Ana coaches the forehand

Ana coaches the forehand

We asked Ana to explain how she hits a forehand and to give a few tips to those looking to emulate it

“I use a semi-Western grip. It can be easily found by picking up a racket lying face down on ground. A ‘V’ should be formed by the thumb and forefinger to the right of the centre of the grip, as you look along the shaft. It is a grip that allows me to play a variety of forehands and easily combines with a shorter backswing for returns. It also allows me to change quickly to a continental grip (the serve and volleying grip) when moving to net.

“If you are right-handed the left arm is very important in the preparation for the shot. It should point at the ball. The left arm helps in your trunk and hip rotation. It puts your muscles on stretch, almost like a rubber band, ready to create force in the swing before you make contact with the ball.

"The stance is very important too. I like to play my forehand with a semi open stance. I’ve always done so. It is especially good if the ball is short. You set up with the right leg behind the trajectory of the on-coming ball and the left leg infront - about 45 degrees in front looking from the right.

“The stance should become more open just before you hit the ball. It allows your hips, trunk and shoulder to rotate through. The racket should accelerate through and finish between your shoulder and neck.

“The eyes should focus on the ball all the time starting when the opponent hits their shot, nothing else – even when you follow through. The movement should be natural, relaxed and automatic.

“The ball should probably be around the height of your hip when you strike it. It is important that the ball is a little bit in front of you, so that you have time to get behind the shot and you are able to follow through with a full stroke.

“It is maybe a little bit complicated for all but the most advanced players, but if you can try and hit your forehand with varying amounts of top spin that is a great way to change the rhythm and frustrate the opponent.

“Varying the play is important no matter what the stroke – on the backhand it is good if you can hit flat, topspin and also slice. Try and practice all three strokes. If you take your tennis seriously you should concentrate fully and think about varying the pace and spin on your shots. Of course, the best person in the world at this is Federer.

“I would recommend to club players to play mostly crosscourt with their forehands to open up the court and then when a ball is shorter you should try to attack through the lines. The court is longer across, so that way there is more margin for error to set up points, and you have opportunities to really go wide.

“If you play down-the-line it should really be when you have the an opportunity to hurt the opponent. Because if you do not hit the shot well enough, the other side of the court is left open and the other player can start dominating the point.

“If you want to run around your forehand you should turn fast and then just go around with little steps to adjust. If you run around it’s much easier to go inside-out. Again, if you want to go down-the-line on the backhand side you should be very careful because you can leave the whole other side of the court open.

“I never really looked at other players to copy their strokes. Of course there were players that I admired, but I was always quite strong and I had some good coaches who really helped with my technique and tactics."

Interview by Gavin Versi

Tomorrow: Pros and pundits explain why Ana’s forehand is such a fine shot