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Is the one-handed backhand a dying art? Laura Robson: Vintage always comes back - VOTE!

The single-hander is slowly being replaced by the more popular double-handed backhand but Laura Robson says "vintage always comes back"; you can watch the conclusion of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome exclusively live on Sky Sports Tennis

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Take a look back at Roger Federer's best-ever backhand shots on the ATP tours over the years

Is the one-handed backhand a dying art? Roger Federer has taken the seemingly slow demise as a personal insult, but Laura Robson says "vintage always comes back".

Former US Open champion Dominic Thiem became the latest player favouring a single-handed backhand to retire from the game after Federer called time on his superlative professional career in September 2022, while Justine Henin, Amelie Mauresmo and Francesca Schiavone dazzled with their wondrous backhands on the WTA Tour before retiring from the game in recent years.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Grigor Dimitrov, Lorenzo Musett and Dan Evans are the most notable players with one-handers in the men's game, while Diane Parry, Tatjana Maria and Viktorija Golubic are just a handful of WTA stars who master the beautiful style.

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The ATP and WTA stars are put to the test to see how well they can pull off a single-handed backhand

The week of February 19 was the first in the history of the ATP rankings that there were no players with one-handed backhands in the world's top 10.

Federer said it felt like a "dagger" when Tsitsipas and Dimitrov dropped down the ATP Tour rankings.

"I felt that one. That one was personal. I didn't like that," he told GQ magazine. "But at the same time, how do you say, it makes the one-handers - [Pete] Sampras, Rod Laver, me - it makes us special as well that we've carried the torch, or the flag or whatever, for as long as we did."

There were only 11 in the ATP's top 100 and three in the WTA's top 100. When the ATP launched the rankings in 1973, there were nine in the top 10, so are we seeing the death of one of sport's most beautiful arts?

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"I don't think it's a dying art," Laura Robson told Sky Sports. "I think the game has just evolved a bit and people worked out how to expose the one-handed backhand and getting it above their shoulder, so unless you've got a really great slice you're always going to have a tough time, especially on a clay court.

"I can't imagine how much strain it puts through your abdominal muscle and arm to be hitting every ball up above your head.

"It's maybe dying on the women's side and realistically we're barely going to see it anymore because you have to be so strong in the first place. You have got to have so much power through your hand and your trunk and everything so I can see it dying out on the women's side, but not necessarily the men's side."

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A reminder of Jannik Sinner's insane spinning backhand winner against Holger Rune in the 2023 Monte-Carlo semi-finals

Robson, who admitted to practising the technique during warm-ups before training, feels the game is evolving with the double-handed backhand now dominating the men's and women's game.

"The game continues to evolve," the former British No 1 said. "Maybe you could get away with it 10 years ago when players weren't smacking it as hard as they possibly can at you and with the heavier balls as well it's always going to be a bit more difficult.

"Slower courts don't help so maybe if the game kind of changes again and we go back to faster surfaces and lighter balls then the one-handers might come back because you feel like you've got a better chance.

"Who knows? Let's see in another 10 years.

"I would have loved a one-hander but I wasn't strong enough to do it. I think it really depends on the person but then again you can't really get away from [poor] technique with a one-hander because you'd just be exposed very quickly.

"I could see it coming back down the line. Vintage always comes back, doesn't it?"

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Andy Murray produced this blistering backhand to beat Alexandre Muller at the Qatar Open

Tim Henman disagreed with Robson's statement, saying the modern game of pure physical power now overtakes the finesse of previous eras in the sport.

With the ever-increasing importance of baseline rallies, the more solid double-handed backhand has become far more popular with the next generation.

"[With] the physicality of the sport, the conditions and generating power with the ball bouncing up high, I think the two-handed backhand is probably more effective - but I would say the one-handed backhand still looks the best," said the former world No 4.

Defending champion Belgium's Justine Henin backhands to Austria's Sybille Bammer during their fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Sunday, June 3, 2007. Henin won 6-2, 6-4. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
Image: Belgium's Justine Henin possessed an iconic single-handed backhand

In an interview with Sky Sports in August 2021, seven-time Grand Slam champion and a former world No 1 Henin said the single-handed backhand was "not getting popular anymore".

"I worked a lot on my backhand. It wasn't as natural as I thought it was," said the Belgian.

"I remember when I was eight, nine, 10 years old that I had been working on it a lot. So many people like my dad wanted me to take it on with two hands because I was not powerful enough, but again, it was another challenge.

"I thought it was so beautiful. I watched Steffi Graf and Stefan Edberg, even if they used more slices, but for me it was normal playing with a backhand like this.

"It took a lot of work and I can understand this for a little girl standing there waiting to play tennis. She might not have a lot of power, meaning it was important to build something which was technically very clean."

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Highlights of the final of the Monte-Carlo Masters as Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Casper Ruud

What's coming up on Sky Sports Tennis?

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Find out all the ways to watch tennis on Sky Sports, including the US Open, ATP and WTA tours

In the run-up to the second Grand Slam of 2024 - the French Open at Roland Garros from May 26 - you can watch all of the biggest tennis stars in action live on Sky Sports as they compete across the clay-court season.

  • Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome (ATP and WTA Masters 1000) - May 7-19
  • Geneva Open (ATP 250) - May 20-26
  • Lyon Open (ATP 250) - May 20-26
  • Internationaux de Strasbourg (WTA 500 with Emma Raducanu in action) - May 20-26
  • Morocco Open (WTA 250) - May 20-26

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