Forehands vs. Backhands: Which Fails More?

In tennis, which shot is more likely to make mistakes today, the forehand or the backhand? A recent study by Infosys ATP looked into mistakes made from both these shots and found something interesting. People used to think attacking the backhand was the best strategy, but now, statistics suggest otherwise.

The new strategy focuses on putting pressure on the forehand, making players rush and make mistakes early in the point. This approach aims to exploit the larger backswing required for forehands, forcing players to defend rather than attack, leading to more errors.

The analysis, particularly looking at Carlos Alcaraz's performances in two major tournaments, supports this. Out of all the points played, 73% ended in mistakes, showing that errors are more common than winning shots, with forehands being the main culprit.

Alcaraz often won points by forcing his opponents to make mistakes on their forehands early in the point. This approach proved to be more effective than focusing on backhands, with a significant number of errors coming from forehand shots.

Alcaraz Points Won
The number one way (winners or errors) Alcaraz won points was by extracting forehand errors from his opponents in the 0-4 rally length, with 139, or 20 per cent of total points won. Those forehand errors are comprised of three specific shots:

  • Forehand return errors
  • Serve +1 forehand errors
  • Return +1 forehand errors

Overall, Alcaraz extracted 239 forehand errors from his opponents, and 201 backhand errors. Below is the opponent error total.

  • Opponent 0-4 forehand errors = 32% (139)
  • Opponent 0-4 backhand errors = 29% (129)
  • Opponent 5+ forehand errors = 23% (100)
  • Opponent 5+ backhand errors = 16% (72)
  • Total = 440 errors

Alcaraz caused 61% (268 out of 440) of the errors during the initial four shots of rallies and 39% (172 out of 440) in longer exchanges. Start strong and see how the game unfolds.

For points scored against Alcaraz, his opponents frequently capitalized on mistakes he made with his forehand in the first four shots, contributing to 26% (149 out of their total) of their points. In total, they forced Alcaraz into making 236 errors with his forehand and 182 with his backhand.

  • Alcaraz 0-4 forehand errors = 36% (149)
  • Alcaraz 0-4 backhand errors = 29% (123)
  • Alcaraz 5+ forehand errors = 21% (87)
  • Alcaraz 5+ backhand errors = 14% (59)
  • Total = 418 errors

Combined Points Won
Combining error totals from both players shows that forehand errors in the 0-4 rally length dominate the landscape.

  • 0-4 forehand errors = 34% (288)
  • 0-4 backhand errors = 29% (252)
  • 5+ forehand errors = 22% (187)
  • 5+ backhand errors = 15% (131)
  • Total = 858 errors

Forehand mistakes happen over twice as often (34% compared to 15%) early in rallies than backhand errors do in longer points of five shots or more. The difference lies in the forehand's larger backswing compared to the backhand's more compact one. This larger motion means forehands can be pressured more easily, leading to less accurate shots. Essentially, forehands aren't as reliable in defense as backhands are.

While the contemporary backhand is designed for resilience, the forehand is made for aggression. This presents an opportunity to take advantage of the forehand's vulnerability.


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