Can You Change Hands in Tennis? (Tennis Instructor Explains)

Tennis is a great sport, both to watch and to do yourself. However, I can imagine that tennis can seem quite complicated in terms of rules. Therefore, as a tennis instructor, I want to help you understand this sport better. Can you change hands in tennis is a question I get asked a lot. In this article, I’m going to give you a detailed answer to that!

You are allowed to change hands in tennis. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has no rules about changing hands while playing tennis. They only state that you must keep your racket in your hands when you hit the ball.

There is, of course, much more to be said on this subject. For example, is it beneficial to change hands in tennis, and are there professionals who do this? You’ll find out in this article, so be sure to read on!

Can You Switch Hands While Playing Tennis?

The short and straightforward answer to this question is yes! But let’s dive a little deeper into what tennis rules apply for changing hands while playing tennis.

The longer answer is that the International Tennis Federation (ITF) does not have a rule about this. They only state that you must keep your racket in your hands when striking the ball.

So yes, you can change hands, as long as you don’t throw your racket at the ball or make it lose contact with your body at any point during the game to try to make contact with the ball.

So now you know that you can change hands in tennis, but there is much more to tell on this subject. Be sure to read on to find out more.

Can You Play Tennis Ambidextrous?

Tennis can be played ambidextrously. However, this way of playing tennis has more disadvantages than advantages. Therefore, within professional tennis, you rarely see anyone using this technique. The only player currently playing ambidextrously is Korean Cheong-Eui Kim; he is currently ranked No. 947.

Only one percent of the world’s population is truly ambidextrous - meaning you don’t have a dominant hand; you’re able to do all things equally with both your left and right side.

Now ask yourself if you are truly ambidextrous. Are you? You very well might be, but when it comes to tennis, you really should choose what hand will be your forehand and which will be your backhand.

The next time you’re out on the tennis court and you’re unsure, there’s a simple test: lay your racket on the ground, then simply pick it back up.

What hand grabbed up the racket? That’s your answer to which is your dominant side, or at the very least, the hand you’re most comfortable with using when it comes to tennis.

As a tennis instructor, I’ve had many kids who come onto the court with me who are equally talented on both sides. If they’re young enough - roughly between the ages of 4 and 9 - I won’t have them decide what hand to play with yet. 

For the first handful of lessons, we will work on hitting forehands on both sides. The same thing goes with their two-handed backhands. Eventually, they’ll start to favor one hand over the other for their forehand.

Typically, there will come a time when a child has to decide to be a right-handed player or a left-handed player. This decision becomes all the more important if they have plans to take their tennis seriously.

Just look at Rafael Nadal, the most famous left-handed player in tennis history. He began playing tennis with both hands; he could comfortably play with both his right and left. 

Once Rafael Nadal decided to take tennis more seriously, he chose to train as a left-handed player. The reason behind this is something we’ll cover a little further in this article.

But, if you’re having fun playing tennis with two forehands or two backhands, keep doing what you love.

Are Ambidextrous Players Better at Tennis?

As an ambidextrous tennis player, you can choose which hand to use as your strong hand. Choosing your left hand will make you harder to play against since there are fewer left-handed players. In addition, your weaker hand will always be stronger than that of someone who is not ambidextrous.

The advantages of being ambidextrous are more subtle than you think.

Think back to Rafael Nadal’s story. His being ambidextrous gave him the ability to choose which hand to play with professionally. If you do have the option to select which hand you play tennis with, choose being left-handed. 

With only ten percent of tennis players being left-handed, you’ll have the advantage. Right-handed players are unaccustomed to playing against the spin that a left-handed player can create.

There is one more advantage that isn’t often discussed when it comes to tennis players being ambidextrous. Typically, you’ll find one side of a tennis player weaker than the other - usually, this is their backhand. Being comfortable with both hands means you’ll be strong on both wings.

From personal experience, I’m a bit ambidextrous, but not totally. I write left-handed, but all my sports have been played right-handed. When I began playing tennis, my right hand felt like the more natural choice for my forehand. 

