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Sword and Shield Concept

When starting to play tennis more competitively, it is often helpful to understand the sword and shield approach. The sword and shield concept is derived from gladiator fights in old arenas. Fighters were pitted against each other bearing various weapons although the weapons of choice for most were the sword and the shield. The sword was, mostly, used for attacking the opponent (see below) and the shield was, mostly, used for defending. Now, that's not to say that the shield could not be used to bop the opponent over the head or the sword for deflecting a thrust, but generally each device has its role.


Tennis is, in many ways, a modern gladiatorial contest (except, if you lose, you get ice cream on the way home). In this regard, it could be helpful to remember that your forehand is - usually (not always and not for all) - your weapon and the backhand is (again, usually - not always) your shield. Generally speaking, players tend to practice their forehands more and even consciously or unconsciously rally or feed with the forehand side. So that side develops faster than the backhand. In addition, with most players prefering a double-handed backhanded, the two arms can't swing as fast together as a one-armed shot would. Yet, when playing matches, these same players seem to have the same expectations from their backhands as they would from the forehands. They go for just as much power and just as many risky winners. Unless the player has truly worked to develop the "two-sword fighting technique" (see below), my normal advice is to treat one shot more for defensive/consistency purposes an the other for attack.


Now, defensive doesn't necessarily mean pushing. You can certainly press the opponent around the court with your "shield". However, your primary goal should be consistency and penetration. Move the opponent around the court with safe but penetrating shots in order to expose the court for the forehand/kill-shot. As you get better, your backhand will become more of a "sword" and you will be able to hurt your opponent more with it. However, if you only manage to practice 1 backhand to every 4 forehands, try to be smart with how you use your shield in a match. If it's solid enough, the opponent will wear out his sword by hammering against it and you will be in a better position to attack when he's fatigued. 

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