Unlike their male counterparts, the women tennis players are not blessed with big, powerful serves. They are predominantly dependent on rallies to earn points. That is precisely the reason why we see frequent breaks of serve in women’s game. Since they do not get to score too many free points and most of their games are decided on rallies – like I said – it is imperative for them to be equipped with a wide range of shots to operate from the baseline. Either they should have a great forehand or a flawless backhand to compete at the high level.
During long rallies, most of the current tennis players employ the backhand as their primary weapon to set up the points. The top-ranked professionals of the current generation are generally more effective with their backhand than their forehand. Let us now take a look at the top 10 backhands in women’s tennis today.
10. Daniela Hantuchova:
This Slovak tennis player is almost a forgotten girl in WTA but as far as her backhand goes, she is right up there with the top ranked ladies. She can repeatedly exchange umpteen shots with her backhand from the baseline. Though not strongly built, she can force the pace off her backhand almost effortlessly.
9. Francesca Schiavone:
When you come to think of Francesca Schiavone, you immediately get reminded of Justin Henin. There is one big similarity which connects the two and that is the outdated “one-handed backhand” which has been their standout shot. In the current era, Schiavone is only one of the two ladies in the top 100 – Carla Suarez Navarro being the other one – who uses the single-handed backhand. This 32-year-old Italian’s backhand cross court is struck with extreme power and she puts lots of top spin behind it too. She has the capacity to hit some incredible winners from the back of the court with her backhand.
8. Jelena Jankovic:
The backhand down the line is one of the toughest shots to play in tennis but this Serb seems to cope with it well; better than most, in fact. She combines elegance with power in her backhand. She covers the court really well and has the ability to score winners from anywhere on the baseline. Since she is very efficient with her backhand, you hardly find her employing her forehand to finish a point. More often than not, she tries to hit shots off her backhand wing.
7. Li Na:
Li Na is the first ever Chinese girl to have won a Grand Slam and that happened last year in 2011 when she triumphed at Roland Garros. Her backhand is technically sound and by far her more reliable groundstroke. She and Nadia Petrova are very similar in the way they use their backhand to great effect. Be it down the line or cross court, she gets them perfectly maneuvered during long rallies. Her agility and mobility on the court aid her to use the backhand with great precision and ease.
6. Nadia Petrova:
Sometimes I often wonder how Sania Mirza managed to defeat this Russian who is so lethal with her backhand. For a woman, she hits more winners than what we are normally used to seeing off this wing. She can sometimes hit winners off her backhand from unplayable positions. Even if there is no open court, she can use the supernatural power of her arms to hit some stunning winners, even if her opponent on the other side is well within the reach of getting to them. The only problem with Petrova is that she makes some unforced errors – a bit more than the others – off this wing.
5. Caroline Wozinacki:
This Danish girl is a former World No.1 but is still struggling to win her maiden Grand Slam title. She is comparatively less powerful than most of the others in the top 10 but then she is much more effective with her backhand. She can get her backhand to work consistently for a large number of shots, more than most WTA players. She can generate plenty of angles and also has the ability to play the slice. She sets up points very nicely off her backhand.
4. Maria Sharapova:
Sharapova completed her career Grand Slam this year when she won her first French Open title. Her ability to nail strong and powerful groundstrokes from the baseline has been the secret to her success throughout her career so far. This Russian beauty is incredibly consistent with her backhand, especially when compared to her forehand. The amount of grunting that she does adds to the total tonnage of effort she puts into her groundstrokes. When she strikes her backhand down the line, it races through the court and past her opponent in the blink of an eye. She is usually safe while executing shots with her backhand because she does not make so many errors from the back of the court off this wing.
3. Serena Williams:
When you talk of raw power in women’s tennis, you cannot neglect to mention the American, Serena Williams. Her game is built primarily on the power that she possesses. Since she is also equipped with an all-court game, she even looks unbeatable at times. She can overpower anyone with her backhand. Just when her opponents think they have played a smart shot during the course of a rally, she amazes everyone by nailing her backhand well past them. She moves quickly on the court and hits winners off her backhand from some unimaginative positions. Her backhand is easily one of the best in the modern era.
Azarenka has finished her season this year as World No. 1 despite losing to Serena Williams many times. The reason for her success this year has been her constant improvement in shot-making. She can hit penetrative shots off her backhand in a manner that very few other players can. She uses a big and clean swing to hit her double-handed backhand which helps her in scoring winners with extreme precision and ease. Be it down the line or cross court or for that matter even the slice, everything comes easily for her with her backhand. She positions herself really well whenever she attacks her opponents off her backhand.
1. Venus Williams:
Although most female tennis players execute their backhand well, none of them has been as effective or consistent as Venus Williams. Her smooth backswing assists her in playing some strong groundstrokes off her backhand. Even if you execute a clean drop shot and drag her forward to the net, she is so good in picking the ball off her backhand and hitting a crosscourt winner out of nowhere, that you are left stunned. She strikes tons of winners off her backhand, perhaps more than any other player on the WTA tour. Her backhand is not only the best in the modern era but also one of the best ever.