Many players have sluggish forehands. Some are forced to back up, while others stay at the table but make awkward shots. How can you develop a quicker, more effective forehand?
First, it's all about technique and footwork. If you have poor forehand technique, then you will likely struggle with your forehand shots, period. So work on the technique. This might mean working with a coach, but isn't it worth doing that a few times rather than face a lifetime of frustration?
Once your technique is relatively solid, you can go about making it quicker, allowing you to make those quicker, more effective shots you see top players do so smoothly. How do you go about doing this?
Practice. But not just practice – just as with any other aspect of your game you want to develop, it must be proper practice. In this case I have three drills to recommend for developing that quicker forehand. I swore by these three when I was developing, and they helped me develop a quick forehand, both hitting and looping.
- Partner blocks or strokes side to side as you alternate forehands and backhands. Your focus is to move side to side smoothly, and play the forehand a little quicker than usual. The reason is if you can do it quickly here, it'll transfer into game situations. I used to drill with a lefty on this drill, allowing me to play into their backhand – my forehand crosscourt, looping quick off the bounce, my backhand down the line. With a righty, you can play into their forehand or backhand.
- Partner blocks or strokes side to side randomly, you react with forehand or backhand, trying to play the shots a little quicker off the bounce than usual. Don't anticipate in this drill; just react. Watch your partner's racket, and you should be able to see where he's going the instant he starts his forward swing, allowing you to jump on each ball, which should become a habit. This drill develops quicker reactions and shots in game situations, as well as a quick return to ready position after each shot.
- Hit backhand to backhand with your partner, aggressively, where he randomly picks out one to suddenly go to your forehand, then play out the point. Now you are not only practicing a quick return to ready position after each shot – absolutely necessary in this drill or you'll get clobbered – but a quick move to cover the forehand when the ball goes there. From drill #2 above you should be reacting a little quicker to your partner's shots, so you should be able to cut off those shots to the forehand more quickly than before. As I drill #2, don't anticipate; just react, and jump on each ball as you see where it's going to go, just as you want to do in a match situation.