It is really important that you can control what spin you put on the ball whether it be slice or topspin. I hear you ask 'Who cares which way the ball is spinning as long I get the damn thing in'. Controlling the spin will allow you to dictate the point better and give you more purpose behind the shot. So why topspin? Well topspin will allow you to hit the ball harder and still get it in. Not wishing this to be a physics lesson (I was useless at physics - just thought I'd throw that in) the spin will make the ball arc over the net giving you more clearance over the net and make it dip quickly the other side. Also it will make the ball kick the other side making it more difficult for your opponent. So how do you produce it? It is important to drop the racket below the intended contact point. Then, and this is the important bit, with the racket face facing the net you need to brush up the back of the ball and finish you swing up over your shoulder. Contact point should be no higher than waist high. Now have a look at the rotation of the ball as it goes over the net. Is it going end over end. Yes? Perfect! No? Try again. Once you master it, it will change your game.
Here is one of the biggest questions in tennis - should I play my backhands with one or two hands on the racket? Well if one of the best players ever to play the game, Roger Federer, has a one handed backhand then it has to be one handed - right? But if one of the best players ever to play the game, Novak Djokovic, plays with two hands then it has to be a two handed backhand - right? The fact is that there are pros and cons to both. For young children just starting out I would always recommend the double-hander. For adults it may be slightly different. Good points for a single-hander are that it give you greater reach and you are more able to do both topspin and slice one handed. However it lacks the strength and control that you have with a double-hander. So the choice is yours. If you are just starting the game try both and you will soon find the one that suits you best.
I recently did a lesson where the player asked why his forehand was so inconsistent. After feeding him 6 balls the answer was obvious. He played a different shot with each ball. Not that he was trying to play a different shot. But each shot was different because the contact point was wildly different. So imagine there is a bubble just to the side of you, slightly in front and around waist high. Now see if you can make contact with the ball within that imaginary bubble. This means moving your feet and getting in the position. The size of the bubble will largely depend on your ability but the smaller you can make it the better.
As this has a worldwide audience and millions across the globe are hanging on my every word the next bit may need a little more explanation. In England there was a footballer (soccer player to our American cousins) called Peter Crouch. Now Crouchy was was a good striker (the one who scores the goals) who played at the highest level. In the latter stages of his career he developed a goal celebration for which he became famous. It was a sort of robotic dance. It would make me think of how some people play their forehands and backhands with lots of jerky movements. So don't be a robot - try to iron out your shots by preparing earlier. Develop a loop on your back swing. You could think of it as a 'C' shape. This will help give you one smooth path through the whole shot. And remember to hit through the point of contact to give you a smoother follow through.
Isn't it amazing how the professionals make the game look so easy. Why is that? Well countless 1000s of hours of practice and superhuman fitness may have something to do with it. And ESP. ESP? Extrasensory perception? That explains a lot. Well no because in this case ESP stands for Early Shot Preparation. I see a lot of club players start the shot when the ball is virtually on top of them. Try to prepare earlier for your shot by getting the racket back before the ball bounces. If you have to move for the ball then prepare the racket as you are moving. So you too can look like a pro. Now for the countless 1000s of hours of practice...........