By Nicholas McCarvel
Once the game’s most pre-eminent shots, the one-handed backhand, has slowly gone the way of the serve-and-volley tactic: a rarity in tennis’ modern-day power push. But there are still single-handed backhands that thrive in the sport, on display at the BNP Paribas Open each March and elsewhere throughout the year. Here, we take a look at five that still take our breath away.
Roger Federer (SUI) Age: 32 Rank: 5
The most memorable one-handed backhand of this generation might also be the best of all time, Federer complementing his deadly forehand with a stroke that is pure genius. The Swiss man’s ability to roll over or slice the ball deep still wreaks havoc in today’s game, even after 17 Grand Slam titles and four BNP Paribas Open wins. Called “poetic” and ooh’d over by the late David Foster Wallace, Federer’s backhand is all the more genius because of the pure ease he appears to be hitting it with.
Roberta Vinci (ITA) Age: 30 Rank: 12
The Italian has seen a late-career surge, in part thanks to her one-handed backhand that has brought her three Grand Slam titles in doubles (with Sara Errani) and a career-high No. 11 ranking in singles. Vinci’s consistency off the ground pays dividends against power players, particularly when she chips and charges, an ode to fellow modern-day one-handers, the now-retired Justine Henin and Amelie Mauresmo.
What other three contemporaries made our one-handed backhand list? Find out AFTER THE JUMP.
Richard Gasquet (FRA) Age: 28 Rank: 9
Long called “Baby Fed,” Gasquet earned that name initially because of the one-hander that brought him early success on the junior circuit. Now on tour for 12 years, the Frenchman has made a career from that stroke, blasting it for winners at will and stepping inside the baseline to generate even more pace off his opponent’s power. Gasquet has reached the quarterfinals once in Indian Wells, and made his second-career major semifinal at the U.S. Open last month.
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) Age: 27 Rank: 20
The past year has been a Cinderella-like comeback for the Belgian, who’s one-hander is just as beautiful as her redemption story. While she has worked on a part-time basis with two-time BNP Paribas Open champion Kim Clijsters as her adviser, it’s fellow Belgian Henin whose game Flipkens mirrors the most, her slice throwing opponents off and her all-court ability made lethal by strong strokes off the forehand and backhand wings. Perhaps the best of all is Flipkens one-handed backhand punch volley, stabbing at the ball and wrong-footing opponents who thought she may not have had a play on the ball whatsoever.
Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) Age: 29 Rank: 11
In the last year it’s been another Swiss with a thrilling one-handed backhand, Wawrinka, who has had blazing success, playing an epic five-setter against Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open and then beating Andy Murray with a series of incredible one-handed winners at the U.S. Open. Wawrinka has worked his way out of Federer’s shadow thanks to his backhand, which he particularly likes to drill for a winner off an opponent’s offensive strike.