Top 10 Best Two-Handed Backhand Players of All Time
A tennis player’s choice of backhand grip is one minor element of the complex biomechanical systems that make up their gameplay. Yet this simple distinction of two-handed backhand versus one-handed backhand carries great significance regarding a player’s perceived style of play and competitive persona. The opposition between one- and two-handed backhands has fueled numerous rivalries, and in many ways charts the progression of tennis strategy in the 20th century. Here is a list of the best two-handed backhand players of all time.
Which tennis players have the best two-handed backhand of all time?
1. Novac Djokovic
- 21 Grand Slam titles
- 9 Australian Open titles (most of all time)
- Year-end No. 1 ranking 7 times (most of all time)
Unquestionably one of the top tennis players in history, Novak Djokovic is the best two-handed backhand player of all time. His backhand was already a strong part of Djokovic’s arsenal when he won the 2008 Australian Open at age 20, disrupting a streak of Grand Slam dominance by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. However, at that time, Djokovic relied more heavily on his forehand and serve, and had more of a tendency to scoop during his backhand, which led to unnecessary elevation and a loss of backspin.
Over the next five years, Djokovic developed his backhand through coaching and training. He improved the quality and length of his follow-through and greatly reduced his scooping, adopting a more efficient, mostly lateral backhand motion. Since the mid-2010s, the two-handed backhand has become one of the most threatening elements of Djokovic’s game, as he is now able to flawlessly execute long, powerful shots and shallow, confusing volleys.
2. Rafael Nadal
- 22 Grand Slam titles (most of all time for a man)
- 14 French Open titles (most of all time)
- 2008 Olympic gold medal winner
Possibly the greatest tennis player ever, Rafael Nadal would be at the top of this list if not for the excellence and precision with which Djokovic swings his backhand. Whereas Djokovic’s backhand is executed with finesse, Nadal’s two-handed backhand is all about power and spin. His extreme backhand force is derived from the fact that Nadal is right-handed, although he plays tennis with his left hand. Thus Nadal can drive the racquet forward with his dominant (right) hand when taking a two-handed backhand shot, overwhelming his opponents with ball speed.
Nadal started playing using his right hand at age six, but switched to his left at age 10. Although his first tournament playing left-handed felt awkward, Nadal has used his non-dominant hand to play tennis since then, as he discovered it gives him a tactical advantage against his mostly right-handed opponents. Nadal plays his backhand with legs bent and low to the ground, allowing him to field lower backhand shots than other players. His forward swing features a full extension of both arms, allowing him to put a high rate of topspin on the ball. All of these factors make Nadal’s two-handed backhand one of the hardest to hit in tennis.
3. Serena Williams
- 23 Grand Slam titles (most in the Open Era)
- 2012 Olympic gold medal winner
- Year-end No. 1 ranking 5 times
Serena Williams is one of the greatest and most dominant tennis players of all time, and her two-handed backhand is one of the most powerful in modern tennis. She controlled women’s tennis in ranking and Grand Slam and tournament wins for nearly two decades throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Alongside her sister, Venus, Williams elevated the level of athleticism and competition in women’s tennis in the modern era.
Williams’s backhand is classic in form and traditional in execution, making her one of the most elegant two-handed backhand players to watch. Using a basic eastern forehand grip in her left hand and a modified continental forehand in her right, she achieves a high degree of shoulder rotation while avoiding a loop backswing, bringing her racquet straight back for maximum efficiency. Williams finishes with a fundamentally perfect follow-through, achieving excellent power and accuracy. The only flaw in Williams’s backhand shot is a low topspin rate, a weakness she overcomes with speed and precision.
4. Andre Agassi
- 8 Grand Slam titles
- 1996 Olympic gold medal winner
- 2011 International Tennis HOF inductee
The best modern men’s tennis player until the Big 3 came along, Andre Agassi helped popularize the integrated two-handed backhand swing that is commonly used today. Due to a combination of his great versatility when executing the swing and some of the best hand-eye coordination the sport has ever seen, Agassi’s two-handed backhand is the one against which all modern tennis stars are judged.
His backhand was not always the weapon it is today. When Agassi arrived at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida, at age 13, he was heavily reliant on his forehand. With hard work and inspired coaching, Agassi transformed his two-handed backhand into the fearsome cannon for which he became known.
