Which One of These Backhand Grips is Not Like the Others? (Answer: John Isner’s)

John Isner

Fernando Verdasco

Andre Agassi

Rafael Nadal

So John Isner is now in yet another holding-serveathon against a journeyman. This time, it’s against Ricardo Mello in Indian Wells.

But you know how people stare at Isner’s serve? I can’t stop staring at his backhand.

First off, I don’t even know why anyone that tall needs a two-handed backhand. But whatever. If that’s what he wants to do, fine. What I can’t take, though, is that grip. It looks like a forehand grip to me, and he just bends his wrist way over when he hits the backhand. Otherwise, the racquet head would be facing the wrong way.

As a result, he takes all his size and weight, and eliminates any advantage they might give him. Instead, he seems to be pushing a left-handed forehand with a weak-wristed other hand on the racquet. Look how much more cocked his bottom-hand wrist is than Andre Agassi’s, Fernando Verdasco’s and Rafael Nadal’s.

There are always armchair critics of tennis players. I don’t get why Roger Federer uses that heavy, stiff racquet from the 1990s. But couldn’t Isner just adjust his grip a little, or a lot? That straight-arm backhand people are trying to teach now does not call for a cocked wrist.

About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at FoxSports.com and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

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