The Ambidextrous Lefty Forehand: Randy Sontheimer and J.J. Wolf

This is a draft in progress . . .

“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 above and the video at the bottom of this page, 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.

Here are Randy’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.”

Randy’s comments on JJ Wolf’s shot: “Wolf’s lefty forehand is amazing for the situation of it, long rally, stretched wide, swinging freely, open stance, the ball heading down-the-line and landing “in!”.  This illustrates one of the best use cases for being ambidextrous in tennis, extra reach from the left arm with power.” 

From Tennis TV, every angle of JJ Wolf’s Insane Lefty Forehand: