If you’ve been around tennis circles for enough time, you’ve probably heard the term “windshield wiper forehand”. For the past many years I’ve seen a lot of tennis videos on youtube talking about it – including my own!
You may have no idea what the windshield wiper forehand is. Or maybe you have an idea but you’re not entirely clear. If so, you’re in the right place.
Today I’m going to dispel the mystery of the windshield wiper forehand. I’ll be answering the 10 most common questions about it, as seen below. By the time you’re done with this post, you’ll know this shot inside and out.
- How do you hit the windshield wiper forehand?
- What’s the difference between a windshield wiper forehand and a regular forehand?
- When do you use the windshield wiper forehand?
- Do all professional players hit the windshield wiper forehand?
- Why is the windshield wiper forehand so effective?
- Can a beginner hit the windshield wiper forehand?
- Does the windshield wiper forehand provide more topspin than a traditional forehand?
- Can I hit with power using the windshield wiper forehand?
- Will it take me a long time to learn the windshield wiper forehand?
- Can a child learn the windshield wiper forehand?
Before I answer the first question, I just want to say that I believe every serious tennis player should learn the windshield wiper forehand. It’s an incredibly effective shot and something I teach all my long-time students.
You can check out the accompanying video to see how I hit the windshield wiper forehand. By reading this post and seeing the video, you’ll be covering all bases. Alright let’s get to those questions.
To hit the windshield wiper forehand, use your normal setup on the forehand. Your pivot, unit turn, power position, and slot position will be the same as the forehand you always hit.
The difference in the windshield wiper forehand comes immediately after you contact the ball. Of course, you’ll need to make sure your racket head is below your hand on the swing to contact.
Your forearm to racket angle should be around 90 degrees. This is something that I talk about a lot in my videos and blog. I also made a dedicated video demonstrating this technique, check it out below.
Now that we have the setup right, we can talk about what happens right after contact is made. Okay, so immediately after contact you’re going to flip your wrist as if you are waving “bye-bye”. Another way to think of it is turning a lock or doorknob.
You don’t actually use wrist muscles or joints to flip the racket. It’s more pronation of the forearm than anything else.
The difference between this type of pronation and the serve is that on the windshield wiper forehand, your wrist is laid back, while on the serve it’s flat.
Once you “flip” the wrist, your racket will make a 180-degree rotation. Assuming you’re right-handed, on contact the butt cap of the racket should be facing to the left.
But within fractions of a second, the racket will “flip” sides and the butt cap will end up facing the right side. This allows the player to generate an absurd amount of racket speed.
For the follow through, just allow your hitting shoulder and arm to move to the left (for righties). It will naturally want to go in that direction anyway. The follow through on the windshield wiper forehand is often under the shoulder and close to the navel or waist.
The main key in hitting the windshield wiper forehand is not to flip the racket (or use the pronation) until the ball contacts the racket. It takes a bit of practice to learn the timing, but it’s not that difficult if you are an experienced player.
When first learning this shot, you may find a lot of your shots going into the net. This is because of the increased topspin. If so, aim higher over the net until you learn a safe clearance height.
The major difference is that the windshield wiper forehand is a shorter swing. Instead of the arm extending fully out in front, like on a regular forehand, the arm extends out only 50-60% as far and the racket makes an abrupt flip to the other side of the body.
With a regular forehand, the racket covers a much larger radius in terms of swing path. The windshield wiper forehand is more of an abbreviated swing, with the racket quickly moving from one side to the other (or from right to left for righthanded players).
The other difference is that a regular forehand will generally be a heavier shot with less topspin. If you want to hit a penetrating shot, use a traditional forehand with a long swing path (a la Roger Federer).
The windshield wiper forehand will not be as “heavy” as a traditional forehand but often possesses more topspin.
The windshield wiper forehand is not the normal forehand that most professionals hit. They mostly favor their regular forehand in rallies but use the windshield wiper forehand during certain moments.
Each pro is different, so I’ll tell you some of the occasions I like to use the windshield wiper forehand. One that I like a lot is to send the ball deep into the corner of my opponent’s backhand with topspin.
I find the windshield wiper forehand is easier to control in this instance than a regular forehand. Since there is less power and more spin, I find it a more manageable shot to place and control.
The second occasion is when an opponent hits a low-to-medium height shot inside the service line. In this case, hitting a traditional forehand can be difficult because of being much closer to the net.
The windshield wiper forehand is a better choice in this case, as we only need to spin the ball over the net with medium pace to win the shot – especially if the opponent is at net.
The other occasion it’s very effective is on the lob. For most lobs, we don’t need power but spin and control. As a result, the windshield wiper forehand is extremely useful to hit on lobs and can be disguised well too.
The final instance I use the windshield wiper forehand is when I just need to get the forehand in play. For example, I may be hitting my regular forehand long and I want to limit errors.
In that case, I’ll turn to the windshield wiper forehand just to keep the ball in play until I get my normal forehand back on track. But really, you can use the windshield wiper forehand any time you want.
I would think yes. For sure, I’ve seen the top male players in the world (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, etc.) use it many times. Interestingly, I see female players use it less.
