Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Roger Federer [BH – Comparative Stroke Analysis]


Hello everyone, I’m Luciano van Winkel, from L.v.W. Virtual Tennis Coaching, and this is… Hello everyone, let’s start with our second analysis. Thanks for all of you that have been supporting our videos. We’ve had lots of views on our first analysis, which was Wawrinka vs. Djoko on the Forehand. If you haven’t watched it yet make sure not to miss it. All you have to do is click on the “i” icon, the round shaped one, located on the top-right of your screen. It will relocate you to that. Let’s go then, to our second analysis. Thanks again for the support. So, please, keep posting, making suggestions, criticizing, send us all you’ve got coz that’s what we are here for… to improve, to make sure you guys are satisfied with the analysis and also learn from it. Why not? Of course that, a video is a video, an analysis is just an analysis, and what really counts is the time you spend on the court. Lots of training and hitting sessions to get to the level of play of these two amazing players. Let’s put them side by side then and have a first look at it. Backswing (preparing for impact), impact moment and follow through (release). Awesome! Two outstanding one-handed backhand strokes. Let’s overlay the images, as usual, and see how it goes. The backswing once again… charging the racquets with energy… impact… the “brushing” of the ball… and follow through. Amazing! Well, with the trajectories of both players’ racquet head center in place, we start a more detailed analysis. Let’s first watch them move with the trajectories in place and then we start detailing it. Loading moment (charging the racquets with energy)… the “shift” moment… impact (the “brushing” of the ball)… and follow through (release). You may have noticed that I highlighted some moments. I’ll put it in super slow motion, so we can slowly go into details with such moments. They start by moving the racquets slightly upwards. But the important part is when they start going downwards. It’s when the analysis actually begins… when their racquets start moving down. There’s a very important detail here this angle formed by the racquet, the wrist and the forearm. In Wawrinka’s case, we have an 85 degrees angle. And in Federe’s case, a 90 degrees angle. Why is it this important? It is important coz such angles will be opening up in accordance with the athletes’ movements. In the one-handed backhand, differently than what happens, during Forehand strokes, which is a wrist “snap” (a movement of extension of the wrist, which is when you put your hand up, as well as your fingers, pulling them back), and flexion of the wrist, encompassing the so called wrist “snap”: from extension to flexion of the wrist. During the one-handed backhand what we have is a deviation of the wrist, similar to what happens when you do the “bye bye” gesture with your hands. Such hand movement is called radial and ulnar deviation (technical terms). What really matters here is that you understand the difference. So, radial and ulnar deviation (“bye bye” gesture) for the one-handed Backhand, and extension and flexion of the wrist (wrist “snap”) for the Forehand. This is very important coz we don’t really have a “snap” like we have on the Forehand stroke, it is a softer movement from the wrist. And this is why l call it a “shift”, a change of direction, (you can see that there’s no abrupt change on the racquet’s head direction, even though we can see a slight sudden change in Roger’s case, but that’s due to positioning and angling of the camera. If you go back to our first analysis, Wawrinka and Djoko’s forehand, you will notice some pointy trajectories representing the “snap” of the wrist (from extension to flexion). Here we have the radial and ulnar deviation of the wrist. The players are pulling their racquets back, forming acute to right angles, to open them up throughout the stroke, using such angle in their favor to the overall fluidity of the stroke. You can also see here the flexion of the arm… very important as well. So, these movements of flexion and extension, as well as wrist deviations, are very important generating fluidity and efficiency to the stroke. By doing that, you’ll avoid wasting your energy. That’s the professionals’ main quality, not wasting energy, not using unnecessary strength. They utilize all body levers in their favor to produce flowing and efficient strokes. Let’s continue, and we’ll discuss more about that. They’re moving downwards… and it’s not by coincidence but we have another angle here, 123 degrees in Roger’s case, 130 degrees in Wawrinka’s, which is the flexion of the arm. They will extend their arms during the stroke. Once again, using body levers which are so important in tennis. Continuing with the downwards movement… Here we have the positioning of the body, how they “show” themselves, how they are positioned when compared to the net. Federer has a higher inclination when compared to Wawrinka. He “shows” his back more to the net. Feet positioning… Well, they’re