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Tech Talk: Going loco for the Coco Gauff backhand

May 24, 2023

The 19-year-old American has soared as high as world No. 4 in the WTA rankings, thanks in part to one of her most consistent shots: the backhand.

Published Jun 07, 2023

Make no mistake about it, Coco Gauff is just getting started. From her breakthrough win against Venus Williams in her Wimbledon debut at 15 years old, Gauff is chasing a dream that keeps getting bigger and more achievable.

The American has soared as high as world No. 4 in the WTA rankings, thanks in part to one of her most consistent shots: the backhand. Let's be honest, there's a reason she plays the ad side in doubles with Jessica Pegula, and it's not because that's the shady side of the court.

Please don't hit me, please don't hit me...

© 2023 Robert Prange

Gauff's backhand is her best shot, technically speaking. Watching her backhand shot from behind, you can barely make out the racquet head during her take back. This is because she takes it back nearly 180º behind her, appearing as though the racquet has disappeared.

You see this with ATP players like Novak Djokovic, and even one-hander Stefanos Tsitsipas. They have mastered a beautiful take back that sets them up for intense control over the ball. In Gauff's case, the 19-year-old closes the face of her racquet and swings up on the ball to make up for the closed racquet surface.

Coco Gauff's backhand shines as she beats Mirra Andreeva 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-1 to return to the round of 16 at Roland Garros.I feel like we learned a lot about Andreeva today. Excited to hear David, Catherine & Matt's eyewitness take on it later.

Think about it: If your racquet face is closed, the strings are facing the bottom of the net. You can't just swing through, you have to direct the ball upwards. Conversely, if your racquet face is open and you find your backhands rainbowing over the net, traveling closer to the sky than the court, than swinging through or up would only make matters worse.

Part of Gauff's success with the backhand is mastering the technique. She is so good at what she does that it's second nature for her to execute this swing in response to most every ball.

Her backhand often goes flat cross-court and accelerates greatly due to her closed face and upwards swing. This speed is troublesome for opponents of all kinds, as it counterpunches back to their side of the net and maintains Gauff's position in the point.

Coco Gauff. Backhand. #RolandGarros

We’ve also seen her slice from time to time, which adds another layer to her game. As previously mentioned when talking about Ons Jabeur's slice game, the more variety a player in a player's game, the better.

As a beginner player looking to learn how to hit a proper backhand, Gauff is an example that can set you on the right track. Since you’re starting on a clean slate, you can develop the technique more easily, breaking down the 180º take back and figuring out how to properly swing through according to ability and comfort.

For intermediate players, understanding the technique behind this backhand swing will compare back to yours, and help you better understand the physics of the swing itself. The more you understand how the swing works, the better you can develop your swing based on the shot that you want to hit.

Closed racquet face and swinging up on the ball. That's what I call a double whammy.

© Getty Images

Competitive adult players tend to naturally swing upwards on the ball as that's the most natural way to go about a backhand, but listen closely. You know how sometimes your backhand goes way too high and other times it hits the bottom of the net?

Take another read-through of this breakdown, because the solution is right in front of you: Pay attention to the racquet face and pair it with your swing type.

WATCH: Tracy Austin dives into what Coco Gauff is made out of on Talking Tennis with Tracy. The Shot The Strategy The Lesson