Banish The Two-Handed Backhand!

I’m not kidding. What one change in the game right now would make the game so much better and watchable? I say, “Abolish the 2-handed-backhand.” Anyone who hits a two-handed backhand loses the point. Sounds a little extreme, but tennis has become so much more machine-like and less graceful since the advent of the two-hander.

Think about it, before Connors and then Borg, and then came Harold Solomon, and suddenly the gates opened up and tennis has become so much the worse for this one stroke devolution. It has essentially allowed a player to sit on the baseline and fend off aggressive play. And now the exception has become the norm. No top junior or young American player in this country, at least, even thinks about hitting a one-hander. I tried to watch Andy Murray and Marin Cilic this afternoon, but after a few games I was interminably bored. The same holds true when I try to watch David Ferrer or Berdych or Djokovic. Their games are made so much more machine-like and Groundhog-ish with their two-handed backhands.

I admit, when Connors and Borg first started hitting two-handers with a steel and wood racquet, respectively, their racquet heads the size of cantaloupes, I found it intriguing. “Oh, that’s a novelty, a funny-looking, a bit awkward-looking, way of hitting a ball,” I said. “What a fad. No one will hit a two-hander after the first 5 years or so of this experiment.” Boy, was I ever wrong.

Now I think the two-handed backhand has done more to ruin the game than any other innovation in tennis. I don’t care if you bring up bigger and stronger racquets, the polyester strings or the greater fitness level of players, PED’s, what have you (btw, on a tangent, have you taken a look at the size of Murray and Berdych’s quadriceps? They look like they belong on world-class track sprinters) the worst thing that ever happened to tennis is the two-handed backhand. It has essentially made stalling a good ploy. It has taken such beauty out of the game, the slice approach shot, the whipping top-spin one-hander, the art of volleying.

Who can watch players like Ferrer, Murray, Simon play for long? (At least with Nadal and Del Potro, their forehands are so big it compensates for their mundane two-handers (there’s a bit of intrigue when Nadal hits his backhand because he’s a natural righty.) And to this I’ll add Tsonga, Monfils and Nishikori. Isn’t it more interesting and less-defensive when a player like Haas or Gasquet or Federer or Blake is wielding their one-handers? There’s so much more variety and elan. I could watch Gasquet whip that backhand of his for an entire match. The only guys I(‘ve) ever really enjoy(ed) watching hit two handers for a while are/were Connors, Agassi, Spadea, Santoro, Braasch, Djoko and Fish.

So are you with me? Will you sign my petition to banish the two-handed backhand? It’s ok if a player switches the racquet from his right to left hand when hitting a backhand, making it essentially two forehands, but no more two-handers! We’ll take it to the courts.


  • Steve · March 28, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    This week has been a great showcase of the one hander with Gasquet, Haas, Almagro, babyFed and Youznhy. I was half expecting Calleri to re-emerge put in an appearance.
    A great break from the crude and brutish looking two handers that are everywhere. :-) Great to see proper tennis thrive. HAHAHA

  • Dan Markowitz · March 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    I agree with you, Steve, seeing Haas and Gasquet beat Djokovic and the robot Berdych has been fun. Now I want to see them take out Ferrer and Murray.

  • adb · March 29, 2013 at 2:26 am

    Could not agree more, Dan. As I remarked in a post to another column, “If I want to watch someone hit a ball with two hands, I’ll watch baseball or golf (yawn, and yawn again.) Great post!

  • TC · March 29, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Don’t forget Nalbandian’s gorgeous 2-hander, otherwise I agree. A single hander in full flow is a delight.

    Don’t forget these too:



  • Steve · March 29, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Yes, a Gasquet/Haas final would be ideal.

  • dan markowitz · March 29, 2013 at 11:37 am


    I like your poll. I picked Gasquet, but my three finalists were Gasquet, Fed and Wawrinka. Although, it’s hard to argue with Haas’s either. I loved Johnny Mac’s one-hander. I think it was quite possibly the best one-handed backhand return, how he took the ball so early.

    See, I don’t consider Feliciano Lopez’s backhand to be a stroke of beauty. His backhand slice is very nice, and so are his hands at the net. Robredo, Kohly, O. Rochus, all have beautiful one handers, too.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 29, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Dimitrov’s one hander is a beauty too.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I voted for Federer, how can you not vote for Federer? That backhand is why he has won so many majors. Was talking to Nick Bollettieri last week and he said if Federer used the two hander for his ATP career, Nick thinks he’s have accumulated many more major titles. Definitely an interesting idea there by Nick B.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 29, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I do think, if pro tennis follows Dan’s twohand backhand ban law, tennis would be a significantly more interesting sport to watch. Would like to see Nadal try to hit some one handers, saw Federer play around with a two hander and it looked really good.

  • Steve · March 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    The best looking one handers I ever saw were Edberg’s and Henin’s but I think Gasquet has the most incredible variety. There’s a video of him blasting a one handed overhead off a Nadal overhead for a winner. He can really do it all with that shot.

    I think Henin had the best timing and as Mac said she was one of the sweetest strikers of the ball man or woman –and I always like Calleri’s.

    I think Haas has the best return of serve for a one hander –very clean.

    I voted for Gasquet of course as he’s my favorite active player. :-)

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    I actually think Dimitrov’s is the most aesthetic of all. I have a photo from last week which really captures it, it’s just a work of art. I have a good one of Dicky G too. Not that there’s anything wrong with RG’s or Fed’s those are awesome also. I’ll post the photo…

  • TC · March 29, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Nice observations. Thanks for voting too!

  • Steve · March 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    It is very nice Scoop but for me Dimitrov’s arm hangs a little long and lilting at the end of the stroke. It sure is nice though.

  • Dan Markowitz · March 29, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    The mini-tragedy is that both one-handers, Haas and Gasquet, lost today to the grinders, Ferrer and Murray.

  • Julian · April 1, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    There should be a uniform racket head size, preferably 67 sq inches tops. And just like in baseball, the materials should be uniform as well – frames, strings, etc. People might still play with two-handers, but they would get nowhere near the benefits. If not, you might as well legalize Spaghetti string jobs; the game has been damaged by unregulated technology.

    I’ve liked very few two-handers: Safin, Nalbandian, Connors.



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