Stan Wawrinka has been a disruptive force in the world of men’s tennis over the last decade.
Bursting on the scene in the early 2000s, he was always a raw talent that possessed a lot of natural power.
Wawrinka has spent the majority of his career firmly in the shadow of his compatriot Roger Federer, however in 2014 he broke through and won his grand slam title at the Australian Open.
One of the main areas that Wawrinka improved to make the next step onto winning multiple grand slam titles (including the French Open in 2015 and the U.S. Open in 2016), was his mentality.
He became a lot more consistent mentally and kept up his intensity even in the toughest moments on the court.
One part of his game that has always been a stand out feature however has been his sublime one handed backhand.
He is able to generate unbelievable power, which almost looks like he is playing with two forehands at times!
His backhand is widely regarded as the best single handed backhand of all time, and it’s no wonder when you see him strike it with such amazing power, spin and precision.
He hits the ball with a great deal of conviction and clearly has great physical conditioning that allows him to strike the ball with great power even above shoulder height.
But what exactly is it that makes the Stan Wawrinka backhand so special and what can you learn from the Swiss maverick to improve your own backhand?
Well, that’s what we’re here to explore!
What Makes Wawrinka’s Backhand SO Great?
There are a few elements to the Stan Wawrinka backhand that makes it stand out as arguably the greatest single handed backhand of all time.
The single handed backhand is a thing of beauty but is also incredibly difficult to master.
Power and Spin
The main aspect of the Wawrinka backhand that stands out when compared to the backhands of his rivals is the insane power and spin he is able to generate.
There are a lot of players with two handed backhands that can generate a lot of power, simply because they are hitting with two hands.
There are also a lot of single handed backhand players that can generate a lot of spin thanks to their longer swings and greater use of the wrist in the swing.
However, there are very few players that can hit the ball with such unbelievable amounts of power and spin as Stan the Man.
He utilizes his incredible physical strength, swashbuckling style and impeccable technique to break down his opponents from the usually weaker backhand wing.
This means that players have to adjust their playing style and avoid hitting to Stan’s backhand. The only problem is, his forehand is no slouch either!
One area that a lot of one handed backhands lose out to their two handed counterparts is in the consistency department.
Generally speaking, the two handed backhand tends to be more consistent due to the more stable body position, added security from using two hands and the more compact swings.
This is one reason why many modern players have opted for a two handed backhand, as they can be very reliable whilst still generating a good amount of power.
However, Wawrinka is able to hit the ball with a lot of power and spin very consistently thanks to his rock solid technique and belief in his backhand.
He gets his body behind the ball extremely well and is able to hit through the ball to create solid contact time after time.
Also, Stan’s incredible fitness contributes to his consistency.
Whilst this was not always a strong suit of Stan’s game, he is able to stay mentally clear in the toughest moments as he is not physically struggling even as he enters a fifth set of an epic.
Wawrinka’s fitness also allows him to continually get behind the ball and generate power as a match draws on.
So, Stan’s insane power and spin combined with his unusual consistency really sets his backhand apart from the rest!
Stan is also quite an underrated tactician on the court.
He is renowned for his brute power and insane shot making, but he is also quite astute when it comes to picking the right shot at the right time.
He is very adept at biding his time by hitting the ball heavy cross court, mixing it up with the slice backhand and waiting for his opponent to make an error.
If this doesn’t come, Stan loves to step inside the court and unleash his fearsome backhand down the line to finish the point there and then.
If he has more time, he can easily run around his backhand and play his powerful forehand, but he is more than happy to stand and deliver with his insane backhand!
More specifically, Stan likes to rip his backhand cross court and push his opponents back behind their baseline, engaging in a heavy topspin battle with his opponent.
This is often a contest that Stan will win, as his superior physical strength allows him to out last and out muscle his opponents.
Then, when he gets a weaker, more central reply, he likes to step into the court and inject pace into the ball straight away.
He will often go down the line into the open space, but is also more than capable of going back behind and wrong footing his opponent.
How to Hit Your Backhand Like Stan the Man!
Now, we have discussed exactly what sets Stan’s backhand apart from the rest of his contemporaries, but what can you learn from his backhand?
What can you implement into your game to improve your own one hander? Read on to find out!
