Open stance vs closed stance in tennis

Improving tennis players get sometimes confused regarding the open vs closed stance position. You see the pro's on TV that play almost exclusively all their forehands from an open stance position and then you get to your training session and your coach tells you to play everything from a closed stance. Why doesn’t he teach you the same stuff that professionals do?

Open stance forehand

It is true that open stance forehands are widely used among the pro’s and have some major advantages over closed stance forehands.


First, by playing from an open stance position you save one step when getting to the ball and additionaly you are able to hit the ball with more top spin. Playing from an open stance requires good transfer of body weight and good body rotation for a back swing, which are not always easy to execute in the early learning stages. Closed stance forehand, with your left foot in the front (right handed person,) ensures that your body does the necessary body rotation for back swing and by keeping your body weight  on your front foot throughout the whole stroke makes it bio mechanically a much easier shot than an open stance forehand. So like in karate, where you get different belts representing your improvement, the closed stance forehand is the basic stroke and the open stance is an advanced move. First learn to play forehand in the closed stance and only then start to progress to the open stance.

Although open stance forehand is in 90% cases a better option, there are situations when closed stance is the preferred choice. For example when you are making an approach shot from a very low ball somewhere around the T line  - closed stance with extremely bent knees is the right thing to do. Also when you try to hit an extremely hard ball, you can generate more power from a closed stance.

Open stance backhand

So far I have been talking only about forehands – this is because I am not a big fan of open stance backhands. I believe that a player can always hit better backhand from a closed stance and it should always be his/her primary choice. When you play a backhand (one or two handed), you cannot make a natural back swing when you keep an open stance. Your right shoulder (if you are right handed) does not allow you to take the racket very far back (try it). This means that your racket will travel only a very short distance to the contact point and it naturally cannot create enough speed to hit the ball hard. This is maybe not such a big deal in women’s tennis (that’s why they play open stance backhands more often than men), but it is a very hindering factor in men’s tennis, where open stance backhand is used only in “last option” situations. This is opposite to open stance forehand, where this is a “must” for a professional player. 

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Comments: 3
  • #1

    Ilian (Saturday, 24 April 2021 08:15)

    What you write about the open vs closed stance is true.
    Though couches always teach you closed stance and you can never can get taught to open stance.
    That means you never win a match in professional tennis. Unless you find a real trainer.
    If you want people to your academy remove the picture of the girl. You taught her leading the head of the racket behind her back!!! Look at the picture of Federer. Where is the head of his racket?

  • #2

    Peter Miskovic (Saturday, 24 April 2021 08:44)

    Hi Ilian,

    this is Peter, I am the author of this article, founder of Corralejo Tennis Academy, ex-ITF, ATP, NCAA player etc... There is some truth in what you say but also some fault thinking. Back in the day tennis was played from a closed stance position. All the pros used to play like that. These days tennis is being played from an open stance. How can you say so confidently how tennis will be played in 10 or 20 years? Also, tennis is taught to start playing from a closed stance because that is the basics. Once the player advances and becomes skilled enough in playing from closed stance every coach will be making transition towards open stance. But to be a really good player you need to master both. In every game you use both stances quite often and each stance offers its own advantages in certain situations. Regarding the picture - we get plenty of people to the academy even with the picture of the girl. Second - comparing Federer's forehand to any women's forehand is just wrong anyways, because women have completly different biomechanics. But still who says that Federer is the symbol of how tennis should be played? 30 years from now Federer be an old school technique just like Sampras, Lendl, or Borg. Look at any 3 different top players and compare their techniques and you will notice that all three look quite different. The only important thing is how you make contact with the ball, the 10cm before the impact and 10 cm after. The rest is just not important. As long as it leads to right contact. And please dont look at the top player and say how tennis should be played, because that way you will never be able to top that. You need to look at the top players and find a way how to do things even better than that...

  • #3

    Peter Everett (Tuesday, 10 January 2023 19:41)

    Great post, just the answer I was looking for. I find if I can get into a closed position in my forehand I have much more control and I guess it is because my body will naturally be side on. I obviously need to work on turning my body more whilst being in an open position.


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