Column: Wave of future in tennis, ambidextrous players?
Just imagine if Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray could play the game of tennis with two forehands hitting groundstrokes, volleys and serves, yes using both their right and left hands equally well.
The game would take on another level that hasn’t been experienced yet.
Will it happen in the near future, doubt it - but if programs that teach such get put in place soon, it could be within 10 to 15 years.
Just look what Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors did to show what a two-handed backhand could do to enhance the game, when a one-handed backhand had been mainly taught before their era of play.
What would the positives be if players were ambidextrous? Stronger shots, more reach, being able to pull opponents off the court easier, fewer injuries - it would be revolutionary to the sport of tennis.
So why hasn’t it happened?
I asked that question of the great coach Vic Braden about 5 years ago and he said, “People are born with a dominate hand and by the time players take up the game that has been pronounced to a very large degree.”
Luke Jensen a college and tour player in the 80’s and 90’s could play with either hand and used the learned talent mainly for serving and overhead purposes. It really came in handy when the sun was in his eyes serving, he could just switch to the other side. He did mention that the down-side was having to practice twice as hard on the serve so each side had no real weakness.
Currently there’s a player on the ATP Tour from South Korea by the name of Cheong Eui Kim who has perfected hitting all of his shots with both hands.
It can be done, but how to get it up and off the ground in the sport of tennis will not be an easy task.
By the time most kids start hitting the ball around they’ve already become dominate with one of their hands, as studies suggest 70 to 95 percent of the world population is born with the primary use of their right hand.
A 2013 study showed 39 percent of infants (6 to 14 months) and 97 percent of toddlers (18 to 24 months) demonstrated a hard preference to using one arm/foot over the other. But it certainly can be a learned and a highly prized trait in many sports.
In baseball with switch-hitting; basketball in dribbling skills and shooting; martials arts - it’s almost a must; skateboarding, boxing, cricket, soccer and hockey to name but a few.
How many people do you know that can perform most any task equally well with either hand? Very rare, and most who have learned to use their opposite hand still tend to favor their original dominate hand.
It will probably take the United States Tennis Association, and the United States Professional Tennis Association years to get behind this notion, with a special young junior program to see anything like this come to be, but it would be interesting and I’d put money on the results.
Sometimes you have to think outside the box.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.