Early Set Up and Unit Turn
One of the most notable things that Stan does before he actually hits the ball is to get his racket back well behind his body and raise his racket high in the backswing early.
This is the first step to him creating his insane power and spin, as he maximizes the length of his swing by getting his racket above his shoulder before he even starts his swing.
What the high racket take back does is create insane leverage that helps Stan create as much power as possible as he uncoils his body and hits through the ball.
Getting his racket and body back behind the ball early also gives Stan plenty of time to load up his legs, hips, abdominals and shoulders so he can unleash his deadly power on the ball with full effect!
Once Stan has loaded up his body and got his racket well behind his back, he then uses his full unit turn to swing as fully as possible, taking a large cut at the ball.
So, ensuring you get your racket back, turn your shoulders as much as possible (along with the rest of your body), and get yourself behind the ball so you can drive forward into your backhand are key tips for hitting the ball like Stan!
Drive with the Legs
Stan the Man certainly doesn’t skip leg day!
He uses his legs to great effect and loads them up prior to contact, helping him to generate the most amount of power possible before he hits the ball.
He bends his knees before contact to get his racket beneath the ball, ensuring he generates as much topspin as possible.
Then, just before he strikes the ball he drives upwards and forwards with his legs, which is then followed by his hips, torso, arms and racket.
This creates insane racket head speed and means he is using his body as efficiently as possible, generating power from his largest muscles and staying relaxed through his upper body to create a whipping effect.
Therefore, if you strengthen your legs and can use them to put as much power into your backhand as possible, whilst getting nice and low to help with your topspin generation, you can emulate the Stan Wawrinka backhand yourself!
Full Swing at the Ball
The one overriding factor that sets Stan’s backhand apart from the rest, that you too can copy, is taking a full swing at the ball.
Now, it is not always easy to time a long single handed backhand swing, since you don’t have your second hand to stabilize the racket.
But, if you get your racket back early and swing quickly up and forwards towards the ball just before contact, you’ll be in with a good chance of developing a lovely flowing single handed backhand!
Stan the Man uses this to great effect, along with his full unit turn and leg drive. The full swing, when done correctly, is the key to the power and spin that Wawrinka generates.
The main thing to be aware of when you are trying to take a full swing at the ball with a single handed backhand however is consistency and timing.
If you are late on the ball you can easily hit the ball well wide of your target or even in the bottom of the net.
So, ensuring that you get well behind the ball and have enough space to take a full swing at the ball, then actually timing it correctly in tandem with your leg drive, unit turn and the bounce of the ball is incredibly important for mastering the single handed backhand.
The full swing at the ball is the key to Stan’s backhand and is what makes it one of the ebay of all time!
Overall, Stan Wawrinka possesses one of the greatest single handed backhands of all time.
His ability to take full swings at the ball to generate insane amounts of power and spin boggles the mind.
He is a physical specimen that can hit the ball with incredible power on both wings throughout the course of a match, which has led to him winning three grand slam titles.
Whilst he has spent the majority of his career in the shadow of the great Roger Federer, he has worked incredibly hard to carve his own path and become one of the most prolific players of the last two decades.
The most important factor in Stan’s success is his incredible single handed backhand.
His ability to take control of points and hit winners from high up above his shoulder is a unique talent that makes playing him a very intimidating proposition.
There are a few elements that you can take from the Stan Wawrinka backhand and implement into your own game, especially if you play with a single handed backhand.
The first of these is getting your racket and body prepared to hit even earlier than you already do.
This gives you plenty of time to prime your body to hit the ball with power and spin, ensuring that you can make high quality contact with the ball.
A top tip for this is to try and read the game more quickly and clearly.
As soon as you recognise the ball is going to your backhand (definitely before it bounces on your side of the court), get your racket back and your shoulders turned.
Next, ensure that you use your legs to get behind the ball, load up for power and bend your knees so your racket is well under the height of the ball.
This is key for generating power and ensuring you can brush up the back of the ball for topspin.
Finally, if you can time the ball correctly and prepare well in advance, try to take a fuller swing at the ball.
Again, this is great for power generation and can help you to get the most out of your backhand.
So, take these tips on to court and you’ll soon be hitting your backhand like Stan the Man!