One-Handed vs Two-Handed Tennis: Pros and Cons

One-Handed vs Two-Handed Tennis

One-handed vs two-handed… In the tennis world it’s as subtle a debate as the oxford comma.  You can do with it what you like; it’s all about preference.

But the thing is, there are some hidden benefits to two-handed groundstrokes and some downsides as well that we’ll discuss in this guide.

Whatever style you’re currently using, you’re probably doing pretty well with it or you’d be looking at modifying your game.

Listen to the natural instincts in the dominant aspects of your body and go from there.

If you can retrain your muscle memory, you may find a way to make better, stronger shots, or achieve better control.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of one-handed vs two-handed tennis!

Pro: Two-Handed Backhand Has More Power

Two-Handed Backhand more Power

If hit correctly, a two-handed shot will naturally have more power than a one-handed shot.

It’s just the nature of having both arms engaged when you strike the ball.

Two-handed swings will allow you to challenge the power that comes at you, meet it, and send it back with just as much force.

You might think that having more power means that you’ll have less control.  I don’t agree with that assessment for backhands.

If hit with precise timing, a one-handed backhand can be hit with an unbelievable amount of power, but control is not as easy to harness.

To me, a two-handed backhand provides tremendous power and control.

Throughout my tennis career I’ve switched back and forth between a one-hand and two-handed backhand.  I learned with just one hand so that feels most comfortable to me.

But if my footwork is off or I’m feeling sluggish, my timing to the ball suffers and my one-handed backhand does as well.

Con: One-Handed is Harder to Time

one-handed backhand harder to time

You need to time your shots appropriately, and that’s going to prove pretty difficult when you hit one-handed – especially on the backhand side.

Timing is everything.

Balls are coming at you quickly so you need to have the reaction speed to respond appropriately.

Getting your timing down for a one-handed backhand takes a lot of practice, but when you do it just feels right and can be a thing of beauty.


Pro: One-Handed Forehand Has More Control

Control using one-handed forehand

Simply put, when you’re hitting one-handed groundstrokes, you have more control – especially on the forehand side.

It’s more natural to swing away with just one hand and have easier control of where the ball goes.

If you had never picked up a racket in your life, it’s going to feel flimsy and odd in your hand, and you may be tempted to hit a forehand with two hands like a baseball bat.

If possible, avoid doing this. Hitting a one-handed forehand quickly teaches you how to control the racket and strengthen your wrist muscles.

Control usually is achieved with lots of practice (possibly with a ball machine).

Con: Two-Handed Has Reduced Reach

increased reach using one-handed backhand

Simply put, one-handed tennis has a far better reach to meet the ball.

You just can’t move around as much when you have to plan on hitting a two-handed shot.

This is something that’s so easy to demonstrate on your own.

Stand with your racket in your right hand and reach out as if you’re going to hit a one-handed forehand.

Now add your left hand and reach out to hit a two-handed forehand.  Your reach is much more limited when using two hands.

Take it a step further – try to run with just your right hand outstretched.  It’s not easy, but you aren’t restricted.

Now try to run with both arms outstretched to the right or left and both hands on the racket.  Your mobility/reach is handcuffed quite a bit.

Pro: Two-Handed Has a Shorter Learning Time

shorter learning curve two-handed backhand

There’s less of a learning curve when you go two-handed – especially on the backhand side.

One-handed tennis may be how the game was designed to be played, but using two hands has added a dimension to the game that’s allowed many to excel.

Just like wood rackets are mostly a thing of the past, soon there won’t be too many people playing on the pro tour with a one-handed backhand.  Heck even Roger Federer suggests that children learn to play tennis with a two-handed backhand.

The game of tennis continuously evolves.  In 20 years we all may be playing with two hands off both sides!

Pro: One-Handed Reduces Fatigue

Fatigue Reduced by using one-handed backhand

This may seem like a little bit of a stretch, but it is something to consider.

There’s a simple exercise you can prove right now.

Take a pen or a cup, and hold it with two hands.

Move it side to side, ten times on each side, and stop.

Wait a minute and do the same thing but with one hand. Can you feel the difference?

Fewer muscles are being engaged so you’re not feeling fatigued as quickly.

Tennis is a sport that grinds the body down with long matches in hot temperatures.  If you can give yourself an advantage by reducing energy loss, you might consider doing so.

Can You Hit Forehand With Two Hands?

Yes, you absolutely can hit a forehand with two hands.  Monica Seles did it for years and was tremendously successful.

Forehands will vary depending on the skill level of the player, but two-handed backhands are something that can be used at any skill level.

We’ve talked a lot about power being the main reason for two-handed moves, and sometimes you just need that bit of extra oomph to get the job done.

Is it Recommended to Hit a Two-Handed Backhand?

one-handed vs two-handed debate in tennis

Tennis experts debate the pros and cons of two-handed backhands.  Even the NY Times has gotten in on it.  But you don’t have to.

Hitting a backhand is doing so on your non-dominant side when tends to feel somewhat unnatural.

If using both hands helps you to harness the power of the shot coming at you and hit it back over the net with confidence, so be it.

If you hit more consistently with two hands rather than just one, keep practicing with two hands.  Don’t let what’s trendy dictate how you play.

Play the way that feels most comfortable and ultimately what leads to your success on the court.

What Are Some Benefits of Two-Handed Strokes?

It really comes down to power and the personal feeling of control.

You could smack a shot that cruises right past your opponent because you possess the ability to send it at faster speeds.

When returning serve many players feel that they have more control to not just block the ball back over the net, but to really take a crack at it in a more aggressive nature.

Greater Comfort and Stronger Swings

In the end, many players these days use a one-handed forehand and a two-handed backhand – combining the best of both worlds.

Like everything else on this site, it’s all about personal preference, but hopefully you have more insight about the pros and cons of each.

Don’t be afraid to give both approaches a try, but stick with what works best for you.

Hone your strokes and go out there and have fun!