The Shot of the French Open: the Inside-Out Forehand

The Men's Final at the 2014 French Open at Stade Roland Garros featured ATP #1 Rafael Nadal and #2 Novak Djokavic. As the rankings tell you, this was no surprise final.  When the red clay dust cleared, Nadal had taken the match in 4 sets and claimed his 9th French Open title.  The shot that did the most damage for not only these 2 players was the Inside Out Forehand.  This is a ground stroke that isn't just for the Pros.  It's a shot that can help players of all levels deal out the most damage possible!

An Inside Out Forehand refers to how the hitter makes contact between the foot nearest the center of the court and the center of the baseline (a.k.a. The “hash mark.”), and hits the ball towards the furthest corner from their racquet (i.e. the “outside” of the court).   That's how you get the term “Inside-Out.” Another way of describing it is a forehand hit from the hitter's backhand side of the court. 

It should be no surprise that both Nadal and Djokavic would both do the most damage, and even hit the most groundstroke winners with this shot. It's just the most effective weapon to win the point when it can be hit.  Then again, both men are owners of two of the best two-handed backhand groundstrokes in the history of the game.  Both are very capable of hitting unreal backhands to any part of the court off of any shot.  So why would both players consistently run around those backhands to hit Inside Out Forehands? One simple reason: greatest potential racquet head speed.

Here's ATP #1 Rafael Nadal hitting the Inside Out Forehand:

Rafael Nadal Inside Out Forehand Groundstroke

His racquet head has the potential to reach a faster speed on his forehand because it reaches a further distance away from the ball during the backswin.  Therefore it has more time to build up momentum, and arrive at the ball at a higher speed than his backhand. This shot is used more often on the red clay at the French Open because the higher and slower bounce of the incoming ball.  That big bounce gives players like Nadal the needed time to move far enough into their backhand side to make contact on their forehand side. 

If you're going to try and add this shot to your tennis game, and you should, there's one big decision you'll have to make with each shot sent to your backhand side: forehand or backhand?  The decision is based on time.  A player must be able to move between the ball and the nearest sideline and load weight on the leg nearest the ball before it bounces on their side of the court. If you're not confident you can do that, stick with the backhand.  If you can, then there's a ton of racquet speed waiting to be unleashed and it just might win you the point.  Here's ATP #2 Novak Djokavic of Serbia hitting the Inside Out Forehand and his Two Handed backhand in succession:

Novak Djokavic Inside Forehand/Two Handed Backhand

So if you have enough time to move around your backhand, load up the weight and let the racquet head speed carry the day!