The Wrist and the Modern Forehand

The wrist. It’s the most controversial topic in tennis instruction. And the overwhelming consensus is to eliminate it, minimize it, and certainly not to do anything consciously with it. Companies are marketing products like “the wrist assist” to minimize wrist movement in order to “feel what the pros feel”.

If we actually listen to the pros, however, we get a very different story. Here is Borg on his forehand (taken from Bjorn Borg: My Life and Game, 1980):

“I snap my wrist upward in a sweeping motion, rolling the racket face over at the end of contact. The secret of my forehand is dropping the racket head below the ball so the upward swing can produce wild topspin.”

Novak Djokovic gives a free lesson in this YouTube video.  If you watch where he discusses the forehand, here is what he has to say:

“If you want more spin, you do more work with your wrist.”

I took the below stills from one of my favorite clips of Andy Murray (here is the link to the video) to show how he uses wrist extension and radial deviation to create racket head speed and torque on the ball.


In the first still notice how the butt cap of his racket is pointing almost sideways toward the net post and is angled downwards below his wrist. This creates a lot of distance for the wrist to rotate forward and upward, creating angular momentum as it “catches up” to the hitting arm in a rapid whip like movement. In the final still it looks as if Andy is “checking the time on his watch” due to the full rotation of the wrist.

All players use these wrist movements both into the ball and then through contact to create the windshield wiper forehand (see my post below on the windshield wiper forehand to see several examples).

Two players I didn’t include, however, are Nadal and Federer.  And that’s because they take this technique ever farther.  I will post in the future on how their straight arm configuration and massive wrist layback and pre-stretch create tremendous speed and torque on the ball that goes beyond what even what Djokovic and Murray are doing.

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