Best Tactics For Left-Handed Tennis Players

Best Tactics For Left-Handed Tennis Players

What is the best game tactics a lefty could use to raise his game to full potential?

Do left-handers have an advantage in tennis?

Yes, and the main reason is that in most cases player’s forehands are better than backhands and this makes a left-hander’s forehand go cross court to your weaker backhand.

And because of court coverage and higher percentage shots everyone needs to play a lot cross court; so the forehand – backhand duel is inevitable.

You might think that it’s the same for the right-hander since their forehand goes to lefty’s backhand and that’s true, except the right-hander doesn’t practice this very often.

There are approximately 8-15% left-handers so the right-hander may practice their “forehand against backhand” tactics in about 15% of the matches, while a left-hander practices this in 85% of the matches.

So in general, the left-hander finds it easier to control the point with their forehand than a right-hander.

The other advantage is that the left-hander serves out wide to right-hander’s backhand on crucial points like 40:30, 30:40.

And since left-handers play at lot of right-handers, they keep serving their wide serves time and time again and become very good at them.

Right-handers on the other hand 😉 play mostly right-handers and don’t serve many wide serves out to opponent’s forehand.

So when they play a left-hander they are not that good with a wide slice serve.

Your main goal as a left-hander is to try and gain advantage in the point with your wide serve and occasionally surprise your opponent with a serve to their forehand.

There is a whole chapter in the Tennis Strategy Encyclopedia on how to deal with left-handers and that might help you discover new tactics that you never considered before.

Related posts:

7 Tips For A Better Slice Tennis Serve
Rafael Nadal – Tomas Berdych Wimbledon 2010 Final Analysis
3 Shot Combinations That Helped Li Na Win Roland Garros 2011
One or Two-Handed Backhand?
Novak Djokovic Remains Unbeaten In 2011

Essential Tennis Instruction – FREE Video Lessons on How to Improve Your Serve

This entry was posted on Friday, June 29th, 2007 at 9:01 pm and is filed under Tennis Strategy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Best Tactics For Left-Handed Tennis Players”
Harry Says:
July 1st, 2008 at 3:24 pm
I can offer no proof, but I think that we lefties have better backhands. I base this on forty years of recreational tennis, against hundreds of opponents. It has to do with what I think of as opposite-side coordination. Right-handers tend to be almost paralytically right handed, whereas left-handers tend to be ambiguous in their dexterity. I shoot a shotgun and a bow right-handed, and play pool right-handed. I have a brother-in-law who plays softball as a lefty, but golf as a righty. I will run around a forehand to hit a backhand. It feels far more natural, and I have better control of the shot.

Looking ahead to what I hope is a Nadal-Federer final at Wimbledon, I doubt that handedness will have much if anything to do with the outcome. Federer has a decent backhand, and Rafa can hit forehands pretty well. They’ll serve each other out wide, but that won’t decide the match, if it takes place.

When I think of elegant backhands, Rosewall and Ashe and Gasquet, all right-handers, come to mind. My observations, if they apply to anyone, apply to your next club opponent, not your next opponent on the WTA.


Tomaz Says:
July 2nd, 2008 at 12:25 am
Thanks for sharing, Harry. But on your claim that “handedness will have much if anything to do with the outcome” I disagree.

Nadal would have won “maybe” 2 matches in his whole career against Federer if he was a right-hander.


Harry Says:
July 2nd, 2008 at 11:59 am
Tomaz: That’s an interesting claim, and I’d love to hear your reasoning. Yes, lefties have done well in professional tennis, relative to their numbers. (Left-handed pitchers and hitters have done even better.) But when I look at Rafa’s game, I see six or seven strengths that outrank his being left-handed, in terms of advantage against Federer or anyone else. I have a feeling that he could be the first clay specialist to, in music industry parlance, become a successful “crossover artist.” And I say all this as a huge Federer fan.


Harry Says:
July 2nd, 2008 at 12:47 pm
Let me toss in one final thought about this lefty/righty thing, never to mention it again. Maybe we’re focusing on the wrong set of limbs. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I walk pretty well on my right leg, but not so well on my left.” We’re all bipedally ambidextrous. Or are we? My winter hobby is skate-skiing, and if you want to witness the directional paralysis of the right-handed population, come ski with me next winter. I’m strictly recreational level, but I ski the same on both sides. Skate right, pole right/ skate left, pole left. It would blow your mind to see how many otherwise good skiers can’t skate/pole left, and all of them are right-handed.

At the World Cup level, this isn’t an issue, since they’re all skiing what’s called V2 technique, meaning a double pole on every skate stroke. The sport hammered bipedal symmetry into their bones. I think that tennis similarly hammers bipedal symmetry into the bones of its professional players. You have to have a backhand, else find another occupation. And your backhand begins in the basement.


