Tennis Stance

tennis stance forehand

Tennis Stance is underrated!

When you watch the top players in action and admire their shots, you probably look first at how they swing the racket. Of course this is important, but how they stand when they hit the ball can make a huge difference to how well they strike it and how easily they can recover for the next shot.

If you ever see a player with smooth, seemingly effortless strokes, it is very likely that this is mainly a result of excellent footwork which allows them to be in a balanced stance for virtually every shot. 

In this article I will look at the type of tennis stance which is most suitable for each of the main strokes.

Why Is Stance Important In Tennis?

In tennis, your aim is normally to hit the ball smoothly and accurately. You will want to be able to repeat a shot as many times as necessary without an undue risk of missing. In addition, you may wish to be able to put some extra power into your shots when necessary. To achieve these things you must be in a stance which suits your shots.

Playing shots from an inappropriate stance is likely to mean you will struggle to hit through the ball properly, will find difficulty in quickly getting into position for the next shot, or are even, in the worst case scenario, likely to injure yourself.

There are several different types of stance which can be used for the basic shots. There is absolutely no such thing as the ‘correct’ stance, as players swing their racket and recover in different ways. Nonetheless, there are certain stances which could be described as ‘incorrect’, as these can restrict the way you hit the ball.

What Is An Open Stance In Tennis?

To hit a shot from an open stance, you must align your lower body to face the net. Your shoulders and upper torso will turn away from the court as far as is comfortable when you are preparing for the shot, and then turn back as you execute the stroke. This feels a little like compressing and releasing a spring. 

The advantage of using an open stance is that it allows you to hit freely through the ball without the feeling that your legs or lower body are hindering the swing. It also works well in combination with the kind of sideways slide that clay-court players like to execute.

The downside of an open stance is the fact that by aligning your body facing the net, it does not necessarily encourage you to transfer your weight forward into the shot- most of the power comes from your rotation. It can be difficult to recover swiftly from an open-stance shot if you have been rushed. 

What Is A Neutral Stance In Tennis?

The neutral stance could equally be described as ‘side-on’. Essentially, your lower body faces a direction parallel to the baseline, and to hit the ball you execute a smooth swing, transferring your weight from back foot to front foot. Your front foot points towards the net, and as you hit the ball, the heel of your back foot lifts.

This stance is useful for hitting smooth, controlled balls from the baseline, or for moving into the court to hit shorter balls. Due to the relative lack of body rotation, it is not the stance to use if you want to generate maximum racket-head speed.

Tennis Forehand Stance

In an easy hitting session, you will probably use a neutral stance in order to allow you to make a smooth weight-transfer towards the ball. In a fast, dynamic rally, especially on a clay court where you are more likely to be sliding, you will often choose an open stance. There is an intermediate option, however, which allows you easy rotation and recovery whilst still encouraging some weight transfer. This is the semi-open stance.

To execute a forehand from a semi-open stance, you will move your right foot (or left foot if you are left-handed) towards the outside of the court, and transfer your weight onto it, as for the open stance. Unlike the open stance, your feet will not be parallel to the net: your outside foot is planted a little behind the other. To hit the ball, you will rotate the hips and torso, transferring your weight forward.

A well-executed semi-open stance allows you to generate substantial racket-head speed whilst transferring your weight through the shot. 

Backhand Stance Tennis

The options for hitting a backhand are similar to those for the forehand, although it is not easy to hit an effective single-handed backhand from an open stance. A semi-open stance can work well for double-handed players. In most cases, the stance for a backhand will appear much more closed than that for a forehand, as your dominant side needs to turn away from the court in order for you to ‘load up’ before striking the ball.

In the backhand version of the neutral stance, therefore, the right foot will be slightly ahead of the left for a right-hander.

Instead of using an open stance for wide balls, on the backhand side it is usual to use a closed stance, particularly if you use a single-handed backhand. This allows you to prepare for the shot with a good shoulder-turn.

The sequence of movements for a closed-stance backhand is to step towards the ball with your dominant foot, and load up so that your weight is on it. After you hit the ball, bring your non-dominant leg around the outside and transfer your weight onto it. Finally, use the non-dominant leg to push you back into the court. This works well for single or double handed backhands.

Tennis Serve Stance

There are two commonly used stances for serving, known as the pinpoint and platform stances. Both have their advocates, and the one you select is a matter of personal preference.

The pinpoint stance involves bringing both feet together before driving up towards the ball with your legs. Some people prepare to serve with their feet together, others only bring their feet together as they throw the ball up. Placing both feet together has the benefit of allowing you to produce the maximum amount of power, but the necessary preparatory movements can be tricky to co-ordinate.

The platform stance requires fewer movements than a typical pinpoint position. The feet remain shoulder-width apart, and you drive up to the ball from that position. Weight can be relatively easily transferred from back foot to front foot, and the risk of foot-faulting is small. You do, however, need to adjust your body angle according to the side of the court you are aiming towards.

Tennis Stances For Beginners

As a beginner, you will need to choose the stances which make the game easiest, and can bring in the more complex options as you improve. It is often recommended that beginners start with a neutral stance on either side, to support easy weight transfer. When serving, the platform stance is probably most suitable, as it is simpler to execute than the pinpoint version. An example of a stance to be avoided is the closed stance on the forehand side, as this will need to be changed as you improve in order to allow rotation.


Key points about the tennis stance:

– The open stance allows plenty of rotation and is great if you like to slide towards the ball.

– The neutral stance is helpful for beginners and encourages easy weight transfer. 

– A semi-open stance works well for the forehand, encouraging rotation and weight transfer.

– Backhands are best hit from a more closed stance, especially if you play them one-handed.

– The pinpoint serving stance allows more power, but the platform stance is easier to use.

Which stance do you prefer, and why? Let us know via the comments.

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