A crucial strength of Agassi’s backhand is the speed with which he recovers from taking the shot, quickly transitioning to a ready position to receive the next volley. Prior to Agassi, most players and coaches advised keeping both feet planted until the follow-through was completed. Agassi upended this notion, already beginning his recovery motion as he finished his shot.
5. Andy Murray
- 3 Grand Slam Titles
- 2-Time Olympic Gold medal winner (2012, 2016)
- Year-end No. 1 in 2016
The only person in tennis history to win two Olympic gold medals in singles and the only one to beat Novac Djokovic in a Wimbledon final, Andy Murray is one of the best two-handed backhand players of the modern era. In particular, Murray is known for the quality and consistency of his two-handed backhand. A British national hero, Murray is credited for leading the charge to restore Great Britain as a tennis powerhouse in the 21st century.
Murray began competing in tennis tournaments at age five, alongside his older brother Jaime, who also went on to become a multiple-Grand Slam winner. Together, the brothers led Great Britain’s team to Davis Cup victory in 2015.
A top-tier player and a flawless backhander, Murray had the bad luck of beginning his professional career around the time that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were both entering their primes. Murray joined their exalted ranks for a time, with the group including Djokovic known as the Big 4. However, Murray’s best season remains his 2016 campaign, in which he won the French Open, Wimbledon, and Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro, finishing the year ranked number one.
6. Björn Borg
- 11 Grand Slam titles
- 3 Channel Slams (most of all time for a man)
- 1987 International Tennis HOF inductee
One of the most talented and mysterious figures in tennis history, Björn Borg, revolutionized the two-handed backhand during the 1970s, turning it from a defensive tool into an offensive weapon. Before Borg, most top players favored the one-handed backhand for its superior slice. Then Borg turned pro in 1973, exposing the world to his long, looping two-handed backhand, delivering power and precision. A surprising element of Borg’s swing was the rapid topspin he created; it had been previously believed that significant topspin was only possible with a one-handed slice backhand.
The slower-moving soft courts of Wimbledon and Roland Garros were favorable to Borg’s expansive, looping backswing, forcing his opponents to play far back from the baseline, and thus he excelled at the European Grand Slams, winning Wimbledon five times and the French Open six times between 1974 and 1981. By contrast, he never won a US Open, losing in the final four times, and never made it past the third round in the Australian Open.
7. Chris Evert
- 18 Grand Slam titles
- 34 Grand Slam final appearances (most of all time)
- 1995 International Tennis HOF inductee
One of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time, Chris Evert became the first woman in history to win a Grand Slam title using a two-handed backhand when she defeated Olga Morozova in the final of the 1974 French Open. At the same time that Björn Borg was shocking the men’s tennis world, Evert made the women’s side reconsider its approach to the backswing; alongside her fierce and longtime rival, Martina Navratilova, she dominated professional tennis throughout the 1970s and 80s.
As a child, Evert was trained on the clay courts of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, by her father, Jimmy. He introduced her to the two-handed backswing as a stopgap measure while she built size and strength. Although Evert achieved athletic maturity and defeated many opponents, she never gave up her two-handed grip. Like Borg, Evert was able to achieve tremendous topspin and confounding precision with her backhand from any location on the court. During her long and accomplished career, Evert won 18 Grand Slams, setting a benchmark for the Open era and cementing her role as one of the founders of modern women’s tennis.
8. Monica Seles
- 9 Grand Slam titles
- 2000 Olympic bronze medal winner
- 2009 International Tennis HOF inductee
Reaching a number-one world ranking at age 19 in 1991, Monica Seles was one of the greatest talents in modern women’s tennis and a perfect foil to her rival, Steffi Graf. The left-hander Seles’s two-handed backhand was only one-half of her confounding cross-court arsenal, as she also swung her forehand with both hands, forcing opponents to run the baseline throughout their matches.
Growing up in Yugoslavia, Seles learned the game at an early age from her father, who taught her the two-handed backhand. One of the most brilliant young tennis stars in history, Seles turned pro at 16. That year she won the 1990 French Open, making her the youngest ever to win a Grand Slam title. Thus began a brief but incredible streak, and Seles won seven more Grand Slams before her 20th birthday. A tragic stabbing by a disturbed fan in 1993 forced Seles into a two-year hiatus from which she returned but never fully recovered her previous form. She was lauded as a great when she retired in 2008, but many wonder what Seles could have achieved had the tragedy not occurred.