Tomaz Says:
July 2nd, 2008 at 10:30 pm
Good points, Harry. The tricky thing about left-handers is that their strength lies in their forehand that goes to the right-handers backhand which is typically weaker. The right-hander is used to defend with a cross-court shot back but now has to adapt somehow and look for a down-the-line “escape” from trouble (to lefty’s backhand).

This makes the right-hander make many conscious decisions instead of playing instinctively like he does with more than 90% of opponents (for the past 15 years). Because of this extra thinking and playing shots that he is not used to, the right-hander makes a lot of unforced errors or plays poor shots.

So the left-hander doesn’t exactly directly win points, it’s his indirect influence (just because he is a left-hander) that makes the right-hander play poorly.

The left-hander on the other hand plays 90% of matches against right-handers and is used to playing down-the-line backhands to backhands and so on. He knows MUCH better how to escape the problem of right-hander’s forehand to his weaker backhand. (because everyone attacks his backhand 😉 )

If Federer can play instinctively against Nadal and can comfortably defend with his backhand cross-court to Nadal’s (imaginary) backhand, then Nadal is in BIG trouble. I’d still give him 2 wins on clay but not more…


Memed Says:
September 8th, 2008 at 2:37 pm
the only two advantages a lefty has have been mentioned: a) the 40-30/30-40 situation and b) righties generally play righties, while lefties are quite used to them.
as to harry’s comments, i’m not so sure. i heard that soccer players that are lefties usually have excellent technique on their left but are very weak on their right, whereas right-footed players are not that weak on their left (though, not as talented with their right); so, they’re closer to being ambidextrous. I, as a lefty, can attest to this; i’m quite inept on my right, but almost exceptional with my L. also i’ve noticed that lefties in soccer, in addition to superior technique, tend to make the best play-makers (those who set-up the offense,regulate pass traffic and make difficult, unexpected passes). i think this has something to do with visual perception, spatial perception, and perhaps more. again, i as a lefty, am no exception to this 🙂
counter to the above, however, i play the guitar ‘normal’; i can only use a joystick or gamepad with my right hand, and perhaps some other things too. why is this? is it because i initially learned these activities using my right?
on the other hand a retarded monkey could write better than i can with my right.
having mentioned visual, spatial skills, i’m sure they’re quite useful in other sports too; how much do you think they matter in tennis? could these be the actual reasons why there have been outstanding lefty tennis players? I wonder.


kai Says:
November 18th, 2008 at 2:30 am

Further to southpaws.

I college I studied lefties in human performance. Specifically in tennis and vo9lleyball, my sports. What I learned made me become( one unnerved opponent accused me of playin lefty )- a right handed lefty. Further later.

Some interesting lefty stats. and characteristics I learned from studies and personal interested observation and talks w lefties. Lefties are ambidextrous. Righties are lame w their left. Lefties are mixed up handedness, righties are exclusively righties. This is evidence of a more balanced brain and greater LR hemisphere sunchronization. The general population % of lefties are vastly exceeded in artists and witches.

The ex Fed Cup coach of UK (lefty) told me that lefties are not as solid on FH side (whippy was her word) and have a great BH slices.

In VBall, everyone knows that lefties love to hit extreme angle across their bodies, like along the net. They do this very very well and no one can stop them despite knowing they favor this shot. Moving the block waay over will finally make them hit the line (another favored shot…) and start all over again. Ask any VB player of experience. This the VBer’s “slice” Most rh hitters prefer to go straight ahead. LH hitters rotate. For an ex. of tennis player’s rotation, see Mac’s serve motion. That’s what I mean about rotation. Nadal does not have this which was confusing for me until I found out he was a converted righty. See also other big lefty servers (They all seem to have great serves) Leconte, Forget, Llodra, Tanner, Ivanisovic, Mac, Roche, Fraser, Rod, Martina. Jimbo was kinda an exception as he was not an attacker like the rest of these lefties. Jimbo was a defensive server and waited to pound your return that you couldn’t do much with.

hope that might turn out to be intetresting.



PS. In 45 years in tennis my best was an Open ranking in dubs in Hawaii. Still a solid 4.5 -5.0, still duking it up w the youngsters. International coaching level in indoor VB. and pro qualifier in beach VB. Best result was a bagel by then ranking bronze medalists when i managed to qual thru the draw. I take some pride in the fact that they took a 44 yr old midget w a rookie partner seriously enough to just smoke me and not fool around.


adebanji alabi Says:
June 7th, 2009 at 12:43 pm
if a sport favours a particular limb,then its really not a sport. There are more right handed tennis players than left handed ones,therefore in a tournament, you will very likely play a right hander.
Left handed players bring in an element a rightie doesnt expect or keeps forgetting,because he is not exposed as much to a leftie.Lefties play more righties and have to adapt and overcome their (Leftie) weaknesses.
I believe the there are equal strengths and weaknesses in righties and lefties.After all the court isnt designed for a specific hand.Lefties have simply adapted to righties alot better than vice versa.
Solution is fairly straight forward. Righies should practice more against lefties.