No Way Back: The Backhand Overhead Smash – How to Hit the Most Difficult Shot in Tennis by Coach Bo Alburo

Most experts agree that because of the anatomy of our bodies, the backhand overhead smash (aka backhand smash, backhand overhead) is undeniably difficult. It is difficult to maintain good eye contact with the ball with a turned neck and back to the ball, while getting any meaningful amount of power of it. It is even more difficult for girls and ladies who use a double backhand, even on the volleys. One would need very strong rotator cuff muscles, forearm, and a good wrist snap to hit this shot with good power.  In this article Singapore Open Men’s Singles Champion and ITF World 32 Coach Bo Alburo Lourelu shows you just how to hit this shot with an exclamation mark.

Coach Bo Alburo side shuffles with cross oversteps to prepare to hit a backhand overhead smash
Coach Bo Alburo side shuffles with cross oversteps to prepare to hit a backhand overhead smash

Side shuffle fast to get behind the ball for the backhand overhead smash

This assumes the ball is too fast to turn your body for a forehand smash. If you can, you should always try to hit a forehand overhead smash. Only when you are lacking that split second to turn towards your forehand but can still get to the ball that you should set-up for a backhand overhead smash. When you side shuffle with crossover steps, you stand the best chance to continue to track the ball with your eyes while preparing your set-up to hit the backhand overhead smash.

Coach Bo Alburo's shoulder is greatly turned to hit the backhand overhead smash
Coach Bo Alburo’s shoulder is greatly turned to hit the backhand overhead smash

Use a Continental Grip for the Backhand Overhead Smash

The Continental Grip allows you to bypass the side of the ball to hit a sharp angle cross court. This is extremely effective because usually the only times you have insufficient time to use a forehand overhead smash is if the ball is coming straight down the line off a forehand topspin lob from your opponent on their deuce court. As such, a short sharp angle slide into the open court with no pace so the ball slides away without bouncing up is the most ideal situation. To hit this shot, you would contact your racquet strings with the ball’s 8 or 9 o’clock, and let the ball and strings’ energy slide the ball to your target. Using the continental grip not only gives you access to this angle, it also allows you to impart significant backspin slice on the ball to let it die away for a quick double bounce. Deft placement rather an raw power is the key to the execution of this option.

Note the uncoil of Coach Bo's right flank as he snaps his forearm and writ into the ball
Note the uncoil of Coach Bo’s right flank as he snaps his forearm and writ into the ball

The Continental Grip also allows you access to the use of the forearm and the wrist snap should you chose to take the ball up the line. This usually happens based on the experience of your opponent. Many opponents, once they sense you are able to reach it with a backhand angle, they will tend to charge towards the short angle for it is the natural shot. If so, or if you have hit this shot a few times before and you sense your opponent anticipating it, you can choose to take it deep up the line to try to wrong foot your opponent. It is important that the down-the-line shot lands deep otherwise you will be a sitting duck for a lot of passing angles short crosscourt, or behind you or a big forehand aimed directly at you.

Note the uncoil of Coach Bo’s right flank as he snaps his forearm and writ into the ball

Have a strong set up for the Backhand Overhead Smash

Have a good set up by turning your body more than three-quarters way such that your back is almost facing the net. Point your elbow upwards, with the racquet handle close to your opposite ear and the raquet head over your shoulder. This gives you a ability to either slide and bypass the ball for the short angle finish, or to snap your forearm and wrist into the ball to snap it down the line.

Note the continental grip on Coach Bo's Backhand Overhead Smash
Note the continental grip on Coach Bo’s Backhand Overhead Smash

Note the uncoil of Coach Bo’s right flank as he snaps his forearm and writ into the ball

Put your right flank on stretch for the Backhand Overhead Smash

As almost certainly you will be launching in the air when you hit the backhand overhead smash (otherwise it should mean that you would have enough time to be hitting a backhand volley instead) or have time to step and contort your shoulder and arm around for a forehand smash. Since you are leaving the ground with no support, a useful way is to put your right flank on stretch so that there is some tension (like the pole of a pole vault) to create some dynamic stability and potential energy to snap your forearm and wrist into the ball.

Nice angle by Coach Bo Alburo on his Backhand Overhead Smash
Nice angle by Coach Bo Alburo on his Backhand Overhead Smash

Be clear on your tactical intention with the Backhand Overhead Smash

Unlike the forehand overhead smash where the intention is almost always to finish the point, it is useful to have the mental concept in your mind that when hitting a backhand overhead smash, you are already somewhat compromised and while you are still trying to be offensive, the priority is to create a really sharp angle or otherwise, to put it really deep and be ready to play another shot. Being overly aggressive on this shot will lead to many errors or mishits where the ball lands with insufficient depth or angle for an easy shot by the opponent to finish you off.

Backhand Overhead Winner by Coach Bo Alburo1
Backhand Overhead Winner by Coach Bo Alburo!

The TAG International Tennis Academy Definitive Guide Series

We hope you have found this article informative. If so, please share it with your tennis playing family and friends.

This article is part of the TAG Definitive Guide Series which encompasses the best tennis advice available on the internet. If you enjoyed this article, some other interesting tennis instruction articles you may like:

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  5. Best tips to a devastating one handed backhand by TAG Coach Bo Alburo
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  10. Best tips to a scissors-kick overhead smash by TAG Coach Michael Mantua
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Tactical Instruction Guide

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  2. Best tips on the art of poaching in doubles by TAG Coach Dave Regencia
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  5. Best tips to hit the ball Early on the Rise by TAG Coach Rapeepat Thonghatta
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Tournament Preparation Guide

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  5. Spotlight: Best children tennis birthday party host Mervyn Goh of ImaginArts
  6. Spotlight: Interesting things to know about Coach Rapeepat Thonghatta including that he was coach to 2 ATP Players before joining TAG
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  8. Why TAG International Tennis Academy is widely acknowleged to be the best tennis academy in Singapore
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  10. Spotlight: Coach Bo Alburo – ITF Men’s 35+ World #2
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Contact Us

If you are looking to improve your tennis, you can look to some of Singapore’s best private tennis coaches such as the tennis coaches from the best tennis academy in Singapore, TAG International Tennis Academy by taking private tennis lessons. We can be contacted at +6598395232, or contact us HERE.

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