The forehand is the first shot that most beginners start with when they jump into the wonderful world of tennis. It is something that most people gravitate very naturally to and is one of the easier shots to get the hang of. I remember my first forehand tennis lesson that was taught by my dad in early 2003. I thought to myself that it would be a walk in the park. Boy was I wrong, it took me almost 6 months just to understand the basics of it all, and after that, I still had more learning to do.
Tennis is a game that has a lot of room for mistakes, and even pro players with their hours and hours of practice can make them. There’s a reason they assign coaches to fix these common mistakes, just to go that extra mile to beat their opponents.
I made a very detailed forehand improvement guide; this post is a continuation of that so if you would like to take your forehand to the next level I would recommend reading that.
These mistakes can be corrected pretty easily, but only if you know what you are doing wrong and this post will basically list them. These mistakes are nothing a beginner can’t understand, so whatever skill level you are do not worry.
The biggest mistake anybody can make is a mental one, and I thought I should address this first. Thinking that your racquet is the reason for you bad forehand is something you should eliminate now. Unless your racquet is a weird shape or has some extremely bad weight distribution, you should not be making errors because of that.
Let’s get into this.
Footwork is very important
This is something even I forget sometimes, and the consequences are horrendous, to say the least. When it comes to the forehand, footwork is very important as it is the first building block through which the whole forehand essentially takes form. You might be doing all the other movements the perfect way but if you are not using your feet to turn and move into the shot, you will get sub-par results.
Fixing it can take some time, but it can be done by following some simple steps. This video is going to help with that process.
Keeping your legs open is something most beginners have trouble with in the start, the body can’t transfer its energy into the ball if the legs are closed, it’s pretty complicated mathematics and I won’t bother you with it now. So, keep them open, a little wider than shoulder width apart will do the job, but some players like to go even wider than that.
Remember, footwork is important in pretty much any aspect of the game of tennis. Most people start with the forehand, so if you can get that working in the right order, you will automatically transition it to your backhand and volleys.
There’s no One Size Fits All Grip
No two people are the same, we already know that from the normal human world. The tennis world is the same. There are three-four grips to choose from and every player is different when it comes to grips, while I as a player might prefer a semi-western grip, you might be more comfortable with a continental or a western grip.
I see people trying to hit forehands with a continental grip, which in the old days used to be the go-to grip has changed up quite a bit. With the lighter racquets and heavier balls and top-spin being more prevalent, the semi-western grip is the most common to hit the forehand with.
I am not saying go learn the semi-western grip now and change up everything you have learned until now, but a lot of players beginners-advanced alike love the semi-western forehand grip. Use this video as a guide, it’s easy to follow and a fun watch.
The semi-western grip goes in very smoothly with the natural forehand motion of the racquet, it is the easiest way to actually start putting top-spin into your shot. It’s basically a cheat code to learning the forehand fast.
So get cracking, learn about the grips and start experimenting. Once you like a grip, practice it and get it ingrained into your muscle memory. But keep one thing in mind, do not keep changing things every day, with tennis you have to remain consistent with one thing or it’ll just hamper your learning process.
Body Rotation Gives you a Lot of Power
Body rotation is very important as it helps with more power on the ball and it saves your back from pain and discomfort. The lower back is not designed for rotating side to side, and if you try and do that without your hip doing the actual rotation, then you are in a for a very sore back the next few days.
The forehand only works efficiently if you have your whole body rotating from 90 to 0 degrees or even a little further than that. The good thing about this is that if your footwork is on point, your body should automatically start rotating on its own, so this tip goes in tandem with the footwork one. Watch this video to understand how awesome body rotation can be for your forehand, never think that you can get by without using the body. It’s a great a tool, so why not use it to its full extent.
Beginners tend to struggle with power in their shots and this is one of the main reasons why. Body rotation is essential if you want to get some extra power into your forehands. Whenever you see a pro player on the TV, they always exaggerate their body rotation because it helps them get even more power with the least amount of actual arm strength used.
Top-Spin: A Beginner’s First Roadblock
Every tennis player, whether big or small has struggled with this aspect of the game up to some extent when they were starting out. Learning the topspin can be as natural or as unnatural as a beginner makes it out to be.
Beginners start out with just hitting and getting the ball over the net, but sooner or later they should learn to hit the ball from bottom to the top. The bottom to top movement of the racquet makes the racquet brush the ball from top to bottom and it gives it a trajectory that makes the ball automatically come down. Players like Rafael Nadal have used extreme amounts of topspin to get back into points that seem extremely hard for a club player.
My Ultimate Forehand Guide has a section dedicated to drills and a video guide to get you a little taste of topspin. It can be a little hard to learn, but if you follow the guide, you will be surprised by how easily you can pick it up. Keep in mind that a good grip is essential, so preferably learn the semi-western grip, and get the cheat unlocked.