This could be because the windshield wiper forehand is easier to hit with a takeback (which men do) then a pendulum swing, which the women mostly use. If you want to know the difference between the WTA and ATP forehand swing, check out this blog post I wrote.
While I can’t be certain if every single professional player on tour hits the windshield wiper forehand, I can say that most do. Probably all of them know how to hit it, but some prefer to use it more than others.
I kind of answered that already. The windshield wiper forehand allows you to hit with more topspin, greater control, and is a bit easier to hit than a regular forehand on certain shots.
I find that the windshield wiper forehand is extremely effective when hitting lobs and it can even be used to great effect on passing shots. That’s because the heavy topspin makes the ball dip quickly.
A quick dipping ball is very difficult to hit for a net player. For this reason, I’ll sometimes use the windshield wiper forehand to pass opponents at the net.
For those players that lack topspin, the windshield wiper forehand is a great hack to get more topspin. For these reasons, I feel it can be an effective shot for any player, any gender, at the intermediate and advanced levels.
Yes, absolutely. Like I said before, in some ways it’s easier to hit than a traditional forehand. The danger in teaching it to beginners is that they’ll overuse it.
Instead, it’s always best to teach a traditional (long swing path) first and once that is ingrained, then you can move on to the windshield wiper forehand.
To me, the windshield wiper forehand is an accessory to a tennis player’s tennis game. It’s not 100 percent necessary to use, but it’s a very good adjunct to a player’s game.
This is a tricky question to answer. Great players can hit with a ton of topspin on traditional forehands, but club players usually can’t.
For this reason, the windshield wiper forehand is an excellent choice to increase topspin for club players. As I mentioned previously, I think it’s an excellent hack on upping topspin for players who struggle with it.
However, this doesn’t mean you should rely exclusively on the windshield wiper forehand for your topspin. I encourage players to use their traditional forehands to generate topspin.
If you want to know how to generate more in your game, check out this detailed blog post I wrote on the subject.
This is a good question. The short answer is yes. The longer answer is it depends on the player and your definition of power.
You usually don’t see professional tour level players using it for power. However, at the club level, a 60 mph forehand using the windshield wiper technique might be considered powerful, whereas in the pro ranks it wouldn’t.
You’ll always be able to generate more power on a traditional forehand because you’re extending out and putting all your weight behind it. Of course, most club players use too short of an extension on their strokes anyway, but that’s a different topic.
With the windshield wiper forehand, the faster you can whip the racket from one side to the other, the faster the ball is going to travel. Some people have very fast pronation and can generate good pace.
In my opinion, you can hit powerful enough shots with the windshield wiper forehand to make a difference in your game. But if you want to hit a scorching forehand winner or passing shot, best to stick to a traditional forehand with full extension.
It always depends on the individual, talent level, and experience. I personally learned it quickly, probably within 3-5 hours of using it.
Learning the concept of the technique is easy. But timing the windshield pronation part of the swing is what trip’s most people up. If you’re an experienced player, you should be able to learn it within a few hitting sessions.
As a caution, I don’t think it’s wise to teach this shot to total beginners and children just starting out. If you’re a newbie to tennis, learn the traditional forehand first.
But if you really want to hit the windshield wiper forehand, I think you could learn it with a fair amount of practice.
By learning it, I mean hitting it consistently well in a rally. New players may find the shot difficult to control at first, hitting balls into the net or too long. It just takes time to adjust.
Remember, additional topspin on the ball means you’ll need to hit with a higher trajectory. This will allow the ball to pass over the net with some clearance. Otherwise, you’re going to hit the ball into the net a lot.
This took me a few hours to get used to and I was an experienced player when I learned the windshield wiper forehand. If you want to teach it to your child, I’m sure your child can eventually learn it.
However, it’s much better for a young child to stick with a traditional forehand for several years before learning the windshield wiper. Young children often can’t distinguish between the two hitting forms anyway.
I addressed this in the last question. The short answer is yes. But I think it depends on the age of the child, how long they’ve been playing, and their talent level.
For example, I have a 10-year-old girl named Kayden who hits an incredibly powerful traditional forehand. If I show her the windshield wiper forehand, she may learn it, but I’m certain it will confuse her.
She’s in her formative tennis years now and it’s best for kids at this stage to perfect traditional strokes. When Kayden reaches the age of 13-14, and her traditional forehand has been cemented, it may be fine to teach the windshield wiper forehand to her. But not now.
The main issue I have with teaching the windshield wiper forehand to children is that they’ll overuse it and be unable to distinguish between that shot and a traditional forehand. For this reason, I don’t recommend teaching it to children younger than 13-years-old and with less than 3-4 years of playing experience.
Wrapping It All Up
I trust this post answered all your questions about the windshield wiper forehand. It can be a tremendous asset to your tennis game, so consider learning it.
If you had any doubts about what the windshield wiper forehand is, hopefully, the information here cleared that up. If you have additional questions about the windshield wiper forehand, feel free to drop me a comment below.
Thanks for reading. Check out some of my other blog posts while you’re here. I post awesome content weekly designed to supercharge your tennis game.