not that different but we notice that Federer has a higher body inclination. We also see that he pulls his racquet more, he tilts it and pulls it more towards his back, whereas Wawrinka leaves it more to the side in a 90 degrees angle (more or less). Both of them keeping their wrist deviated, sustaining such position to come with the racquet and open up the angle formed by the wrist, ensuring that this lever also helps them throughout impact. Continuing… Downwards movement, getting to the “shift” moment. The “shift” moment… Look at the angle, which I’ve previously talked about. During the “shift” moment, and I call it “shift” coz there’s no “snap” (from extension to flexion of the wrist) but a deviation of the wrist (from radial to ulnar deviation). Look at how they’re opening up the angle of the wrist. And it’s sideways, from radial to ulnar, (similar to the “bye bye” gesture) from one side to the other. In Wawrinka’s case, from 86 to 123 degrees and in Federer’s, from 90 to 130 degrees Look at how they’re opening it up. So, one more time, just to make it clear… here in the one-handed backhand we don’t have a wrist “snap” but a wrist deviation. The “shift”… I call it “shift” moment coz there’s a shift from downwards to forward and upwards. That’s why “shift”, that is, a change in direction from downwards to forward and upwards. Here we also see the importance of the bending of the knees (leg flexion), coz tennis is a lifting game. You need to lift the ball for it to go pass through the net and to the other side of the court. Nothing better than utilizing all body levers, the flexion of the knees… Utilizing the body in your favor. And that’s what professional players do, they use all body levers to spare energy. They utilize everything they have in their favor to make their strokes as efficient and fluid as possible. That’s it for the “shift” moment. Continuing… Here we have the impact moment. There’s a detail here… I’ll discuss it further later on, which is the grip. Let’s take a closer look at how Federer’s racquet is more “closed” in relation to the floor when compared to Wawrinka’s during impact moment. This means that Federer has to “brush” the ball more, otherwise it would go down. He “brushes” it more, generating ball spin for it to go up. Wawrinka also generates ball spin, there’s not much of a difference, only 5 degrees, and that’s due to, not only the “type” of ball that’s coming, among other factors, (they’re not always hitting with the same angulation), but due to the fact that Federer uses a FULL EASTERN grip, whereas Wawrinka uses a MODIFIED EASTERN grip. He has adapted it and it is between the CONTINENTAL and the FULL EASTERN. So, it doesn’t get to be a FULL EASTERN, the racquet head stays more “open” in relation to the floor. So, a MODIFIED EASTERN (between the CONTINENTAL grip and the FULL EASTERN grip). So, Federer uses a FULL EASTERN grip and Wawrinka a MODIFIED EASTERN, which makes his racquet head to stay more “open”, and Federer’s, due to his FULL EASTERN grip, more “closed”. I’ll use the zoom tool again later on so we can see it better. We have then the impact moment, the “brushing” of the ball, and let’s continue to post-impact. At this point they start with the fist turn as well as the racquet turn. All of this actually starting since the “shift” moment. However, now is when we can really notice them due to this curve, which is formed as consequence. The turn of the arm (supination) since the shoulders with the arm fully extended. We previously had an angulation of the arm (flexion), so they are opening it up, extending the arm for the impact moment. So, at this point, is when they’ll start a major turn. It’s the point at which the turn will be intensified. (that’s why I’m highlighting this moment) and we’ll have the formation of this curve as consequence of such turn. Continuing… Look at the angle… the wrist deviation… Look at how they are opening it up. They previously had more acute angles, 90 degrees for Federer and 86 for Wawrinka, so they went on opening them up and look at how open they are right now. So, these two body levers from the wrist and the elbow, are both responsible for making the stroke much more fluid and efficient. Here we have the rotation (supination), an arm turn to the outside. Wawrinka almost finishing… with his arm stretched. Look at how well he did the arm turn (supination). Arm extension of 180 degrees. Look at Federer with 180 degrees as well with a full arm turn. Such follow through, such movement, is a consequence of the “brushing” of the ball. (as well as we have on Forehand strokes) The fact that they “brush” the ball so well bounds them to follow with such a movement. They keep their follow through constantly fluid (a non-stop movement). We often see club players stopping with their follow throughs but it has to be a non-stop movement. If you have stopped it it’s because you did something wrong previously with your backswing, during the “shift” moment or impact moment. The right way is to keep it fluid utilize all body levers so they can help you with your