But being that I had a somewhat dominant left hand made my two-handed backhand strong from the beginning since the left hand is the main driving force in my two-handed backhand.

I will mention that there are players who play with two forehands. Recently, a 12-year-old named Teodor Davidov has been dominating the Boys under-12s tournament scene.

Teodor is a true switch-hitter. He plays with two forehands - a left-handed one and a right-handed one, and his technique is flawless. 

A clear advantage of two forehands is that the extension through the ball is better, as is the reach. Typically, the forehand is the shot with more spin and pace, so watching someone so young play with two commanding forehands is incredible.

Take a look at the young switch-hitter here:

What Are The Disadvantages of Switching Hands in Tennis?

Changing hands in tennis has quite a few disadvantages. The most significant disadvantage is the time it takes to change your racket to the other hand or to change your grip in the two-handed variant. In addition, your reach is also less with the two-handed variant, which makes your game vulnerable.

When we talk about changing hands in tennis, to play with two single-handed forehands, it comes down to how much time it takes you to change hands.

During each shot, especially if your opponent is moving you from one side of the court to the other, you have to change hands quite rapidly.

This makes the time it takes to change grip from one hand to the other the biggest disadvantage of changing hands in tennis when you play tennis with two forehands.

Suppose you are of the two-handed variety of switching, like the professional tennis players I will mention in the next paragraph. In that case, this will eat up your reaction and racket preparation time.

There’s also the restricted range of motion players have when they use two hands on both sides. This will limit how far you’re able to reach for a ball when your footwork isn’t up to par, or maybe you underestimated the angle of the incoming ball.

Now, at the beginning of your tennis playing days, it might be easy to keep up with the pace of the ball and switch hands at the same time. However, as your skill increases and the speed of play increases switching hands could become less efficient.

Every coach will tell you that it’s easier to stick with one side being your forehand and the other being your backhand simply for ease playing, and so you’re able to take your racket back quickly enough to be prepared to strike the ball.

Do Professional Tennis Players Switch Hands?

There are professional tennis players who switch hands while playing tennis. The most famous players are Monica Seles, Marion Bartoli, Fabrice Santoro, and Peng Shuai. By doing this, they played with both a double-handed forehand and a double-handed backhand.

There are a few professional tennis players that do switch hands. While it’s not the norm, they’ve all been quite successful.

A Chinese professional tennis player, Peng Shuai, plays with two hands on both her forehand and backhand side. She reached her all-time highest ranking in 2011 at No. 14 and has defeated many Top 10 and Top 5 players.

Frenchman Fabrice Santoro is now retired, but he was known affectionately as The Magician. He played with two hands on both his forehand and backhand side, reaching a career-high ranking of No. 17 in the world.

Another former French professional tennis player, Marion Bartoli, also used two hands on her forehand and backhand. She is probably the most successful player to play with two hands in recent years, winning Wimbledon in 2013, among her many other successes.

Finally, there’s Monica Seles, the tennis darling of the early 1990s, playing with two hands on both her forehand and backhand. She won eight grand slam singles titles before the age of twenty.

So, it’s not impossible to switch hands during a tennis match or play with two hands on both sides. And those professional players show that it is possible to play at a high level while switching hands. 

But it will be hard to find a tennis coach who encourages changing hands or having two hands on both the forehand and backhand sides.

Conclusion

Legally, you can switch hands in tennis, but it’s more efficient to establish one hand as your forehand and the other as your backhand. Go ahead and experiment, especially if you are new to tennis or have an ambidextrous child.

I hope that through this article I was able to teach you a little more about the great sport, tennis. Since tennis can seem quite complicated, I am sure you will have more questions. Therefore, be sure to read our other articles about this sport.

Brian Henderson

I am what you might call a true tennis fanatic. When I am not on the tennis court teaching or playing myself, I am probably writing an informative article about tennis. My goal is to get as many people as possible excited and informed about tennis.
Published: 
October 24, 2021
Published: October 24, 2021