“God gave me two hands. I might as well use them both.” –Randy Sontheimer
In the finals of the Colorado State Open, I hit a sharply angled crosscourt backhand. No way my opponent, Randy Sontheimer, could reach the shot. Suddenly he went lefty on me and punched a topspin forehand down the line for a winner. Wow, I whispered, as my racquet fell from my hands in admiration and disbelief. In the painting and video above, J.J. Wolf hits much the same shot with one big exception. Randy Sontheimer and I both qualify for medicare while Wolf is 23 years old and a beast of an athlete—big guns, tree-trunk quads–huge muscles everywhere as if he spends too much time in the gym. His sudden lefty forehand from a seemingly impossible position combines innovation, imagination, daring, and jaw-dropping power from the weaker lefty arm.
Here are some comments in reaction to Wolf’s lefty forehand (taken from the thread in response to the video):
From James Roden: That’s crazy! He hit that holding the racquet near the neck and in his left, despite him being right handed and having a two handed backhand. I doubt him, nor anyone else practices something like that. A big part of that was luck, but a big part of that was skill and intuition. He felt like he could do it, so he did it. I doubt that will happen again in a long time.
From PK: How he generated that much power holding his racquet like that. And with his non dominant hand as well. Brilliant. Pity he didn’t celebrate with a wolf sound. That deserved it.
From Michael Taylor: Just to clarify, he didn’t switch hands. He was preparing to hit a backhand. For a right-handed player, when they hit a backhand the left hand is higher up the grip towards the throat of the racket. So, as he’s run across, he’s realised Titsi’s shot is going way wider than he’d thought and has simply taken his right hand off the grip, left his left hand there and guided the ball in. Some coaches teach the two-handed backhand by making the player hold the racket high up the grip in their left hand and hit forehands like this. Once they get a feel for it then they tell them to put their right hand on the grip and continue doing the same stroke. Still an incredible shot though!!
Randy’s Sontheimer’s comments on how he learned to play tennis with both hands: “When I started to practice my lefty/ambidextrous tennis back in 1983 it was because I injured my right knee badly and could not move for regular tennis matches. I approached this knee injury problem to see it as a tennis opportunity, not a limitation. From my architecture and business degrees education I have been taught to think innovatively. From my tennis pro experience I thought I could just apply good biomechanical stroke production to my left arm. Well, I greatly underestimated the effort involved in this task. For my lefty serve when I tossed up the ball and took a swing at it, I missed hitting the ball, several times. For my lefty forehand my left forearm muscles were weak and unable to reliably control the racquet face contact. I stayed with the process. I found I liked seeing the tennis court angles presented from the lefthander’s point of view, especially the lefty slice serve. Plus, I saw the potential for reaching out wider to the left side and hitting for more power, just like JJ Wolf shows in the video. I improved, slowly in my arm strength and ball contact over multi years, decades. I still refer to my left arm shots as my “junior” arm shots because they are still not as strong as my “senior” right arm. I love practicing and improving at tennis. Ambidexterity adds another dimension and pleasure to my tennis.”
So what do you think about JJ Wolf’s amazing lefty forehand. Is it close to a two-handed backhand with the right arm simply removed from the racquet, or is a lefty forehand largely separate from any relation to a two-handed backhand? Or is it something else entirely?
Artist Bio: Leonardo Luque, a retired Colombian naval officer, earned his fine arts degree in 2012 from Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in Bogota, Colombia. A highly ranked Colombian player in the ITF world rankings for men’s 60 singles, Leo has drawn all his life and is especially interested in the beauty and motion of the human body. After traveling through China and Panama, he settled down with his family in 2014 in Boca Raton, Florida.
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