That Wristy, Whip-Finish

So if Federer can whip his forehand with a wristy follow-through, waist high, why can't you?  Well, you can, if you have his timing.  Seen in super slow-motion, you'll see that Federer and others still use a low-to-high stroke to impart topspin, even if the lift isn't as dramatic as the forehand follow-through that resolves up and over the opposite shoulder.  In other words, though his finish looks low, he isn't swinging down to keep the ball down.  A low, level stroke imparts no topspin, and the shot is heading for the fence.  And that's what most recreational players do when they try and copy this stroke:  they wrist the finish, low and across their bodies, and their shot sails long.

Because of that, I don't teach or advocate the whip finish.  And, if you watch carefully, you won't see the whip finish in the pros as commonly as you might think.  You'll never see Venus, Serena or Sharapova use wrist on their finish, and those are some of the best forehands in the game.  Even Nadal has mostly abandoned this follow-through, now finishing his forehand with a reverse stroke, over his left shoulder, or directly over his head.  This has helped him flatten out and hit more through his forehand, though he's still imparting more spin than anyone on the tour.

Planet Tennis vs. Planet Earth.  Recreational players have a hard time hitting fully through their ground strokes.  When they're nervous, which is just about all the time, they poke, punch, slap at and stop at contact, believing that if they can make the stroke lower and shorter, they won't hit the ball out.  Out it goes!  You want to copy the pros?  Copy those strokes that give you a sense of a high, vertical finish, up and over your opposite shoulder.  Reaching up imparts topspin, and that's what keeps the ball down.  After all, you'd never see a professional's backhand finished low, with wrist, and what's the primary virtue of that two-handed stroke?  Topspin.

c Keith Shein