The Windshield Wiper Forehand
A common term used to describe the modern forehand is “the windshield wiper” forehand because the racket moves, from contact on, in a rainbow like path. It’s the same 180 degree path windshield wipers travel on a car.
I picked the clips in this video to show extreme examples of this “wiper” motion. Usually there is more drive and push on the ball with the arm and shoulder, but nonetheless, there is always this counter clock wise rotation of the hand and forearm.
In this post, I want to explain how the modern semi-western and western grips facilitate this rotation of the hand and forearm in a counter clockwise direction.
Here we see how Andy Roddick’s grip puts the palm of his hand under the handle (as opposed to behind the handle with the “shake hands” or Eastern grip). And in the second still, his forearm and hand have rotated into a position that looks like he is checking the time on his watch. The hand and forearm have rotated, rapidly, a full 180 degrees from contact to finish. And this turning/torquing motion is what creates the windshield wiper path of the racket.
This torque, driven by the rotating forearm and hand, is a very powerful and rapid motion. Try opening a can that has a very tight lid on it. It requires a tremendous amount of force from the hand and forearm to twist it open. It’s not a loose, wristy motion, but a powerful torque from the forearm. In the video above, focus on the forearm muscles of the players and you can see how they are working very hard in to create this torque.
The grip under the handle offers more than the ability to rotate the hand and forearm. There is also what I call a “boxing” component that resembles an upper cut punch in boxing. This upper cut like motion powerfully engages the entire arm – from hand to shoulder to create a heavy forehand. Even in the Roddick second still you can see how his upper arm has lifted upward and is parallel to the ground and his shoulder has rotated over. By having the palm of the hand more under the handle, it allows you to drive upward in a powerful motion.
The modern forehand is the stroke that has changed the most. We used to think of the stroke as a long, linear drive through the ball. But long linear motions rob us of two powerful motions – torque and upward drive. The modern semi-western and western grips have shifted, literally the direction of the forehand stroke. Instead of long forward finishes we are getting more explosive upward motions combined with torque from the forearm muscles. And the shifting of the grip towards the bottom of the handle has played an enormous role in this technical evolution.