The backhand for a typical tennis player is usually their weaker side. For the 15 players below, there is nothing weak about their backhand. They can hit it with a lot of power while also putting it wherever they wish.
What are the 15 best tennis backhands of all time? Judging by how effective the backhand was on their respective tour, the men and women making this list had an advantage that’s hard to argue with.
15. Roger Federer
It’s not his best shot, but Federer still being on this list shows how great he was all-around in his prime. Roger Federer had one of the most beautiful backhands in tennis history, and it was pretty lethal when he was locked in.
Hitting through the ball was never too much of an issue for Federer. He had a little bit of trouble with balls kicked high off the ground, only because his one-hander could not get on top of the ball as he likes.
The backhand slice keeps opponents off-guard as well. Few have been able to match his level of consistency with a slice backhand. He can put the ball deep and change speeds better than anyone.
14. Richard Gasquet
Fans and fellow players have raved about Richard Gasquet’s backhand since he first hit the tour. Now getting up there towards the end of his career, it doesn’t look like he’ll win that coveted Grand Slam title.
He’ll have to settle for four semifinal appearances and a consistent ranking in the top 20 for several years.
Gasquet can hit flat backhands and ones with a ton of spin. He’s not afraid to go after certain shots and take risks to open up the court.
Some hoped that he could be just a little more consistent with his other strokes to balance things out.
13. Stefan Edberg
Stefan Edberg was known as a great serve and volley player. Instead of having a powerful first serve, he would kick or slice it to keep opponents off balance.
Volleying on either side gave him a great one-two punch when necessary. However, it is the variety of his one-handed backhand that also made him hard to face.
When rallying from the baseline, few could figure out Edberg’s backhand consistently. He would give a ton of variety to keep opponents on their toes.
It was particularly devastating on hardcourt, and it should come as no surprise that he won all three of his Grand Slams on that surface.
12. Simona Halep
Former #1 player in the world Simona Halep is known to be one of the smartest players on the WTA Tour. She’s an offensive baseliner, but she can also play outstanding defense if necessary.
The focus for Halep in the middle of a match is not to hit the biggest shots in the world. Instead, she kills players with consistency and positioning.
When there is an opportunity to hit a winner, she’ll take the chance. Having a dependable backhand allows her to stay in matches when other shots aren’t working.
11. Marat Safin
A fully committed Marat Safin was nearly impossible to deal with. Characterized as a baseliner with tons of offense of power, he had a great forehand. However, it was his backhand that gained even more praise.
Even when compared to modern players in the game today, Safin’s backhand would have the chance to end up winners at any time. It was one of his more consistent shots, and allowed him to beat anyone.
Unfortunately, many believe Safin never reached his full potential as a player. He didn’t seem as dedicated to the game as others. That left him retiring early and not becoming a rival to the greats.
10. Jimmy Connors
Jimmy Connors became one of the first players to embrace the modern era of power tennis. That included a flat, powerful backhand that caused a lot of problems for his contemporaries.
Height seems like it was somewhat of a limitation for Connors early on in his career. He worked more and more on developing skills that would combat that disadvantage.
His two-handed backhand was very high up on that list. Not only did help him in rallies, but his return game was one of the best in his era.
The backhand has changed a little bit over to his history, but Connors could still fit right in with today’s game. Give him modern racquet technology in his prime, and the backhand would still be a major problem.
9. Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal has consistent shots that break down opponents everywhere on the court. His backhand is a solid option for whatever he’s trying to accomplish out on the court. He has no problem hitting balls consistently and staying in the point as much as possible.
An advantage for Nadal is that he is naturally right-handed. That means that his two-handed backhand comes a little bit easier than it does for others. It would seem like it works against him when hitting a forehand, but he developed a strong forehand as a tennis lefty as well.
Clay court play is where Nadal has always excelled. It gives him a chance to hit through the ball a little bit more on his backhand.
