The tennis forehand is the BIG hit on the tennis court. You’ll want this tennis stroke as a weapon early on. Why? Because you’re going to hit a lot of them. It’s also the tennis stroke that has beginner adults’ fall in love with tennis. It’s what makes intermediate players know they’ve found a home in tennis.
On the road to learning how to play tennis as an adult your forehand can be both thrilling & challenging. Whether you’re a beginner picking up a racket for the first time or an intermediate player looking to improve your skills, match play or joining a club league, understanding the nuances of the forehand is crucial.
Why? Because you’re going to hit a lot of them!
In this post we’ll learn how to differentiate the difference between your beginner & intermediate forehand by playing level. The key differences between what adult beginners and intermediates should focus on when it comes to tennis grips, footwork, and handling flat versus topspin balls.
The Foundation: Tennis grips
Beginners: Finding your grip
For adult beginners, the emphasis should be on establishing a solid foundation, and that begins with choosing the right grip. The Eastern grip is recommended for those just starting tennis. It provides a good balance between power and control. This grip allows beginners and intermediates (it’s also mainly my own forehand grip) to FEEL a ball well.
This grip let’s you feel the sensation that squaring off with your first real forehand WILL imprint on you. There’s no denying you’ll be happily dedicated to having that sensation again!
The eastern grip is also the easiest to find. Let’s suppose you’re a right handed player. You’ll always revert to finding your forehand eastern grip by placing your base nuckle on your index finger on your rackets bevel #3.
The reason I love this grip for beginner players is because it puts your wrist vertical to the ground when you’re making contact with the ball. That’s a good thing. That means your racket face is squarely positioned with your target. Ohh how sweet it is!
Most importantly when you’re new to the game you want a grip that helps you put balls deep into the court – not short. This is a challenge for beginner players. Keeping it deep enough to be effective but also keeping it in the court. This grip will help.
As a beginner you’re not thinking about topspin or fancy balls – no. You only want to keep the ball in – deep – with decent height over the net.
Next you’ll want to practice rallying the ball with a coach or friend at least 6 times back & forth. That’s a big and very doable goal.
Intermediates: Fine-tuning your grip
As players progress to the intermediate level, they may explore adjusting their grip based on playing style. The Eastern grip remains a popular choice, but some players may transition to a Semi-Western for topspin. Intermediate players should experiment with different grips to find what feels most comfortable and effective for their playing style.
The semi-western grip is found by moving your base knuckle on that right hand index finger to bevel #4. This will position your racket strings to the floor so you will really need to work with a coach on developing this semi-western grip. It will require you to really hit through the ball to drive it deep. Otherwise the spin on the ball will drop the ball shallow in no-mans land. That leaves you vulnerable to having players come to net on you. You likely don’t want that.
Make sure you’re focus is on getting that ball as deep as possible using this grip. Topspin is a terrific help out there by dismantling your opponents set up and contact point but if you’re dropping balls short … you’re vulnerable.
On Your Toes: Footwork matters
Beginners: Building the basics
Footwork is the foundation of any tennis stroke, and for beginners, mastering the basics is crucial.
Focus on maintaining a balanced stance, with feet shoulder-width apart. Learn to shuffle your feet side to side and position yourself well for each forehand shot.
As a beginner, the goal is to establish a comfortable & stable base to execute forehands with real consistency and build confidence.
And for beginners it’s a good idea to remind you now that your shoulders & hips always turn sideways on set-up for your forehand. Always!
Intermediates: Enhancing agility
Intermediate players should shift their focus to agility & dynamic footwork.
Incorporate split steps to anticipate your opponent’s shots and pivot into the direction of the ball that’s just been hit. Experiment with different stances, like the open stance for wide shots, and the neutral stance for a more traditional approach. More on that in the video below.
Careful not to let coaches talk you into all shots being hit in open stance because they want to only play modern tennis. It’s gotten out of hand now. And it’s leaving adults feeling less confident and unable to contact the ball well.
When adults show up to tennis holidays in any of our locations we train adults with what they are working with right now – today!
Not spending the week talking about taking the racket back a particular way or standing in a particular position that doesn’t work for you. (And to be clear, I prefer neutral stance most shots most times and open stance only when I’m on the run.
If a ball is coming right to me, why do I need to open my feet and lose some power when I can step right into it and really take a chunk out of the ball? Why would I do that? Point being, play to your strengths!!!!
Your shoulders and hips always turn to the side of the ball to hit a forehand. You don’t have to hit every shot – every time – modern. You just need to hit each forehand balanced and well.
Ball Control: Flat vs. topspin balls
Beginners: Mastering the basics
For adult beginners, mastering the flat forehand is essential before delving into topspin.
The flat forehand is straightforward, offering a quicker learning curve.
Focus on a long swing, aiming for a consistent & clean contact points with the ball. This will help you develop a reliable shot that you can confidently deploy during rallies. And give you deep balls and a sense of hitting through the ball which is part of the fun!
Intermediates: Adding topspin to your arsenal
As players progress to the intermediate level, incorporating topspin into the forehand becomes a serious skill.
Experiment with a slightly looser grip to generate more racket head speed. This allows for the upward brushing motion needed for topspin. But hitting away from the body with a long stroke will give you topspin & depth. I think sometimes intermediates get so hyped on the idea of hitting with topspin they forget the ball still needs to be deep!
You really can’t forfeit one for the other here.
Your topspin forehand adds a layer of control and safety to your shots. Allowing you variety – WHILE still keeping a ball in play. Make your topspin forehand a weapon, especially in rallies and defensive situations.
I’ll leave you with this …
Whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate player, the forehand is a fundamental aspect of your tennis game.
By understanding the nuanced differences in grips, footwork, and shot selection for both levels (where to hit the ball), you can practice sessions to meet your current skill level.
Focus on building a strong foundation as a beginner and progressively improve your technique & strategy as you advance to the intermediate stage. With dedication, practice, and a strategic approach, you can elevate your forehand and enjoy the sport at any level.