Video of the Week: ‘Blistering Backhands’ – Almagro vs Wawrinka

The mention of blistering single handed backhands may elicit a confused reaction from recent tennis converts, who know the single handed backhand as a sort of anachronism, only as a cruel and tragic weakness of Federer’s which is treated with disdain whenever he plays the Nadal’s and the Djokovic’s of this world, who use their muscular two handers to bully Federer on his weaker wing. However, for those who recall tennis before the year 2000, the mention of blistering single handed backhands will bring to mind a time when clay court specialists with regal, looping single handers still roamed the tour.

Well, if you seek thunderous, full blooded single handed backhands, which pop off the racket with the thud of canon fire, this video of Nicholas Almagro vs Stanislas Wawrinka should tickle your belly ( assuming your tennis schooling featured a heavy diet of Gustavo Kuerten, Gaston Gaudio and Agustin Calleri.)

Almagro defeated Wawrinka 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 in this duel of blistering backhands at the Australian Open. This was never a match for chess enthusiasts, resembling more an illicit, seedy showing of  banned material for those sick, single handed backhand perverts who have been persecuted almost to extinction by the homogenising forces of the ATP.  This HD tennistic-peep show exhibits backhands which were honed on clay courts; long, regal strokes which finish with a flourish and jump off the court with heavy topspin.

To a casual player of tennis, the technique and timing of these backhands on show is jaw dropping, an effect which is only emphasised by watching the current top 100 and seeing a wealth of fairly robotic and uniform two handers. There is almost a romantic element of risk with having a one handed backhand, as while there are many stunning one handers, there are also conversely probably more obvious examples of awful one handed backhands among top players than there are two handed backhands – while Igor Andreev and John Isner might be said to have limited two handers, they are still more useful shots than the awful topspin backhands of Fernando Gonzalez or Feliciano Lopez.

Almagro and Wawrinka’s backhands are perfect fits for the relentless topspin of the  modern game – powerful and consistent, they match up well even to the vicious interrogation that is the Rafa Nadal forehand. Considering this, it is curiously frustrating that other such backhands are so absent on the tour.

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2 Comments on “Video of the Week: ‘Blistering Backhands’ – Almagro vs Wawrinka”

  1. mariposaxprs says:

    I’d never closely watched Feli’s one-hand BHs before, but I’ll have to take a closer look at the extreme topspin he brings to it.

    By the way, I so understand your assessment that “There is almost a romantic element of risk with having a one handed backhand.” Nico and Gasquet’s are two that I really enjoy watching among currently active players.

    • tennisniche says:

      That’s because Feli rarely deviates from his slice BH, which to be fair is one of the best of its kind on the tour – I saw him at Wimbledon a few years back against Roko Karanušić and even during the warm up you could see he really lacked confidence in hitting through his backhand, it’s a very shaky shot for him.

      Thanks for the kind words! I love Gasquet’s backhand too, in fact I think there aren’t many tennis fans who don’t wish Richard had a better forehand to complement that beautiful stroke – and maybe give him a new tactical brain while we’re at it too 😉


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