The Myth of the Wrap
Many junior players appear to model their strokes after top players like Lleyton Hewitt with a big "wrap" finish. But how close are they really?
"Show me the butt of the racquet!"
Visit almost any junior academy and you'll see dozens of eager younger players trying hard to whip the racquet head up and over the shoulder and point the butt of the racquet at the instructor.
It's a mantra in junior coaching. The exaggerated "wrap" follow-through is widely advocated as the magic key to "racquet head acceleration" in the modern topspin forehand.
All the top players have big "wrap" finishes, right? So shouldn't other players copy them by trying to wrap the finish?
The answer is no. The belief that the "wrap" finish creates racquet head acceleration is a myth. In fact, the truth is probably exactly the opposite.
The wrap isn't the cause of a good forehand, it's an effect. By trying to wrap the finish, junior players are changing the fundamental shape of their swings in a way that has significant negative consequences.
Their forehands may appear similar to top pros. But video analysis shows some startling, critical differences.
Despite their "westernized" grips, players such as Gustavo Kuerten, Marat Safin, and Lleyton Hewitt all have remarkable extension through the contact zone.
By this I mean the racquet continues outward along the line of the shot, reaching a characteristic finish position before the start of the wrap. As the still photos below show, despite variations in grip, backswing, etc, all 3 players reach remarkably similar positions at this point of greatest extension. The wrap occurs only after they have reached this fully extended position.
The movement of the racquet along the line of the shot is the critical factor in racquet head acceleration and ball speed. In my opinion this finish position at the point of maximum forward extension should be considered the end of the technical swing pattern. Everything that happens thereafter (i.e., the wrap) should be considered a reaction or a consequence, and part of the recovery for the next shot.