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Stan Wawrinka: One-Handed Backhand Expert

Wawrinka© Getty ImagesPreparation is crucial to one-handed backhands according to Stanislas Wawrinka.

There’s a universal adage that says two hands are better than one. In tennis, this has become the norm when it comes to players developing backhands, given the physicality and power of the modern game.

Yet there is something aesthetically pleasing that only a single-handed backhand can deliver to a viewer, and today, Stanislas Wawrinka offers one of the most beautiful strokes on the ATP World Tour. When his court positioning, timing, acceleration and extension all come together, Wawrinka’s backhand is pure poetry in motion.

The Swiss has proven himself worthy as a player not to be overlooked in 2013 with several notable performances. Wawrinka pushed eventual Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic to five sets in a memorable Melbourne epic, played a seven-hour marathon in a Davis Cup doubles rubber, dismantled Andy Murray at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, outclassed David Ferrer in the Portugal Open final and posted two Top 10 wins en route to a runner-up finish at the Mutua Madrid Open.

As part of Compeed’s Form & Fitness series, Wawrinka gives his expert insight on one-handed backhands and takes part in our ‘Which player on tour’ quickfire.

When did you first start hitting one-handed backhands and how pleased are you to have stuck with it, given that it's become one of your signature shots?
I changed when I was 11. My two-handed backhand was not really good, so my former coach Dimitri asked me to try a one-handed backhand. The change was more natural for me and for sure, I'm really happy with that as it's one of my best shots.

What can you do to train the shot when you switch surfaces, given the difference in court speed and ball bounce?
A lot of it has to do with your feet. You need to change how you move to be ready for every surface. When you go to grass, it's lower and you have to be ready for that. But now we change surfaces a lot, so it's a bit easier.

What surface suits a one-hander the best?
I think I think it depends on the player and their game. For me, I like to play on every surface. There are little changes to make, like on clay courts, where you have more time to slide with the legs to prepare for the shots. On grass you need to take it earlier. That's a challenge.

WawrinkaWhere do you derive power from to hit your backhand?
With preparation and your legs. You need to be really down with your legs and control your body.

How does your approach with the backhand change when you play someone who flattens out their strokes more? Is there anything a player with a one-hander can do to compensate for this?
For me, I always try to be aggressive with my one-hander and not let the other player have control of the point. 

Recent trends have seen the one-hander become more obsolete. Why do you think this is the case?
It's tough to say. Maybe with a two-hander, you can be later with your legs and body, but still have the power. With a one-hander, you need more time.

What advice would you give to a young recreational player who is looking to develop a one-handed backhand? 
I think the most important thing is to practise again and again. You have to try and improve with every ball you play. That was the key for me.

Which player on tour do you think…
Is the most flexible? Novak Djokovic
Has the best footwork? Roger Federer
Has the best balance? Novak Djokovic
Has the strongest core? Rafael Nadal
Is the quickest? Andy Murray
Has the greatest muscular endurance? Novak Djokovic

With assistance from Maria Garcia-Planas.

- COMPEED is an official supplier of the ATP.

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