to his forehand on all surfaces, but especially on clay.
Despite adding spin, he has still managed to retain his power though and can easily crush short balls and end rallies with ease with his “frozen rope” forehand.
This depicts his flat, arrow straight forehand that can turn a point on its head and leave an opponent stunned.
Federer tends to use this tactic down the line when going back behind his opponent, to wrong foot them and end the point on his terms.
Nowadays, whilst Federer still relies on his forehand to build points, he has also developed his single handed backhand into a weapon.
Roger now employs more variety when hitting the forehand, using different spins and angles as well as taking the ball early to make it easier to get into the net and finish points quickly.
Confidence Hitting the Forehand
One of the fundamental reasons that Federer has such a great forehand is simply that he has so much confidence hitting it.
Although this may seem to be a simple point, in reality it is difficult to hit the forehand so loosely so consistently.
Staying loose whilst hitting your forehand helps to increase your racket head speed, maintain sound technique and use the kinetic chain to its full effect.
The kinetic chain refers to one movement in the body creating a chain reaction in all of the other parts of the body.
If used correctly, a strong kinetic chain can see much greater power generation and less stress on the body.
For example, using a full unit turn, loading up the legs (the strongest muscles in the body) creates a lot of kinetic potential energy.
Once this is uncoiled by firing the knee, hip, abs, shoulders and finally the arm and wrist, Federer can generate maximum power by using the full momentum of his body.
This means that he can keep his arms and shoulders relatively loose (so he does not need to muscle the ball), whilst still generating maximum power by letting the stronger muscles in his body do the work.
The kinetic chain effectively acts like a revolving door, allowing the player to use their own body’s momentum to generate power rather than straining the muscles themselves.
This is a much more efficient use of the body and helps you conserve energy whilst generating as much force as possible on the ball.
Now, it’s worth noting that staying loose is more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
Keeping a cool head in pressure situations really helps with relaxing your muscles, allowing you to hit your forehand as effortlessly as Roger!
You can see an example of how relaxed he stays in practice in the video below:
What’s more, the variety with which Federer hits his forehand gives him plenty of options if he needs them during a match.
He can hit with heavy topspin, create absurd angles and flatten out the forehand (reaching speeds in excess of 100MPH!).
This means that Roger can adapt his game style to suit any opponent, surface, weather conditions or state of mind he is in.
It takes plenty of practice, but being able to hit your forehand a variety of different ways, staying relaxed and simply backing your forehand in pressure situations, are all ways you can develop confidence in your forehand like Federer.
Roger’s Forehand Technique
Many would describe Federer’s forehand technique as perfect.
This is because, although he has made changes over the years, the fundamentals have remained rock solid and stood the test of time.
One of the key strengths of Federer’s forehand is how early he is able to take the ball with it.
This lends itself to a slightly more compact swing, which makes it easier to time the oncoming ball.
Federer has adapted his backswing from a higher take back and extended elbow, to a more compact motion in which he tucks his elbow in more towards the body.
This also helps him to generate more topspin through the “roll and pull” motion over the ball, lending to more margin for error as he strikes.
Federer’s outstanding footwork and early preparation (of the body and the racket) help him to take the ball early, take time away from his opponent and produce brilliant winners from nearly impossible positions.
You can see some of these in the video below…
This video also shows how Federer has adapted his forehand over the years, whilst demonstrating just how well he reads the game and can execute unbelievable winners using his great footwork and early preparation.
Federer, like almost all pros, utilises a full unit turn to his forehand, meaning he turns his feet, hips, shoulders and racket in one movement to generate as much power as possible before striking his forehand.
This, along with strong legs and a loose upper body help him to generate massive racket head speed, which in turn creates more power, more spin and more control.
In terms of footwork, Federer tends to hit his forehand from a semi-open or open stance most of the time when at the baseline.
This helps him to take the ball early whilst maintaining a tight position to the baseline, allowing him to dictate the play whilst not giving up any real estate.
However, he will quickly close off his stance when he steps in on short balls to approach the net.
One of the stand out features of Federer’s footwork is how quickly he can pounce on short balls and rush into the net, aiding his aggressive game style.
Federer also has an exaggerated wrist lag on his forehand.
This helps him to generate extra power and is a technique that the likes of Nadal, Del-Potro and Gonzalez use to great effect too.
The video below gives a great explanation of wrist lag and how you can start using it to improve your forehand:
Finally, one of the more technical aspects of Federer’s forehand is his grip.
Roger uses the eastern forehand grip, a comparatively less extreme grip to most modern players.
Professionals like Nadal, Khachanov and Sock use the full western grip, which allows for very heavy topspin but can create difficulties dealing with low balls.
Federer’s grip is more on the traditional side, meaning that he has to be dialled in to hit heavy spin consistently.
This grip does provide Federer more flexibility in terms of shot production though, allowing him to use his excellent touch and feel to guide the ball and flick winners from defensive positions.
If you want to learn more about how to hit your forehand like Roger, check out The Tennis Bros Forehand Domination course!
Tactics and Point Construction
Federer is one of the greatest tacticians the game has ever seen.
He is seemingly always one or two steps ahead of his opponents, displaying a variety of shots that leave crowds in awe.
Along with the serve, he tends to implement a strong one-two punch (a big first serve followed by an aggressive forehand) to put his opponents on the back foot straight away.
As we have mentioned, his quick footwork and early preparation help him to take the ball early and rush his opponents, making them constantly feel rushed, helping with this tactic.
Roger likes to play out of his backhand corner.
This means he can open up the court by running around his backhand and dictate the play with his more powerful, accurate and heavy forehand.
We often see him recovering to his backhand corner after a serve, so that even if his opponent tries to find his less potent backhand, he is in position to get on top of the point using his lethal forehand.
Moreover, Roger likes to mix up plays by using a short backhand slice to draw players inside the court.
This tactic makes an opponent bend down low and hit up on the ball, often soliciting a weaker reply.
Roger then has more time to pick his spot and either attack with a big forehand or even use the element of surprise and hit a dropshot.
If you too want to take your game to the next level, take a look at The Tennis Bros course on singles tactics!
What You can Learn from the Federer Forehand
There are a few things that players like you and I can learn from the Roger Federer forehand.
One of them is simply to persevere with hitting your forehand, especially in matches.
If you are not so confident in your forehand, you may avoid hitting it altogether when in a tight match situation.
However, this will only reinforce your anxiety and not allow you to build any confidence in your forehand!
So, be sure to practice hitting a variety of forehands and try to use these in matches!
Confidence goes hand in hand with staying loose, being relaxed and using your body as effectively as possible.
This helps generate more racket head speed, allowing you to hit with more spin or more power whenever you need to.
This will certainly help you hit your forehand more cleanly (freeing your arm of tension), which will result in your forehand winning you more points.
If you are searching for a way to get the most out of your forehand like Federer, be sure to check out The Tennis Bros forehand domination course and transform your forehand today!