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A Sad Day for the One-Hander – None Inside the ATP’s Top 10

The signature shot to swoon over has seen better days.

By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday February 18, 2024

It is a sad day for the one-handed backhand.

Revered and regaled for a century, the shot has been a fixture at the top of the tour since, well, forever. Even in recent years, as the sport morphed into a more physical, faster-paced endeavor that favored the rise of the more stable, more efficient two-handed backhand, players like Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet kept fans swooning over the one-hander.

But things are changing, and not in a good way. On Monday, for the first time since the ATP initiated rankings in 1973, there are no single-handed backhands inside the Top 10.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, who decided on the one-hander at the age of eight due in large part to the fact that he was inspired by Federer as a youth, is one of many contemporary torch holders. He’s also outside of the Top 10 this week for the first time in over five years.

The evolution of one-handed backhand players in ATP and WTA Top 10

— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) February 18, 2024

Where does that leave us? With a mere three one-handed backhands – No.11 Tsitsipas, No.13 Grigor Dimitrov and No.26 Lorenzo Musetti – inside the ATP’s Top 30.

A lot has changed over the last two decades:

In 2003, there were fourteen players inside the top 30 with one-handers in the year-end rankings. Ten years later, there were 10. Last year? A mere three. In twenty years, we’ve seen the numbers dwindle from about 50 percent of the top 30, to a third, to one tenth.

Currently there are ten players with one-handers inside the Top 100, and only one of them is under 25.

Stefanos Tsitsipas – Ranked 11, age 25
Grigor Dimitrov – Ranked 13, age 32
Lorenzo Musetti – Ranked 26, age 21
Christopher Eubanks – Ranked 34, age 27
Daniel Evans – Ranked 42, age 33
Daniel Altmaier – Ranked 55, age 25
Dusan Lajovic – Ranked 58, age 33
Christopher O’Connell – 65, age 29
Stan Wawrinka – Ranked 67, age 38
Dominic Thiem – Ranked 89, age 30

Six of them are over 30, in fact, and there are only three players under 25 with one-handers inside the Top 200 – Musetti, Denis Shapavalov (24) and Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard (20).

In the years to come, the sport will rely heavily on those young players with one-handers to inspire the generations to come. More and more it is looking like an uphill battle.

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