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Tue, Oct. 15

Column: Tennis can boil down to putting your best 'hand' forward

When we learned to play tennis, what determined which hand we played with?

If we were really young, say 4 to 6 years old, most of us used a two-handed forehand and two-handed backhand, if for no other reason, the racquet was too big and heavy to use with one hand.  And, we probably didn't give it a second thought unless our instructor or parents gave us special instructions one way or the other.

Now if you were older when you took up the game, you probably already had played many sports, or at the least decided to learn to throw a ball right or left handed and done it thousands of times, which gave you a confidence and special coordination toward one side or the other.

Many people believe that we are born with a natural side and inclination but is that really a true statement?

M.K. Holder is an affiliated scientist in the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior at Indiana University, and she has stated, "In the 160 years in which 'handedness' has been studied we have learned quite a lot, but we still cannot precisely describe what causes humans preferentially to use one hand over the other, or why human populations are biased toward right-hand use rather than left-hand use."

Scientists disagree over what percentage of human populations are "right-handed" or "left-handed" because there is no standard, empirical definition for measuring "handedness"; our criteria vary, and are based on various theoretical explanations because we are still trying to understand the mechanisms involved.

The bottom line is, says Holder, we have a good general idea of the causes of right-handedness in human populations, but we have yet to work out the precise details, including why the direction is right instead of left.

In the back of my mind, I truly believe that the future of better tennis players will be when they are taught from an early age to have two forehands to hit groundstrokes, volleys, overheads and return of serves and be able to serve equally well with their left or right hand.

Some will say, impossible or very improbable at the least, yet I contend that if you are taught this from an early age it very possible and the advantages are enormous.

Being able to serve your opponent wide to either side with a good slice serve - wow.  Having an additional reach of one to two feet hitting with a right and/or left armed forehand in the back court or at the net volleying, what an advantage, as well as the strength factor forehands have with the make-up of the human body over a one or even two-handed backhand.  Injuries will be less likely to occur because one set of muscles will be much less taxed and the body less demanded of in regard to having more reach with less expenditure overall. (That is until everyone is taught to play in this manner.)

You might say, why hasn't it happened already?  Good question.

"Duel-Hand" - Luke Jensen who won the French Open doubles with his brother Murphy could serve 130 mph left or right handed, but used a one-handed backhand.  Monica Seles used a two-handed forehand and backhand as did Pancho Segura.  Many players I have known have come up with an arm injury and learned to play very well - with their opposite hand with much practice I might add.

Professional basketball players learn to drive and shoot inside with either hand. Dribbling is a given that takes place left and right handed.  Soccer players may have a dominate side to kick with, but most are good with either foot on a professional level.

So how long will it take for a tennis player to learn to play with two forehands? Most likely there is a junior academy who is experimenting with such as you read this and it won't be long until that exceptional player will make Roger Federer look as if he used to be the best tennis player there ever was.

You read it here first!

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry.  He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@q.com.

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