Once you learn the topspin on your forehand, you can transition that to your backhand side too, so it pays off learning it from the start of your tennis journey.
Not Following Through
A follow through is very important. A forehand is like a smooth and cool looking dance move, if you don’t execute it right you will end up missing it or making mistakes. Follow through is something that most beginners think is unnecessary, and I was the same way. It seemed so stupid–when the ball has left the racquet, why would anything after that matter?
It is so much more than that, a good follow through brings all the other components of the forehand into shape. Once you get your follow through in working order, you will notice that your forehands look and hit way nicer than before.
The going across your chest follow through is the most common form done by all the good players, no matter if they are pros or good college level players. It can seem a little odd in the beginning, but if you keep doing it as this video explains, you will feel your forehand transform. It will feel more natural, nothing will feel forced.
Both these videos are very important for beginners to intermediate players. Watch them and learn from them. Whenever I meet kids or beginner adults, I teach them a forehand that has a follow through. It’s great to get them started in the right habits and not in the bad ones. A good follow-through helps to get your forehands from going long if you execute it right, so always keep that in mind if you start making errors.
Using Too Much Wrist
The forehand can be hit with the wrist, but it is not too advisable because you can end up injuring yourself and you lose a lot of power. Rather than using the wrist, get your elbows and arms to power your forehands. The wrist provides one role only and it is to get the wrist lag in, and that happens automatically if you just force your elbows to hit the shot and let your hands get moved by the momentum.
This video will explain wrist in much more detail than words can ever do.
Other than that, using your wrist to increase the direction you want to get is inefficient; instead, use your follow-through and body rotation to achieve that. If you only use the wrist, your body won’t close after the follow through and you will lose a lot of power in your shot.
Tennis is a game of consistency and efficiency, so always look to be the most efficient. I was a very wristy player and in turn, my shots had no power at all. To top it all off, my wrists would hurt so much that I had to take long breaks between weeks. I had to redo my forehand, force myself to follow through more as well as use the body rotation to get the direction I desired.
The wrist can be your worst enemy if you are coming from other racquet sports like badminton or squash, you have to keep in mind that those racquets are lighter hence they don’t have the ability to badly injure you, but a tennis racquet can because most of them weigh around 12Oz / 300grams strung.
So, keep yourself injury free and get your forehand the power it needs to smoke your opponents off the court.
Power Without Consistency
Hitting the ball without any set plan, and just expecting power to win the point for you is one of the biggest mistakes you can do. If you are good at hitting the ball with power then focus on gaining consistency in your forehands.
What good will a forehand be if you can hit the ball very powerfully for like two shots and then end up hitting the ball long or wide? The people over at Feel Tennis really nail the point with this video. I used to be very inconsistent and even though I learned to hit the ball hard, you can’t really beat a pusher or counter puncher if they return your powerful balls with ease.
A great tip I like to follow is to stop trying to hit the ball with power when I’m warming up and hitting it slowly and as loosely as I possibly can. It greatly eases the muscles into the game and improves your smoothness and consistency. Gradually increase the power while keeping the same motion and you will feel extremely good hitting the forehand. My Forehand Guide goes over this in much more detail, so go ahead and try it out, get some consistency in your game.
Not Getting Your Drills in
This is very important, both for beginners and advanced players. You can’t really learn something in life if you don’t practice it. Drills are the way to go when it comes to the game of tennis as it is one of the harder games to learn and get good at. Drills for your forehand will keep it in shape for a longer time and you will always feel on top.
Again, the Forehand Guide is all you need when it comes to drills and tricks. Repetition while being aware of the process will instill great things. Players like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer just do drills every day for almost an hour before playing matches. So, if they do it every day, why shouldn’t you?
Obviously, you don’t need to be practicing like the pros because of time constraints. So do what I do and get some drills in for 15-20 minutes before actually starting the game with your partners. Forehand drills are pretty simple, and 15-20 minutes are great to get your warmed up and ready for the play day.
Crossing the Arms During Follow Through
In other words, it is also known as hugging yourself when hitting the ball. When the players contact the ball and are following through, they tend to cross both arms. This is highly unnatural and can make you lose power and even make you feel uncomfortable.
It is a technical flaw, people cross arms in the front and this is a hindrance to the proper rotation of the of the forehand.
There is a very simple fix to this which Roger Federer employs and his several grand slams are a huge testimony that it works. The fix goes like this:
When you follow through, you should try and catch the flowing racquet. This gives a very smooth and beautiful motion to the forehand. This video explains it in a little detail, but if you want to get it ingrained in your head then you should read the forehand guide. If you really want to eliminate all these mistakes then follow it step by step. It is a 5-day guide and anyone can follow it because it takes things very slowly and in a progression.
Eliminate these errors and feel your forehand become even more awesome than it was before.