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               The Backhand Smash – Tipbit #11

 

When I wrote how to hit a Sky Hook in TIPBIT #10, I gave out just a few instructions on how to hit a correct overhead smash. Here is summary of some of my forehand smash tips:

  • Turn your shoulders so your BELLY is not facing the net.

  • Point your non-hitting hand at the ball. That not only improves your focus, but also ensures your belly is not facing the net.

  • Retreat using shuffle steps deeper than the ball so you can step into your shot.

  • Never hit off your back foot. The ball will likely go long.

  • Keep your feet moving.

  • Keep your head up until ball is long gone. If you drop your head too early your ball will probably end up in the net.

  • Snap your wrist and paddle as you contact the ball.

  • Step forward into your shot.

  • Then retake your position at the NVZ; split stepping into the ready position just before your opponent strikes the ball. It’s human nature to stay in the same location, usually mid or backcourt, after hitting the overhead. Observant opponents, with triple vision (know where they are on the court , know where the ball is and where their opponent is), will take advantage of this tendency and drive the next ball at your feet.

Way, way back when I was a much younger man, I spent an entire week at the late Nick Bollettieri’s tennis academy in Bradenton, FL. Nick was an American tennis coaching legend. He participated in the development of many former tennis legends, including Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, Tommy Haas, Mary Pierce, Maria Sharapova, LeLand Lueck, etc. While I attended the week long academy I remember Nick telling me that whenever possible take a forehand smash, not a Backhand Smash, as even a poor forehand smash is better than a good Backhand Smash. And - - - if you find yourself waiting in the Backhand Smash position, it probably means you had enough time to shift your body around to take a forehand smash. Today I think of RFPBA member Teri Anderson; how many backhand smashes have you seen her take - - - not many! Why, because she moves her feet to get into position to take a forehand smash.

 

So now you may ask, why is Lee then writing this tipbit on the Backhand Smash? Because, there are occasions when you are caught off guard by a lob or a volley-lob over your backhand side and the only choice you have to save or stay in the point is a Backhand Smash. Especially when good pickleball players are trained to lob to their opponents’ backhand side.

 

Below is a photo of a pickleball player taking a Backhand Smash. Basically he’s doing a lot of things correctly. He’s turned his shoulder just like a forehand smash, but notice how he’s now pointing at the incoming ball with his dominant elbow (ATA-air the armpit). His weight is on his back foot and he will be ready to transfer this weight forward on his swing. Note how his paddle is back and in the ready position with his eyes on the ball. Now a couple of additional tips I find helpful:

  • Place the thumb of your dominant hand on the paddle’s back face for additional support and power because as you follow through the meat of your palm is more in the front of the handle, not behind it like the forehand smash.

  • Grasp the top edge of your paddle, gently cradling it with the fingertips of your non-dominant hand.

  • Don’t drop your paddle all the way down on the take back, but stop at about a 45-degree angle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some helpful follow through tips:

  • Your swing should be timed so that contact of the ball is in front of your body.

  • Step into your shot, transferring your weight from your back to your front foot.

  • Your arm should be fully extended, providing plenty of leverage for power, as it’s harder to have wrist snap in this shot (that’s why I can hit the BH smash and not the FH smash – as my wrist is fused).

  • Allow your non-paddle arm to go backwards (Newton's third law of motion) for added power and balance.

  • Do not follow through all the way down, but only until the angle of your intended shot.

  • Remember to retake the NVZ immediately into the ready position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your targets for a Backhand Smash are dependent on the opponents’ positions. Aim for their feet if they are at the kitchen line or in no-man’s land between the kitchen and baseline. Aim for an imaginary line two feet inside the lines to increase your margin of error – either baseline or sideline – if they are back beyond the baseline. If one person is up and the other opponent is back, turn your shoulder and direct the ball at the closest opponent’s feet – they have the least reaction time.

 

Remember that improvement and growth come only through continuous effort, struggle, and of course by reading my tipbits.

 

                                 C’ya on the Greenwood courts. President Lueck

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