stroke. Let’s continue… there’s one more thing here which I would like to point out: their post-impact body positioning. The importance of stroke fluidity. Look at how they finish their strokes with their chests and arms wide open. Federer with his unique style, opening the arm more widely (to the back) Both racquets way out to the back And, of course, the full extension of the leg. Their knees were previously bent during the “shift” (when the racquet goes from downwards to forward and upwards) and they are now fully stretched. Notice how well they have utilized from this body lever as well, since the ones in the lower limbs to the ones in the upper limbs, to keep their strokes fluid (this is how they generate momentum) it is what makes the stroke to become efficient. As for the butt cap… there’s not much to say about it. Both butt caps were previously “looking” down and now they’re “looking” straight to the net, which will highlight the athletes’ arm turn. Both butt caps were facing down… they have turned around and now are facing the net. whereas facing down during backswing. Let’s take a look at it one more time… loading the racquet with momentum and energy… the importance of body levers… wrist deviation… angulation of the wrist and arm… the “shift”… coming from a downwards to a forward and upwards movement… the opening of the body levers (arm and wrist)… rising up… “brushing” the ball… and the turning of the arm (supination)… taking advantage of all body levers… full extension of the leg… and the overall fluidity of the stroke. Amazing, isn’t it? If we were all just like them, huh? Well, let’s go back to the grip issue. The grip issue… Let’s zoom it so we can notice the slight difference between their grips. In Federer’s case, we can see that his hand knuckles are slightly more to the left (not sure if you can see that) but, in Wawrinka’s case, his hand knuckles are a little bit more to the right. Federer’s are more to the left, which means that Federer uses a FULL EASTERN grip, whereas Wawrinka uses a MODIFIED EASTERN grip, standing in between the CONTINENTAL grip (racquet head fully “opened”) and the FULL EASTERN grip (racquet head more “closed”) As consequence, during impact moment, we will notice a slight difference in angulation: 77 degrees in Wawrinka’s case, and 72 in Federer’s case. So, Federer’s racquet slightly more “closed” (obliging him to “brush” the ball more) when compared to Wawrinka. And why is such difference important? In Wawrinka’s case, if he gets late to a ball, (which will stand closer to his body), he will be able to better adapt to it, whereas, in Federer’s case, he will be more likely to frame the ball, when he loses it’s timing and delays the stroke, coz his racquet head comes more “closed” towards impact. So, Federer’s chances of mishitting the ball are much greater due to his more “closed” grip, whereas Wawrinka will be able to better adapt, coz his racquet head comes towards impact more “open”. So, he can compensate for being late with wrist movements to spin the ball, etc. That’s it when it comes to grip issues, as well as for the video itself. Let’s finish it… Amazing biomechanics from both. That’s it guys… body levers… stroke fluidity… utilizing all body parts to help with the stroke, to keep it efficient and fluid. Baring in mind that this is a video analysis for us to better visualize what professional players are doing, and that it is not easy to get to this point. You have to practice a lot, hit lots of balls, play a lot, to maybe one day be able to have a stroke as efficient as theirs. Thank you all… I hope you all enjoyed this and learnt something from it. Let’s hit the courts, great practice to everyone. I’ll see you in our next video. We’ll definitely have many more. Cheers!


3 Responses

  1. David Fong

    December 16, 2015 2:41 am

    Interesting video. I enjoyed all the points and supporting illustration that was made to break down 2 of the best one handers in the game. I have studied Wawrinka's backhand profusely as of late and what really separates his from Federer and the rest of the pack, which this video fails to mention, is the amount of torque he gets from his hips and his torso, both of which are far more open at the point of contact than any other player on tour. This is what allows his to generate so much "effortless" power with his backhand. Anyways, good discussion!

  2. Doug Beaton

    September 21, 2016 7:44 pm

    Love the analysis. I've studied Wawrinka and Federer's backhands for a while, and you have covered some new ground — areas that I haven't thought about as much. I have to say one thing, though. I agree that Federer has an Eastern backhand grip, and Stan has a modified Eastern, but I've seen in other videos where Stan's index knuckle is on top, making it an Eastern style grip, but the butt of his palm is shifted back to the next platform behind the racquet, not forward in the continental direction. This puts his hand more behind the racquet when he strikes the ball than Federer, which one can see in your excellent video.


Leave a Reply