Agnieszka Radwanska’s Open Stance Backhand
Learn from a small player who has big-time strokes.
By Tracy Austin
Frame 1: Radwanska bends her knees as she moves to the ball.
Frame 3: Though Radwanska's feet are open, she rotates her shoulders back. Open stance doesn't mean "face the net."
Radwanska weighs just 123 pounds, but her strokes pack a punch because she has exceptional footwork, balance and technique. As the ball arrives, she takes small steps to her left and begins to take her racquet back for an open-stance backhand. Notice that Radwanska has a healthy flex in her knees, which allows her to arrive at the ball balanced. She keeps her hands at a comfortable distance from her body and her arms relaxed.
This is the ideal setup for an openstance two-hander. As Radwanska prepares to plant her back foot, her head and shoulders are perfectly aligned over her hips and feet. All of the parts of her body work together: Her shoulders turn, her arms take her racquet back, and her feet establish a firm base so she can propel herself into the shot. Once her back foot hits the ground, her hips and shoulders will start to uncoil and her weight will begin to shift forward.
The open-stance backhand requires some space between your feet. You must step out far enough with your back foot so you can drive through the ball without having to reach for it. But open stance doesn’t mean that the whole body is open, or facing the net. Radwanska’s shoulders and hips are rotated back and they start to uncoil together, which helps her produce power. She lowers the racquet head so she can brush up the back of the ball to create topspin.
Frame 4: The racquet face should be slightly closed at impact.
Frame 6: The proper finish allows Radwanska to recover toward the middle of the court for the next shot.
Radwanska pushes forward off her back foot and rotates into the shot. The racquet face is slightly closed and the ball is dead center on the strings. Her arms remain relaxed and her shoulders now face the net as she whips the racquet around. I love the position of her feet. A wide, firm base like this creates excellent balance and plenty of power.
This picture shows you how important Radwanska’s left hand is to her backhand. She drives through the ball and extends toward the target with her left hand, like she would with her right on the forehand. The height of her follow-through is perfect; rather than pulling off the ball and adding too much spin, she’s punishing it. Her body continues to rotate as she finishes her swing.
This is the perfect finish: Radwanska’s weight is going forward and she’s facing the middle of the court, where she’ll have to return to prepare for her next shot. Her knees remain relaxed and her opposite shoulder now points toward the net. You need that sort of rotation for a first-rate open-stance backhand.