9. Jimmy Connors
- 8 Grand Slam titles
- 17 Grand Prix Super Series titles
- 1998 International Tennis HOF inductee
In the 1970s, Jimmy Connors reintroduced the professional tennis world to the two-handed backhand, alongside his contemporary, Björn Borg. Connors’s two-handed backhand was unique because of the low elevation and flat follow-through with which he swung it. Fiercely gripping the racquet handle with both hands, he swung his backhand quickly, consistently, and powerfully. Connors’s backhand shots often barely cleared the net, giving his opponents little opportunity to rally or prepare for a volley.
Growing up in Santa Barbara, California, Connors was coached by his mother and grandmother, who taught him the two-handed backhand to compensate for his diminutive size. As he reached his teenage years and grew larger, Connors’s family noticed his skill with the two-handed backhand and did not pressure him to adopt the one-handed swing that was then in vogue. After turning pro at age 20 in 1972, Connors quickly rose to peak form. He reached the number-one worldwide ranking in 1974, winning the first three majors of the year before being barred from the French Open over a contract dispute. Although the early years were his best, Connors had a long and decorated career, continuing professional competition until age 43.
10. Daniil Medvedev
- 2021 US Open winner
- 4 Masters 1000 titles
- 14 ATP Tour titles
The youngest on this list, Daniil Medvedev is a rising star who commands attention. Although his pro career got off to a slow start, Medvedev has been turning up the heat recently. He won the US Open in 2021 and made it to consecutive Australian Open finals in 2021 and 2022. Impressively, Medvedev cracked the number-one world ranking in February 2022. This was the first time a player outside the Big 4 held the number-one spot since Andy Roddick in 2004.
Medvedev grew up in Moscow, Russia, where he started playing tennis at age six and received instruction from famed tennis coach Ekaterina Kryuchkova. After a successful stint on the junior circuit, during which he won six titles, Medvedev turned pro in 2014, at age 18. His two-handed backhand is direct and consistent, and Medvedev often uses his 6’6” height to his advantage, swinging in a downward motion to achieve excellent topspin and confusing angles.
- Marat Safin
- Victoria Azarenka
- Marion Bartoli
- Ashleigh Barty
- Sergi Bruguera
- Michael Chang
- Kim Cligsters
- Jim Courier
- Lindsay Davenport
- Nikolay Davydenko
- Simona Halep
- Lleyton Hewitt
- Martina Hingis
- Jelena Janković
- Nick Kyrgios
- Li Na
- David Nalbandian
- Kei Nishikori
- Jeļena Ostapenko
- Aryna Sabalenka
- Marat Safin
- Maria Sharapova
- Gilles Simon
- Frances Tiafoe
- Mats Wilander
- Venus Williams
- Caroline Wozniacki
- Alexander Zverev
Which men’s tennis player has the best two-handed backhand?
Novak Djokovic is the men’s tennis player who has the best two-handed backhand. With 21 Grand Slam titles to his name and seven years at the number-one world ranking, Djokovic is one of the most dominant tennis stars in history. Although fellow two-hander Rafael Nadal has won more Grand Slam titles, Djokovic’s backhand is superior because of the consistency, efficiency, and versatility with which he executes the shot. Djokovic fires his backhand in a perfect lateral motion without any looping, allowing him to sink shots with incredible topspin to any location on the court.
Which women’s tennis player has the best two-handed backhand?
Serena Williams is the women’s tennis player who has the best two-handed backhand. She owns 23 Grand Slam titles, more than anyone in the Open Era, and an Olympic gold medal, making Williams one of the greatest tennis players in history. Alongside her sister, Venus, Williams elevated the level of women’s tennis in the modern era and inspired a generation of girls to take up the sport. Williams’s two-handed backhand is flawless and elegant, executed with nearly identical form every time. Her stroke is long and level, without looping, providing excellent power to all corners of the court.
What is a two-handed backhand in tennis?
A two-handed backhand in tennis is a type of shot in which a player leads the stroke with the backside of their hand (instead of their palm, as in a forehand shot), while gripping the racquet with both hands. There are several grip variations used in the two-handed backhand, including continental, eastern, and semi-western. Advantages of using a two-handed backhand include ease of mastery and control, ease of returning serves and high volleys, and the ability to be used in an open stance. Disadvantages of the two-handed backhand are less reach, a weaker slice, and a more difficult transition to the net.