#17 Run Around Forehand

 The 3 Monster Advantages of the Run Around Forehand 

 1. Upgrade

For the men, forehands account for around 85% of all baseline winners on the pro tour. Backhands only account for 15% and there are some incredibly good backhands out there. Hit forehands – it’s what’s for breakfast!

2. Double

It’s hard to take a neutral backhand down the line and hurt your opponent. But run around that backhand and turn it into a forehand and shazam – now you can! You just doubled your target area – cross court and down the line!

3. Freeze

The open stance of a run around forehand makes it impossible to predict where the ball is going until it comes off the strings. This completely robs any anticipation from your opponent and freezes them until they see where the ball is going.

 2012 Cincinnati Final: Roger Federer def. Novak Djokovic 6-0, 7-6 (7) 

Roger Federer defeated Novak Djokovic primarily with one bold tactic.

Hitting an unreal amount of run around forehands in the Ad Court.
  • Left Picture Novak’s strategy is to go after Roger’s backhand and rightfully so – directing 108 shots to the Ad court. The only problem is that he is doing it too much early in the point when Roger is standing in the middle of the court which makes it easier to turn a backhand into a forehand in the Ad court. Novak should move Roger wider in the deuce court first (to Position A) so that when he does go to the Ad court he is making Roger hit a backhand.
  • Middle Picture  This is what makes Roger Federer, well, Roger Federer. Roger’s FOREHAND completely owns the Ad court. Want to know how Roger can win a set 6-0 against a player like Novak – here’s your answer. Making Roger hit a backhand is not as simply as hitting a ball to the Ad court. He doesn’t settle and neither should you!
  • Right Picture These are the total for the match. If Roger is allowed to hit two forehands out of every three ground strokes then whoever is on the other side of the court is going to have a frown on their face when they shake hands at the end of the match. Roger’s weakness is his backhand, but if he hardly has to hit it, then problem solved!

It’s not easy to pinpoint the greatness of Roger Federer but this graphic certainly helps.

It clearly shows Roger’s determination to hit forehands – especially Run Around forehands in the Ad court. Roger hit the majority of his forehands (56%) standing in the Ad court against the number two player in the world! This picture clearly illustrates the awesome power of the Run Around forehand.

What this does it enables Federer to effectively only play half a court (the Ad court) while the opponent has to cover the entire court. When Roger punishes run around forehand it’s very difficult to take that backhand down the line to hurt him. You have basically got to play defense cross court – exactly what he wats and exactly where he is waiting.

In the second set Roger hit more run around forehands (42) in the Ad court compared to the deuce court (27) – which were both more than the 26 backhands he hit. Why settle for a backhand when you can upgrade to a forehand? While Federer hit 58 run around forehands in the Ad court for the match, Djokovic could only managed 20 – giving Federer close to a 3-1 ratio with this tactic.

 2012 Indian Wells Final: Roger Federer def. John Isner 7-6 (7), 6-3 

Roger Federer once again is an outstanding role model for this crucial strategy from the back of the court.

  • Left Picture – Just like Novak in example 1, John likes the idea of attacking Roger’s backhand in the Ad court, going there 112 times. John is also a player who really likes to control the Ad court with run around forehands as well.
  • Middle Picture –  Roger is at it again, turning 72 backhands into run around forehands in the Ad court. That’s almost two out of three shots in the Ad court hit as a forehand. This makes it almost impossible for John to get ahead in the rallies.
  • Right Picture – These are the total for the match. Roger is hitting almost three out of every four ground strokes as a forehand all over the court. It’s such a losing battle for John once a rally begins because Roger is going to move better and be the first to gain control of the rally.

Roger was able to create 72 run around (66% of total forehands) forehands in the Ad court that John was desperately tying to make him hit as backhands.

Total Forehands 108 = 73%

Total Backhands 40 = 27%

Nine (64%) of Roger’s 14 forehand winners were struck from the Ad court as John desperately struggled to find his backhand.

