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Interactive Forum August 2021: Denis Shapovalov Backhand

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  • Interactive Forum August 2021: Denis Shapovalov Backhand

    Denis Shapovalov Backhand

    It’s been over 5 years since Denis Shapovalov burst on the scene. Although he lost in the Wimby semi-final to Novak Djokovic, he looked like he belonged there and was in general trading shots on equal footing. So in the next three months in the Forum, we’ll take a close look at his game, starting with his amazing one-handed backhand.

    Check his grip, the variety of stances, the relationship between his forward extension and the deceleration phase—and the jump.

    We looked at him before in 2016 though with much less footage. Click Here to see if you see differences or evolution!





  • #2
    It's amazing to watch the shot in high speed video. Looks an extreme grip. He uses his body to the maximum...deep turn, an explosive strike, and a beautiful, full follow through. I'm sure if tried the same thing the ball would end up somewhere in the stadium.

    Really nice footage, by the way.
    Stotty

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    • #3
      If you were maybe 20 years younger Stotty that would probably be your backhand.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by johnyandell View Post
        If you were maybe 20 years younger Stotty that would probably be your backhand.
        Be great to think so. Backhands are taught very differently these days compared to the prescribed method in my day. He and Tsitsipas are a breath of fresh when it comes to shot-making and throwing caution to the wind. Shapovalov versus Novak this Wimbledon was the match of the tournament for shot-making...just lovely to watch.
        Stotty

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        • #5
          Denis straightens his hitting arm fully when it's still in front of his body as he starts the takeback. This is the opposite of Federer who keeps his hitting arm very bent until just before contact where he straightens it at the last few moments.

          shapo_fed.jpg
          Last edited by jeffreycounts; 08-01-2021, 11:27 AM.

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          • #6
            John Yandell- what do you think about the straight arm take back of Denis? Most 1 handers have the arm quite a bit bent during the unit turn. Do you think there are any pros or cons to a straight arm take back? Is it just style? Looking forward to hearing your opinion about that. Anybody else can chime in on this. Thanks!

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            • #7
              I don't think it's major. In fact in my teaching model I teach a straight arm take back though not as high as Denis. What's more important is that the arm is straight at the start of the forward swing.

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              • #8
                I just wonder if Denis’ preparation turn and jump follow through for deceleration are approaching practical limits or if we will see someone extend them even further. It will certainly alter conditioning protocols, especially as the jump follow through evolves.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by johnyandell View Post
                  I don't think it's major. In fact in my teaching model I teach a straight arm take back though not as high as Denis. What's more important is that the arm is straight at the start of the forward swing.
                  I wonder if we can think of the two variations as topspin through slice vs. topspin first. t has partly to do with the grip too. Isn't it the case that the more extreme grips tend to have more of a straight arm structure? Wawrinka seems to do a similar thing.

                  Federer is more of an Eastern like backhand in which case he would use his hands and feel more.

                  Shapo's slice is not the best although it is improving. Wawrinka's slice is functional not great.

                  The bent arm at the start of the stroke is almost like the player turns the slice into a topspin. In principle, it would give lots of flexibility to hit balls that vary from pure topspin to pure slice with variations in between. The straight arm is pretty much just a topspin shot.

                  Not sure if this completely on track but that is how it felt when I was simulating backhands while writing this comment.

                  My kids and have slightly bent elbows on our 1hbhs. We all learned slice first and then learned topspin.

                  Any thoughts John?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by arturohernandez View Post

                    The bent arm at the start of the stroke is almost like the player turns the slice into a topspin. In principle, it would give lots of flexibility to hit balls that vary from pure topspin to pure slice with variations in between.
                    I think you are onto something there. Federer's slice backhand is one of the best ever, and he uses it a lot. So that would explain his initial turn with the bent arm which, as you pointed out, is the same for a slice backhand.

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                    • #11
                      Thiem also is probably the most straight with his backswing. I believe it has everything to do with the more extreme grip players using this type of backswing. They tend to like the ball higher than typical one handers which would create a different spacing from the ball compared to more traditional grips like Fed. They play farther back behind the baseline and need more space so the elevated straight backswing would be optimal for the chest high backhands so it helps them set the spacing farther from their body. Almost every backhand he hits his first step in backwards to set up the higher contact point. More extreme grip and straight arm prep for spacing is the evolution of not only handling high balls to the one hander but preferring it.

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                      • #12
                        I like our model this month John!

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                        • #13
                          Well Said

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by jthb1021 View Post
                            Thiem also is probably the most straight with his backswing. I believe it has everything to do with the more extreme grip players using this type of backswing. They tend to like the ball higher than typical one handers which would create a different spacing from the ball compared to more traditional grips like Fed. They play farther back behind the baseline and need more space so the elevated straight backswing would be optimal for the chest high backhands so it helps them set the spacing farther from their body. Almost every backhand he hits his first step in backwards to set up the higher contact point. More extreme grip and straight arm prep for spacing is the evolution of not only handling high balls to the one hander but preferring it.
                            This makes sense. It also reminds me of Henin's backhand which was more extreme than Federer's. I still prefer the classic slice to topspin route that Federer has taken. It gives more flexiblity and feel. The downside is that the conditions today require repeatability and spin to push people back.

                            As great as Federer's backhand is, Wawrinka's is superior for handling Djokovic. He is one of the few players who could hit through Djokovic and it was due to the backhand.

                            Djokovic could not pick apart Wawrinka's backhand and he could not hit forehand to forehand with Wawrinka. So the heavy repeatable aspect of it was like kryptonite to Novak.

                            It is amazing to see how every shot represents a solution to a certain problem. The old school backhand gave flexibilty to get to the net and variety to change the pace. The new school extreme backhand saved the day by allowing it to flourish.

                            Shapo hits a beautiful one hander.

                            Now if he can just learn to slice and volley better...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by arturohernandez View Post

                              This makes sense. It also reminds me of Henin's backhand which was more extreme than Federer's. I still prefer the classic slice to topspin route that Federer has taken. It gives more flexiblity and feel. The downside is that the conditions today require repeatability and spin to push people back.


                              It is amazing to see how every shot represents a solution to a certain problem. The old school backhand gave flexibilty to get to the net and variety to change the pace. The new school extreme backhand saved the day by allowing it to flourish.

                              Shapo hits a beautiful one hander.

                              Now if he can just learn to slice and volley better...
                              I like your point about pushing people back. This type of one hander in my opinion has a similar mindset to the typical two hander game style. These aren’t players looking to move forward and they don’t slice unless they need to just like the two handers do. I think the weakness here is if your desired contact point is around chest high and your most comfortable first step with your backhand is diagonally backwards these players will have a more difficult time playing closer to the baseline. The two handers with the similar mindset of not necessarily looking to move forward to the net can play this game better with less risk in diagonaling back or playing up closer to the baseline.
                              if your looking to move backwards and get one handers chest high your court position doesn’t make coming to the net very attractive. Having a slice like Roger is about mixing it in and getting weight forward for that knifing attacking slice…again hard to do if you’re always looking to move back first. These guys slice like the two handers…only when they need to, not for variety.
                              I’m open to wherever tennis goes with the future of the one hander, but I like Roger’s mindset of the all court game playing closer to the baseline. It’s always going to be tough but the one hander playing closer to the baseline establish that they can change the direction and receive a relatively deep ball and play it down the line without making it look like they are risking to much is what the GOAT would look like to me. Then they have access to all the variety of the one hander as well. If Roger could have done that he’d have had 30 Slams!

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