Why Roger Federer actually has the best backhand in the world

Federer's backhand is regarded as one of the most aesthetically pleasing shots in tennis

Definition: The backhand is a tennis shot in which one swings the racquet around one's body with the back of the hand preceding the palm. Except in the phrase backhand volley, the term refers to a groundstroke.

Roger Federer is regarded as the greatest tennis player in the history of the sport, not only due to his peerless career but also due to his seemingly effortless style of play, which is defined by impossible shot-making accomplished with an aura of casual ease.

When one thinks of Federer's best shot, one is naturally drawn to his mythical forehand which legend John McEnroe described as "the greatest shot in our sport" as well as his unreadable precision in his serves which is perhaps the greatest serve in the sport's history. In more recent years, his volleying skills are also vastly superior to all of his main rivals.

His backhand, whilst being praised for its aesthetic beauty, isn't given the same reverence as the other shots listed above, and is even characterised,by many, as his "weakest" shot. This narrative is further reflected in Novak Djokovic's backhand or even Andy Murray's being labelled as the best on tour.

Although Djokovic does possess an incredible backhand, the argument that favours his backhand over Federer's is done so under a limited definition of what a backhand shot entails. In other words, the backhand shot is being described as only a basic flat groundstroke, and due to this, pundits and fans generally favour Djokovic's solid-as-a-rock backhand over Federer's graceful, yet sometimes prone-to-heavy-topspin backhand.

Whilst it can be conceded that under that definition, Djokovic perhaps does have a better backhand than Federer, when one considers that the umbrella term 'backhand' is more multifaceted than that, it changes the argument entirely.

A backhand consists of the standard flat backhand baseline groundstroke, a topspin equivalent, a slice, a lob, a drive volley, a drop shot volley, a slice drop shot volley, and smash. By comparing Federer and Djokovic, or any player on tour for that matter, in all of these different interpretations of a backhand we can see that Federer is not only superior in virtually all the categories, but many of these types of shots Djokovic, and other players, don't even utilise as part of their game.

Federer perhaps doesn't have the very best flat backhand on tour, however, he ranks at the very top or near it in all the other categories listed out. Not only that, he is the only player on tour, and perhaps history, who has exhausted all possible shots off the backhand side.

For those reasons, not only is Federer's backhand, in no way, a weakness in his game, it is in fact the best backhand on tour due its versatility, beauty, and effectiveness. The only reason why this hasn't been commonly accepted over Federer's career, especially in the recent years, is due to the limited definition given to the backhand shot. By understanding the backhand in its truest form, it is clear that Federer's is the best on tour, giving further credence as to why he is the greatest of all time.


Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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