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Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Two-handed Backhand

Christine McGrath is a top female player who recently won the Women's Doubles Pro championship at the US Open (while 7 months pregnant!). McGrath's playing style is notable for her two-handed backhand. She is one of very few players who are successful with that shot at the top level. Mark Renneson analyzed her stroke in the video called Breaking Down McGrath's 2-handed backhand.

Mark breaks McGrath's play into 4 elements.

1. Set-up paddle and body before the bounce.

2. Impact "out front" (between body and net).

3. Immediately after contact, move to desired location (in this case, the net).

4. Split step just before opponent makes contact.

Frankly, I don't find this analysis to be very insightful. All 4 of those steps would be identical for a one-handed shot. I will try to add my own analysis of the two-hander starting with the pros and con as adapted from an article at Pickleball Land.

Two-Handed Backhand Pros
  • More Control - Having two hands on the racket creates less margin of error.
  • Easier To Learn - It takes more coordination to learn the one-handed backhand.
  • More Consistent - Your racket is more stable at impact when using two hands.
  • More Power - Players with weaker arms will have more powerful backhands whena second arm is used.
Two-Handed Backhand Cons
  • Reach - You will be losing about 2 to 3 inches.
  • Slice - Your slice isn’t as natural as a one-handed backhand player’s would be.
  • Body Shots - It’s more difficult to make a return close to the body.
  • Preparation Time - The physics of swinging with 2 hands vs 1 hand is such that a one-hander is more flexible to a variety of heights and proximity to the body. A two-hander requires taking more steps to get into proper position. 
My opinion is that the limitations of the two-handed backhand outweigh the benefits for all but those who aren't strong enough to hit a good one-handed backhand. I would encourage those players to give the two-hander a try. But they should make the decision with wide-open eyes that their footwork and timing will need to adjust.

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