Underspin Backhand – Rosewall then Federer

“Muscles” – the famous Ken Rosewall – with the best underpin backhand in his era.  Ken drove the ball heavily, but always with underpin.  And for you and I the versatility comes with varying the amount of spin, height and or pace.

Underspin keeps the ball low after the bounce – if you hit it firm

Underspin creates deft drop shots – if you hold the ball longer on your strings

And underspin enables you to play floating defense if the point of contact gets behind you





This is a younger version of the author – but also a detailed example of the slo-mo footage within Mastering the Backhand – part of the offer below


  • Noushin

    Reply Reply October 26, 2017

    Many thanks for sharing your invaluable experience and knowledge!

  • paul

    Reply Reply October 23, 2017

    Also, Jim, I think that for those of us who use the one-handed backhand, it is important to keep both hands on the rack until one is ready to unleash the swing, regardless of the type of back-hand shot we are trying to execute. I found myself getting into the bad habit of dropping my “off hand” too early when trying to fine tune my backhand, which (1) caused my racket to drop; (2) revealing my intention to use underspin or topspin or lob; and (3) accelerated my foot position unnecessarily, thus telegraphing whether I was going for cross-court, down-the-line, or down the middle placement.

    As I try to incorporate your valuable lessons into my game, I find it necessary to review all other aspects of my technique such that I don’t abandon any other ingredients of the shot that I am trying to execute. I imagine that is a common pitfall for many of us amateurs: we unwittingly throw out the baby in the process of trying to get cleaner bath water.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply October 24, 2017

      Paul – absolutely right about the use of the off hand during the entire aspect of the preparation, and then even to have that non dominant arm swing backwards during the stroke

  • Rod

    Reply Reply October 23, 2017

    Hi Jim,
    It seems to me that in the slice the slice video you were facing forward more than ideal, and seemed to be hitting the ball too close to your body (not extending). Am I wrong and do you recommend hitting this shot the way you did in the video? I’ve been working on my slice BH and finding that it is npbetter if I do a full sideways turn and hit the ball lower (waist height and below). Doe said it depend on the grip and other factors?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply October 24, 2017

      Rod – perhaps this was a demo not done well, but when returning a low incoming sliced ball I think I was trying to show finesse and control rather than power and that may explain my stance and spacing

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