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The Killer Forehand: Part 2

Nick Bollettieri

Printable Version

In the batter's box with the open stance Killer Forehand.

Hitting Stances

You can't fire a canon from a canoe. And you can't hit the Killer Forehand without a good hitting stance.

The hitting stances provide power, balance and disguise for your strokes. When you arrive at the ball, you need to be in a stance that allows you all shot possibilities.

The two desirable hitting stances are an open stance and a neutral stance.

For a better understanding of that, let's go to the sport of baseball. The batter has to start outside the batters box before the pitch is thrown and then had to enter the box as the pitcher throws the ball.

To master the Killer Forehand you must also hit from a netural stance.

The batter went into the box with his back foot. In tennis, that's called the open stance forehand.

The killer forehand also is hit using the neutral stance where the front foot steps forward toward the target. You must master hitting the killer forehand from both the open and the neutral stance.

You'll notice the open stance has only the backfoot in the batter's box. Frequently, there's no time to step into the ball and you're forced to hit from the open stance. The neutral stance allows you to drive your weight into the ball and is commonly used when coming forward and often when the ball's hit down the center.

A common error made many players is using the closed hitting stance. That would be the same as the batter entering the batter's box with their front foot first.

A closed stance is firing the Killer Forehand from a canoe.

In the closed stance, everything changes. When you're forced to hit from a close stance, you have to reach to make contact while also and also snap your wrist. This turns your contact zone into a contact point.

The closed stance forehand, no balance, no power, no consistency, no control. This is firing a canon from a canoe. No balance, no power, no killer forehand.

The Hitting Zone

What creates the correct hitting stance? Early and correct racket preparation. You hitting hand and feet must work together.

Your hitting hand and feet work together for early preparation and the correct stance.

If the butt of your racquet were a flashlight, in preparation you would want to keep the flashlight ahead of your body as you approach the hitting zone. This will ensure that you wind up in the right hitting stance. Remember to prepare early enough to allow your feet time to set up.

For better power and control, align the beam of light from the flashlight to the path of the oncoming ball. This is what we call being in the slot in the backswing.

You can get a better feel for ideal alignment with the baseball glove drill. Check and see if you're entering the adjustment zone with your hand and racquet ahead of your body. This will automatically set you into an open stance with the option of stepping into the neutral stance.

Your hand and racket must arrive before your body.

The killer forehand requires rapid acceleration on contact. This means the butt of the racquet leads the forward part. Then the racquet head makes acceleration coming inside to outside giving you the killer forehand.

With the hand the foot arriving at the path of the oncoming ball, this is where it all comes together. Good foundation, early first reaction, good footwork, technique moving to the ball and early and correct preparation has you in a killer forehand hitting stance. Now you're ready to fire forward.

Pulling a towel out of your partner's hand simulates the stroke.

To get a better understanding of forward racquet acceleration, use the towel and have your partner pull it out of your hands. It simulates the stroke.

To test your flight path or swing line, have someone stand behind you with the racquet between their hands. The racquet needs to pull forward, straight out of the slot. Don't let the racquet touch either hand on the way out. What we don't want to see is the racquet touching the hand first. Not good. No power. No killer forehand.

Put your stroke to the test to see if you can make it out of the slot unscathed. For maximum racquet and speed, you must pull the trigger.

Pull the racket out of the slot without touching the hands.

As you pull the trigger and the racquet starts forward out of the slot, the path which your arm travels is called your swing line. If you watch the right elbow through the stroke, you'll notice that it travels on a diagonal line out and across the body as the racquet accelerates into the ball.

By extending to a full reach on your follow through, you'll create a contact zone that can be upwards of 18 inches in length, giving you better margin for error and control. For best leverage, try to consistently make contact with stage three out in front of your body.

Following the diagonal elbow path can length your potential contact zone to as much as 18 inches.

However, advance players, through rapid acceleration of the racquet contact point have the ability to make contact in stages 1 and 2 as well and still manage to execute the various placements on the court.


The follow through is the key to success when executing strokes under pressure. The tendency for many players is to tighten up, which restricts the follow through.

Extending to the target lengthens the contact zone giving you control and consistency. Remember, extend your follow through, especially under pressure.

The followthrough is the key to executing under pressure.

As the stroke accelerates out of the slot, focus on the elbow and how it passes through the track. Check your swing to see if your arm is bent and flexible and whether your elbow stays on track.

The Opposite Arm

The use of the opposite arm is essential in generating killer forehand speed while maintaining consistency and accuracy. When you're forced wide in the court, your opposite arm can serve as a counterbalance keeping your shoulders level through the stroke.

By separating your arms early, this technique anchors down your swing, providing balance and a stronger pulling action.

Practice hitting with a small weight in your hand. This simulates the feel of the counterbalance and the anchoring effect in the stroke.

The opposite arm anchors your swing and provides balance and a strong pulling action.

When the conditions are right to rip the killer forehand, the opposite arm is used in a sweeping motion, stretching the chest muscles into the stroke, much like a baseball pitcher's glove arm. This sweeping action lengthens the lever providing additional power through shoulder rotation.

A great way to get a feel for the anchoring effect and benefits of the opposite arm is to practice the hand on the hip drill. This will give you the feel of stretching the chest muscles into the stroke.

The hand on hip drill gives you the feeling of stretching the chest muscles.

The opposite arm can anchor down the stroke on the wide shots and lengthen the lever with a sweeping action to give you more power on your killer forehand. Either way, it's always serving as a counterbalance to the stroke. Check and see how your stroke matches up to the pocket killer forehand.

Another characteristic of the killer forehand that makes it so explosive is the loading of the weight into the back of the stance.

Used in both the open and neutral stances, together with the opposite arm, this technique will put your killer forehand over the top. Practice hitting strictly off your back foot, sinking your weight down.

Loading the weight in the back of the stance adds explosiveness.

Try to keep your weight centered on your backfoot throughout the stroke. This will give you a good feel for it. Focus on how the body winds up and coils like a spring from the hips up to the shoulders and sinks down in to the back of the stance.

Loading the hit down below the height of the contact point, or the loading line, together with the opposite arm use will put the finishing touches to achieving killer forehand speed.

Remember, don't overhit. Remember, when we are building a big forehand, we aren't hoping one of five go will go in. We want five out of five to go in. Otherwise, what is a so-called big forehand really worth?

Practice and master each concept and you'll have your own killer forehand.


So the killer forehand is a package weapon. It is a like a jet fighter coming at you in all directions. The elements are: the proper grip, a strong foundation, first step reaction, the hitting stance, racket head acceleration, the followthrough the opposite arm, and loading with the back leg. Practice each of these concepts until you have them mastered and soon, you'll be known for having a killer forehand.

Nick Bollettieri is the legendary coach who invented the concept of the tennis academy more than 30 years ago. He has trained thousands of elite players, including some of the greatest champions in the history of the game, players like Andre Agassi, Tommy Haas, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, and Boris Becker, as well as upcoming stars including Maria Sharapova. IMG Bollettieri Academies are located in Bradenton, Florida.

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Learn more about the Killer Forehand, and the other great videos from Nick in this series.
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