10 August 2018

Super Southpaws

If you have ever been left wondering what went wrong in a match, maybe the problem was you didn’t notice your opponent was a leftie. As Left Handers’ Day is celebrated on Monday, here is how to right your mistakes – unless you are a leftie of course, in which case and don’t get left on the wrong side of the court, and Happy Left Handers’ Day!

Monday 13 August is Left Hander’s Day and according to Left Hander’s Day website, lefties excel “particularly in tennis, baseball, swimming and fencing”. You might think, they would say that wouldn’t they, but they do have a point. The list of famous lefties in all fields is long and distinguished – from Aristotle to Leonardo da Vinci to Diego Maradona – and tennis especially has some southpaw superstars. On the men’s side there is Jimmy Connors, Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Greg Rusedski (above) and the ambidextrous Rafa Nadal. On the women’s side, think Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber and Katerina Makarova. 

Traditionally lefties have been able to use their strongest side to exploit their opponents’ weakest. So the sinistral serve out wide from the left (ad) court and their forehands both put pressure on the right handed players’ backhands. In recent years, one of the most famous examples is how Nadal’s high bouncing forehand has been mercilessly effective against Federer’s one handed backhand.  

Much of the lefties’ advantage is now said to be reduced in the pro game as so many players have become equally strong on both sides. On the other hand, lefties (Nadal and Kerber) have won 2 of the 6 Grand Slam titles so far this year . . .

How to play a leftie

Notice! This is (partly) what the warm up is for. As one of our players Richard Rhodes said recently in a meet the player interview, “I’m a lefty and sometimes people don’t realise they are feeding my forehand.”

Don’t panic, your world has not been turned upside down. Your strength is probably their weakness.  Use your cross court forehand to pressurise their backhand (assuming it is their weaker shot).

Be patient: Don’t be afraid to hit cross court to their forehand. If you can get them out wide, look for an opportunity to go down the line with your backhand, especially if you get a short ball.

Beware the serve. When they are serving to the left hand (ad) side, cover the tramlines, and step in to cut off the angle if the ball is going wide.

In doubles, if you are playing a  leftie who is playing on the left, and a rightie, try to go down the middle – it puts the ball on the backhand for both players.

And if you are a leftie playing a rightie.

You have the element of surprise – only 11% of the population is lefthanded.  Serve out wide from the lefthand (ad) court, pummel their backhand (assuming it is their weaker shot) and hope they have not read the tips above.