I get this question a lot: If I’m trying to master the modern forehand, who should I emulate?
Look no further than 2022 Rotterdam champion Felix Auger-Aliassime.
We always talk about how the optimal forehand swing is a brief, explosive, motion. The racket is quickly accelerated by the strong muscles of the hips and abs, and, as a result, it naturally flicks forward through the ball.
Well, Felix’s stroke demonstrates this concept perfectly.
In the image above, Felix’s final preparation position before his forward explosion, his racket, hand, elbow, and upper arm are all on the hitting side of his chest. Further, his elbow is already past his hip, even before he’s initiated his forward swing.
This preparation style is like a cheat code for timing the ball, and I’ll explain why.
We’ve talked before about how, in order for the kinetic chain to work, you must allow the elbow to pass through the plane of the hip before accelerating in earnest. Felix simply prepares the elbow at the location from which it’ll be driven forward, thereby bypassing that entire complication.
Since he prepares by placing his arm-racket system directly in the spot from which he wants to whip it forward, the only thing left to do after preparation is to whip it forward.
There’s no need to move the arm, or the hand, or alter the orientation of the racket – everything is fully prepared for the forward explosion already, leaving only a single variable: when to initiate that quick, explosive core rotation.
Felix also employs the biomechanically optimal level of rotation – he whips his hips and chest exactly towards his inside-out target, and then lets his arm flick forward from there.
The result is that this shot is extremely fault tolerant. If Felix is a little early, or a little late, his string angle will still be correct, because he is contacting the ball right in the center of the forward flick phase.
More to Come
I was really happy to see Felix win Rotterdam. As one of the players with the nicest forehand mechanics on tour, it was such a shame that he was struggling mentally. Make no mistake, though – Felix’s problem was never how he was striking the ball.
Felix strikes the ball in a hyper-efficient way. His style enables him to accelerate aggressively with an extremely simple swing. That simplicity lets him to time the ball extremely well, allowing him to both aim and disguise his shots with ease. Felix’s forehand is going to be one of the premiere weapons on the tour for the next decade, and I’m excited to keep watching it.
February 20, 2022
Could you please elaborate what you mean by “you must allow the elbow to pass through the plane of the hip before accelerating in earnest”
May 14, 2022
I have the same question too. Quite confusing, isn’t it?
May 20, 2022
Good question. By this, I’m referring to an anatomical position in which the hitting elbow is in front of the hips, as opposed to behind them.
By “in front,” I mean that if you walked through a waterfall in this position, your elbow would get wet before your hips.
A lot of players forget to drive their arm/racket system forward sufficiently early in the swing process, resulting in the elbow getting stuck behind the hip for much of the swing, rather than getting flung out away from the body.
Felix’s forehand was the best example I found illustrating the opposite: the explosive quick flick that transpires almost entirely in front of the body.
June 11, 2022
I am still confused about in front of the hip. Do you mean in the first photo, if Felix were to walk through the waterfall located at his center service line with his elbow in front of his hip, the elbow would get wet first?
June 26, 2022
Yep, that’s what I mean.
June 11, 2022
And how does that relate to the late acceleration article about Sinner’s elbow passing the plane of his hip?
February 21, 2022
I’ve read all the articles and read your book twice. I’m even loaning it out to new a new player and using it to help correct student’s strokes. Thanks for all the great content! But… When do we get the “fault tolerant” two-handed backhand? There will be a lot of concepts that transfer but it would still be nice to have the series for reference.
May 20, 2022
Thanks Phillip, I’m really glad you like the stuff. I haven’t studied the two-handed backhand nearly as thoroughly as I have the forehand, so I won’t be releasing a book on it any time soon.
As you said, the core concept of fault tolerance, and tangential concepts like consistent string angle through contact, apply the same way, but obviously the biomechanics of the shot are quite different.