There are a number of ways to hit a forehand in tennis. You may hit the ball flat or with monster topspin. You may hit the ball with a traditional technique or as a buggy whip. But one thing that most players agree on is hitting the forehand with one hand.
However, there are a very small select group of players that actually opt for a double handed forehand! This is a very uncommon thing to see in tennis these days, as most players have developed sound enough technique on their single handed forehand not to need the use of an extra hand for support.
Despite this, there are still a small number of players that feel more comfortable hitting the forehand with two hands, taking after some of the most notable professional players to do the same.
So, let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of the two handed forehand and take a look at some of the best players to ever use one!
Advantages of the Two Handed Forehand
One of the major advantages of the two handed forehand that a lot of players don’t seem to pick up on is the ability to deal with fast incoming balls. In the same way as a double handed backhand can provide this advantage, using two hands on your forehand can be a great way to soak up your opponent’s power and redirect their shots with interest.
When you think about it, playing the forehand with two hands does keep the racket closer to your body, so naturally it will be easier to get your body behind the ball and block shots back into play. So, it stands to reason that a two handed forehand can keep you in the points for longer and improve your defence. The fact that you can get your racket back more quickly also helps with defence, as you are able to prepare for the incoming ball in plenty of time and there is simply less going on with the racket compared to a traditional forehand.
Moreover, there is an argument that you can generate more power with a two handed forehand by virtue of the additional force you can generate as you swing through the ball.
Now, I’ll caveat this with the point that this is less applicable nowadays with so many technological advancements taking place in tennis rackets and strings. These mean that players of all levels are able to generate a lot of power and spin whilst maintaining a good level of control with modern tennis equipment.
However, back when rackets and strings were less advanced, hitting the forehand with both hands would have had some advantages. Although, I can imagine that playing any shot with a wooden racket would be a challenge!
Two handed forehands also offer more disguise than the traditional single handed forehand, as you can hit both topspin, flat and slice shots using more or less the same preparation.
Disadvantages of the Two Handed Forehand
One of the major disadvantages of the two handed forehand is the lack of reach. This is an underrated yet vital benefit to the traditional single handed forehand that virtually all players take for granted.
It is a lot easier to hit low balls and balls on the run with a single handed forehand than with a two handed forehand, that’s for sure!
This actually means you will likely have to do more running as a double handed forehand player than players hitting their forehead just with their dominant hand. So what you gain in stability and consistency you may well lose in energy on the court!
Again, we can debate the power side of the argument all day. But, even if the two handed forehand is great for absorbing and redirecting pace, when you have enough time to take a full swing at the ball, the single handed forehand gives you more room for maneuver and allows you to create more racket head speed thanks to the additional momentum you can generate.
Finally, it can be argued that you have less variety with a double handed forehand compared to a single handed forehand. Whilst two handers may benefit from more disguise and can therefore play with more variety, in terms of the shot production itself, the single hander wins out.
This also tends to be the case with the single handed backhand, due to the additional use of the wrist and the longer swing you can take.
Top Players with Two Handed Forehands
Whilst players with two handed forehands are very few and far between, there have been some top ranking professional players that have made a name for themselves thanks to their unconventional strokes!
Often dubbed ‘the magician’, French super star Fabrice Santoro had one of the most unique game styles we have ever seen! His two handed approach to both forehand and backhand was a revelation when he burst onto the scene back in 1989, using his disguise to create acute angles with sublime drop shots.
Santoro reached a career high ranking of 17 and won 6 titles on the ATP tour. At 5”10 he was able to scamper around the court and make up for his lack of reach on both the forehand and backhand side. Fabrice was one of the most creative and talented players the world of tennis has ever seen, we miss seeing him on court!
Teenage sensation Monica Seles was one of the most successful rising stars of her generation. Her two handed forehand led her to winning 9 grand slam titles, 8 of which were before her 20th birthday! She was the youngest ever French Open champion at 16 years old and became world number 1 at 17 years old.
Sadly, her career was cut short due to an attack by a crazed fan, but Seles remains one of the most talented youngsters the world has ever seen!
Tiwanese sensation Hsieh Su-Wei is known for her unorthodox game style and has used it to great effect throughout her career. She reached a career high singles ranking of 23 in February 2013 and was world number 1 in doubles back in May 2014!
Hsieh has 4 major doubles titles to her name, including the French Open, two Wimbledon titles and a world tour finals crown. She certainly knows her way around the net and has had a long and prosperous career!
Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli burst on to the tennis scene back in February 2000. She had a unique, powerful game style that made good use of hitting the ball with two hands on both the forehand and the backhand.
Baroli won her first and only grand slam title at The All England Club in 2013, after which she decided to retire.Talk about going out on a high! Marion had an aggressive game style and sought to strike the ball as hard as she could at any given opportunity. This worked to devastating effect on the slick grass courts of Wimbledon and also led her to 8 career titles and a career high ranking of 7 in January 2012.
Overall, the two handed forehand is a rarely used shot that most players will never get taught how to play. There is a reason why the overwhelming majority of players you see on TV use just one hand to hit their forehand!
However, there are a small number of players that grew up feeling more comfortable hitting the ball with two hands on both wings. Some have gone on to do great things such as being world number 1 and winning grand slam titles!
This is great for the game of tennis as it keeps things interesting and allows young, budding recreational players to draw inspiration from players that do things differently.
There are a range of pros and cons to hitting the ball with two hands off the forehand side, and ultimately the goal should be to find what is most comfortable for you. Whilst you may gain consistency, disguise and stability from hitting your forehand with two hands, you will likely sacrifice overall power, reach and versatility.
With that being said, give the two handed forehand a try next time you are out on court, it may well suit your game!