John was able to hit 50 of his 89 (56%) forehands in the Ad court and four of his five forehand winners were run around forehands in the Ad court. Roger  hit just 40 rally backhands to John’s 59 – representing Roger only hit 40% of total backhands in the match. Combined there were 19 forehand winners in the match and only three backhand winners. Today’s baseline is definitely dominated by the forehand, and specifically, the forehand hit in the opposite court.

 3 Break Points

You never know when the crunch time will come in a match. In this final it came early for Roger at 1-1 in the opening set when he faced three break points. He won all three and didn’t face another break point for the entire match.

How did he save the break points? – well it was his forehand of course. On the three break points he dominated the baseline with seven forehands and also finished at the net with one overhead. All the forehands were run-arounds in the Ad court.

John was desperately trying to get the ball to Roger’s backhand but the Swiss maestro was able to protect it.

Roger didn’t hit one backhand on any of the three break points.

John had to hit six backhands and four forehands, including his return of serve, and couldn’t gain control at any point.

 2012 Roland Garros Final: Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 

FACT  Novak Djokovic has one of the best backhands in the world.

FACT  He still looks to hit run around forehands in the Ad court.

FACT  Djokovic hit 13 of his 18 forehand winners standing in the Ad court where he ran around his backhand to upgrade to heavier artillery.

FACT  Your backhand is not as good as Novak’s. If he is running around his to hit 72% of his forehand winners you better be as well!

 2012 Shanghai Final: Novak Djokovic def. Andy Murray 5-7, 7-6 (11), 6-3 

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have world class backhands – and still would prefer to hit a forehand.

Murray served for the match leading 5-4 in the second set and led 30-0 when Djokovic finally found his mojo with a brassy tweener and a deft dropshot that brought a broad smile to his face and delivered the positive energy required to fight his way back from the very edge of defeat. The crowd erupted after the most spectacular point of the match and Djokovic fed off their enthusiasm to repel the first match point two points later at 40-30 with a forehand winner through the deuce court after an aggressive backhand return that opened up the hole.

Djokovic had been battling himself as much as his opponent up to this point of the match and hitting the tweener and subsequently winning the energy-charged point changed his attitude and allowed him to play more freely and aggressively.

While Murray and Djokovic are widely recognized at possessing two of the most lethal backhands in the game, the outcome of this match was far more dictated by their forehands.

  • Forehand winners almost doubled backhand winners with 19 to 10 and they also made slightly less errors with 54 forehand errors to 55 backhand errors.
  • Of the 19 total forehand winners, 13 were hit standing in the Ad court as a run-around forehand.
  • What is interesting is that the run-around forehand tactic produced only 14 total errors in the Ad court but contributed a sizeable 40 forehand errors when the players were standing in the deuce court.
  • The Ad court accounted for 68% of total forehand winners but only 26% of total errors.
  • Their backhands numbers were extremely close with Murray hitting six winners to Djokovic’s four while Murray made 28 backhand errors to Djokovic’s 27.

 2010 Monte Carlo Rd 3: Rafael Nadal def. Michael Berrer 6-0, 6-1 

These numbers will blow your mind. 

Berrer, also a lefty, broke into the top 50 for the first time in his career during this tournament with straight-sets wins against #71 Evgeny Korolev (RUS) and #24 Juan Monaco (ARG).

The serve and return had very little influence in this match – it totally revolved around Nadal’s run-around forehand. This information shows the inner workings of Nadal’s game and his relentless pursuit of the run-around forehand.

Nadal hit 21 forehand winners in this match, and only made 6 errors – that is simply incredible for two sets of tennis.

Nadal created 60% of his forehands by running around his backhand in the deuce court.

This game style enabled him to hit 3 out of every 4 balls as a forehand. There has got to be a law against that! Nadal’s forehand (particularly on clay) is arguably the best shot in game and the extreme spin, power and jump off the court is unlike any other ball out there.

Michael Berrer’s main problem was his inability to dictate with his run-around forehand. Berrer’s main problem was that he was only able to turn 13 backhands into forehands, compared to 58 for Nadal.

60% of Nadal’s forehands were run-arounds, while Berrer could only manage around 20%. Nadal is basically three times better at this tactic than Berrer. This massively impacted the amount of backhands each player hit in the match. Berrer hit almost twice as many backhands in this match as Nadal (32 to 61).