8. Serena Williams
Serena Williams has been a very consistent player throughout her career. While many of her shots cause trouble for opponents, she has a very hard backhand that’s tough for players to handle.
She’s not afraid to take risks with her backhands, which gives her a good amount of winners compared to everyone else on tour.
Hitting with an open stance, her backhand is powerful, heavy, and usually hit at an angle. It’s a much flatter shot than her forehand, which catches some opponents off guard.
7. Steffi Graf
Steffi Graf had a ton of variety off of her backhand during her playing career. Although she was mostly known for her inside-out forehand and great footwork, a powerful backhand early in her career made her an all-around threat.
As her tennis evolved, she started using a backhand slice on a more consistent basis. Her accuracy with the slice made it so that her shots were never exploited.
Even late in her career, she would never pass up the opportunity to hit a powerful backhand for winners when given the opportunity.
Keeping the ball in was always a high priority, but she could turn defense into offense better than anyone on the WTA tour.
6. Andre Agassi
Without his backhand, Agassi wouldn’t be regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. Eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi started his career going for outstanding shots early on to take advantage of the point.
One of his best weapons was a very accurate two-handed backhand. He could hit it cross-court or down the line with ease. Between the forehand and backhand, he would almost always favor the backhand to take control.
Most of the damage could be done on hard courts. He was never all that fond of grass or clay, even though he was able to win a Grand Slam on all three surfaces.
5. Justine Henin
The one-handed backhand of Justine Henin was a thing of beauty in her prime. The Belgian did most of her damage on clay, as she won the French Open four times in her career. However, her backhand was devastating on all surfaces.
A rarity for WTA players is a one-handed topspin backhand with pace. Despite her small frame, she was able to hit with a ton of power.
Even in today’s game, very few women use a one-handed backhand because they don’t have as much power or control.
4. Stan Wawrinka
One-handed backhands don’t come much more powerful than what Stan Wawrinka brings to the table. The Swiss star can cause trouble for any player when he is dialed in with his backhand. It’s a big reason why he found a way to win three Grand Slam singles titles in his career.
A late bloomer, Wawrinka started becoming more consistent with his backhand in the second half of his career.
Building points off of that shot, he was able to be a much more consistent player against the top players. Not only is it effective, but it’s aesthetically pleasing.
3. Andy Murray
Consistency has always been a reliable trait for Andy Murray. His two-handed backhand has consistently broken down opponents because of his ability to move the ball around with ease.
He might not hit the hardest or with the most spin, but it sets up all the shots around the court as well.
Murray’s speed allows him to get to a lot of balls that others can’t. Instead of being a flashy player, Murray is always focused on consistency on that side of the ball. It’s led to a very successful career that only now is starting to wind down.
2. David Nalbandian
Modern-day tennis fans forget just how good of a player David Nalbandian was during his prime. Getting as high as #3 in the world, his two-handed backhand turned into a huge weapon. He was one of the cleanest ball strikers in the game, and that never faded.
If anything, fitness is what ultimately brought down Nalbandian. He was unable to play at a high level for long, often tiring out in bigger matches. If he were more dedicated to tennis, there is a chance that he would have been a multiple Grand Slam champion.
1. Novak Djokovic
Simply put, Novak Djokovic has created a category of his own with his versatile backhand. He has every possible skill a person can ask for with their backhand, making it a devastating weapon against even the best opponents.
Djokovic has the consistency that other players dream of hitting on that side. Whether it’s pace, spin, touch, and more, he keeps opponents guessing.
There seems to be no fear in him to take risks on the backhand, as every shot he hits is a true challenge for opponents.
The Importance of a Great Backhand
Players who can hit great backhands are always going to be tough to face as an opponent. It means that there are usually no weaknesses in their ground game.
Although it’s possible to have a weak forehand and a strong backhand, very rarely does that occur at the professional level.
In a modern game, players need fewer weaknesses to succeed. Developing a strong backhand is almost a requirement to be a top player in the world.