Euro 2022 winner Alessia Russo on making history, inspiring a generation and that viral backheel goal
Serena Williams said she had never heard of the “backheel goal” at the 2014 US Open but that didn’t stop it from being something that the American superstar was convinced should have become a famous tennis memory. So how did an obscure bit of news become something with which a tennis superstar could not only claim to have played but also inspire millions?
In a word, backheel goals. “Whenever I heard it, I tried to put it in the background of my mind,” Williams says via email. “We had an opponent who was able to hit the ground running. I just couldn’t find my feet. It was my first backheel goal at the 2014 US Open and I was convinced that I could not backheel it and it would help me. So when I saw the video, I didn’t know how much I would love to hit a backheel. I think it’s one of the hardest shots on clay and even harder on harder surfaces. It’s the most technical shot in tennis. For me it was also the hardest shot to find because you need to make every single stroke count at all times.”
The backheel is one of those shots that is easy to forget, but hard to find. Backheel shots are rare even in professional tennis competitions, where their frequency drops down the years. Still, the backheel is one of the most common shots in all of tennis, according to ESPN’s database of professional shots for 2011 to 2015. Backheel shots accounted for 11.5 percent of all shots made in the world’s top 100.
The backheel is also one of the most interesting backshots to look for on court, one of the most common backheels in professional tennis, perhaps one of the most famous backheels of all time as well. It also, according to