That’s simply disastrous. Any player who has to hit twice as many backhands as their opponent is at a hopeless disadvantage.

An interesting aspect of this match was that Berrer actually hit  more forehands than Nadal in the normal court (ad court) – 40 to 48.

Groundstrokes Rafael Nadal Michael Berrer
Run Around Forehands (deuce ct)45% (58)10% (13)
Normal Forehands (Ad ct)30% (40)40% (48)
Backhands 25% (32)50% (61)
All Forehands 75% (98)50% (61)
All Backhands 25% (32) 50% (61)
Nadal All Forehands PercentageTotal
Run Around (Deuce ct)5860%
Normal (Ad ct)4040%

 2013 London: Roger Federer def. Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-3 

The symmetry of a rectangular tennis court is nothing but an illusion.

The evenness of the deuce and Ad court halves reveals little about the extremely uneven traffic flow that exists in most tennis matches.

Case in point: Roger Federer versus Richard Gasquet.

Federer defeated Gasquet to record his first Group B victory and stay alive for a spot in the semi-finals.

 It was how he won that was so intriguing. It was as though the deuce court didn’t exist.

First Two Games – With the score tied at 1-1, Federer had hit 26 groundstrokes (no returns or volleys) and 25 of them had been hit with him standing in the Ad court. Remarkably he had struck exactly 13 backhands and 13 forehands standing in the Ad court and only one lonely forehand standing in the deuce court.

First Four Games – With Federer leading 3-1, Federer had hit 51 groundstrokes standing in the Ad court (26 forehands/25 backhands) and only five in the deuce court. The right side of the court was like a black hole.

This amazing pattern of play was created from the perfect storm of two opponents both wanting to establish control of the Ad court with their favorite groundstroke. For Federer it was his run-around forehand and for Gasquet it was his raking backhand – both colliding against each other with an identical end-game.

First Set – Federer hit 88% (91/103) of his total groundstrokes standing in the Ad court.  He hit 50 backhands and 41 forehands in the Ad court as he constantly traded blows with Gasquet’s backhand. Gasquet was content to stand back in the court and roll his backhand cross-court again and again, hoping for an eventual miscue. The tactic was born of patience and consistency but Federer had more variety from the back of the court and was more willing to venture forward to finish points.

Second Set – Gasquet made a little more use of the deuce court in the second set – only directing 80% of his shots to the Ad court which was down eight percent from set one. Federer hit 47 backhands and 40 forehands in the Ad court and 21 forehands in the deuce court in the second set.

Match – Overall Federer hit 84% of his groundstrokes standing in the Ad court including 97 backhands and 82 forehands. Gasquet was desperate to get the ball to Federer’s backhand but Federer’s keen anticipation and desire to turn a backhand into a forehand had him hitting 55% forehands (115 forehands/97 backhands) for the match.

Both players combined to hit 22 groundstroke winners for the match and it should be of little surprise that 21 of them came with the player standing in the Ad court. The lone deuce court winner was a forehand passing shot down the line from Gasquet down 1-3, 0/15 in the opening set. Federer dominated with eight forehand and six backhand winners while Gasquet hit four winners apiece on both groundstrokes.

Errors –  What’s interesting was the error ratio on Federer’s forehand in the deuce court compared to the Ad. Federer hit a total of 33 forehands standing in the deuce court but nine of 19 forehand errors occurred there. That means he made an error one out of every 3.6 forehands hit in the deuce court which is quite high. He made 10 forehand errors in the Ad court out of 81 forehands which adds up an error every 8.1 shots which is more than twice as better than his forehand’s performance in the deuce court.

Go Do This

This is the biggest weapon from the back of the court in today’s game.

Position C is the real battleground where you can turn a lot of backhands into forehands.

Upgrade to a forehand (85.7% groundstroke winners) from a backhand (14.3% groundstroke winners).

Double your target area as you can now go big down inside in down the line as well as cross court.

Rob all the anticipation from your opponent with your open-stanced forehand. 

Your opponent has to wait until the ball is off the strings to figure out where it’s going. Massive advantage.