Roger Federer lost a big match in Indian Wells, California this past Sunday and for once, I wasn’t too upset.
Because the guy who beat him, Austrian Dominic Thiem, has a glorious one-handed backhand.
For the uninitiated, most players today hit their backhands with two hands, which is generally more effective but less aesthetic.
Yet Thiem’s one hander is the best of both worlds: consistent, powerful, and gorgeous.
Which gets me thinking: what are the five prettiest one handed backhands I’ve ever seen? (And because I have to have “seen” it, that eliminates Don Budge, a Californian who won the first Grand Slam in 1938 and by all accounts had the first great backhand in tennis, ever.)
Here’s the list (admitting that Thiem’s would probably be #6):
5. Ken Rosewall, Australia. Rosewall was a rarity in that he had a slice backhand that was a weapon, not a liability. I still remember seeing him knife a return-of-serve winner past Rod Laver in their epic fifth set tie break in Dallas in 1972.
4. Arthur Ashe, USA. Effortless power and fearsome topspin. When he was “on,” this shot was untouchable.
3. Roger Federer, Switzerland. The 2017 resurgence of his aggressive backhand propelled him to five straight wins over Rafael Nadal, and reminds us of what we saw in the glory days of 2003-2006. Especially the down the line.
2. Stan Wawrinka, Switzerland. Why do the Swiss have the great one handers?
1.Stefan Edberg, Sweden. His backhand wasn’t as powerful as Wawrinka’s but it might have been more effective. Why? His ability to add slice to his topspin. Massive shoulder turn and elongated follow through on the topspinner make his the prettiest of them all.