5 Most Unorthodox Shots in Tennis

Published 10/13/2015, 1:21 PM EDT

What a boring game it would be if there wasn’t the occasional tweak of the established style of play? With just a little out-of-the box thinking and a lot of presence of mind, tennis players can perform several unthinkable shots.


Article continues below this ad

Most of these unorthodox shots require a lot of practice and the techniques are not at all easy to master. But over the years, we’ve seen the emergence of some crazily brilliant shots that never used to be in the textbooks.

Here we take a look at the origins of some of the most unorthodox shots and how they’ve become prominent.


Article continues below this ad

1. The Tweener

This is arguably the most famous of the lot today, mostly thanks to a certain star named Roger Federer. The Tweener is a shot which is hit between the legs of the player, usually while facing away from the opponent.

The shot is mostly used while retrieving an overhead lob from the opponent which you don’t have time to turn around and return it. The tweener is a big crowd pleaser and adds a bit of ‘magic’ into the game.

The origins of this shot goes all the way back to the 70s. Two players, Guillermo Vilas and Yannick Noah, both claim to have invented the shot. But Vilas is widely recognised as the one who popularised it. The shot was called ‘The Gran Willy’ in the Argentine’s honour.

The shot was also used in the 90s by Gabriela Sabatini, for whom the shot was also referred to as the ‘Sabatweenie’. Andre Agassi too used to hit the Tweener on certain occasion.

But it was none other than Roger Federer who made it the popular shot it is today. Most famously, Federer hit a Tweener winner in the semi-finals of the 2009 US Open, which he later said that it was ‘the greatest shot I ever hit in my life’.

Here is the video of that brilliant shot-


2. The Bucharest Backfire

This was named by tennis writer Bud Collins in honour of the former World No. 1 Romanian Ilie Nastase, who made was one of the first users of the shot and made it famous.

Ilie Nastase during his glory days,

The Bucharest Backfire is used when you are retrieving an overhead lob, but your body can’t get behind the ball and the ball is too high after the bounce. The shot is performed by a backward shot over your non-dominant shoulder, while facing away from the opponent.

Here is a video which will help you understand the Bucharest Backfire-


3. The Behind the Back Shot

This is a shot which isn’t too commonly seen as it is very risky and extremely hard to control. The science behind the shot is to use your preferred hand and swing it behind your back to your non-dominant side and make contact with the ball.

Milos Raonic hits a behind the back shot.

The obvious problems that arise in such a shot is that it is very hard to know which part of the racquet will the ball hit and also the trajectory of the ball after contact is very hard to control.

The shot is mostly just attempted instictively, especially when you are moving towards one side of the court and the ball is hit towards the opposite side.

Here is a video of Japanese tennis player Yoshihito Nishioka at the Aptos Challenger event performing such a Behind the Back shot, which was hailed by many as one of the best shots ever hit.


4. The Two-Handed Forehand

For a long period of time, the two-handed backhand was considered an unorthodox shot, but in the modern game, it has become a norm. But a technique which has been seen used rarely by players both before and now is the two-handed forehand.

When you put both hands on the racquet for the forehand, a player loses a lot of his/her reach. But the advantage is that the player will be able to hit shots more accurately with the added support of the weaker hand.

There have been many players who use this technique but very few have mastered the technique and managed to achieve success. The most recent being Marion Bartoli’s surprise victory at the 2013 Wimbledon Champions.

Marion Bartoli hits a hard two handed forehand in the 2013 Wimbledon Final.

But easily one of the most recognized two-handed forehands is of Monica Seles, who managed to win 9 Grand Slam titles in a short period of time. Seles was able to compensate for the lack of reach with pace and quick movements. Seles was adept at placing angled shots perfectly and accurately.

Monica Seles with her famous two handed forehand shots.

Another known user of this technique is a man who is called the ‘Magician’ – Fabrice Santoto. Santoro is especially known for his unorthodox style of play.



Article continues below this ad

5. The Lob

The offensive and the defensive lob is a difficult shot to master, but very effective if precise. The former is used when the opponent is close to the net. The shot is aimed to go above the opponent’s head and land on the court behind, making it hard to retrieve it. The defensive lob is used simply to get the opponent back to the baseline.

An effective lob shot.

The origins of the lob go way back to 19th century when Englishman Frank Hadow used this shot to beat Spencer Gore in the second ever Wimbledon tournament in 1878. Hadow was nicknamed the ‘loftiest champion’.


Article continues below this ad

Although this shot isn’t really an unorthodox shot, it certainly is a difficult one. Only few players have truly mastered this shot and use it effectively. Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are just some of the stars who use the lob often.



Ram Narayan

32 articles