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  Steve Beatty demonstrates his two-handed forehand. Mark Mulville / Buffalo News

Racket sports: Beatty gets two-handed handle on how to hit for power

By Charlie Garfinkel

Steve Beatty, 21, is a teaching tennis professional and Director of Tournaments and Leagues at the Miller Tennis Center. He is also one of the area's finest tennis players and just missed finishing in the Buffalo News's tennis rankings of the Top Ten male players in Western New York this past year.

Beatty's tennis game is somewhat of an enigma. He readily admits that he has defeated players that he really should not have defeated. At the same time he relates that he has lost matches to players that he should have beaten. Why is this so?

Beatty's dilemma stems from the fact that he is the only player of his caliber in WNY who hits two-handed shots on his forehand, backhand, volley, and overhead. The only time he hits a shot with one hand is on his serve. On rare occasions he might hit a one-handed overhead.

When Beatty is on his game his two-handed shots enable him to hit the ball with amazing power, especially with his ground strokes when he is rallying and returning serves. The two-hander allows him to hit uncanny angles, drop shots, and swinging volleys.

Conversely, when Beatty is slightly off his game, his shots often start missing by inches and even feet. However, Beatty is uncompromising. He will continue playing his two-handed game, win or lose, as he has supreme confidence in his game and feels that he will ultimately emerge with the win. If he doesn't, so be it.

The highlight of Beatty's season last year was reaching the semifinals of the Buffalo Muny Open where he played outstanding tennis. His matches always attracted interested spectators who wanted to see this hard-hitting youngster who hits almost everything with two hands. They weren't disappointed as he defeated a strong array of opponents, including the highly regarded Dr. David Carlson Jr. in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, his great run ended with a resounding straight set loss to Stephen Sayoc in the semifinals.

Beatty is often asked how and why he decided to pursue a career in tennis hitting almost every shot with two hands.

"When I was eight years old I started hitting tennis balls against my garage with two hands on both my forehand and backhand," Beatty said. "I really didn't know any better and it just felt comfortable to me."

When Beatty was nine his parents took him to the Sportsplex Tennis Club to take lessons with Jeff Laurie. Even though a two-handed backhand was prevalent at that time and a two-handed forehand was virtually non-existent, Laurie was amazed at the power Beatty could generate with his unconventional two-handed forehand. Staying with it was a no-brainer as Beatty couldn't hit a one-handed forehand with any power at all.

As Beatty's game progressed he found that by using the two-hander he could hit with great power, hit unreal angles, disguise his shots as to hitting down the line and cross-court, and returning serves with great power.

As he approached age 11 he started playing 12 & Under tournaments and occasionally experimented with a one-handed forehand. He had nowhere near the success he had with the two-handed forehand. Beatty also found himself in a predicament. He was ambidextrous throwing with his left hand, while playing golf and writing with his right hand.

After awhile Beatty was tired of hearing how much better a one-handed forehand would be for him than his two-hander. After much soul searching while playing for Grand Island High School's tennis team as a seventh grader he tried to develop a one-handed forehand over a period of time.

"I struggled for nine months and was losing to players I had usually defeated," Beatty said. "I was so discouraged I was actually thinking of quitting tennis. After a long talk with my dad we both agreed that I wasn't really fleet of foot and that going back to the two-handed would be my best move in returning shots. As soon as I went back to my two-handed forehand my confidence quickly returned and I started playing much better."

Shortly after, he defeated Ari Binder in straight sets in a 14 & under tournament and continued to play tennis for Grand Island for a total of six years. Predictably, he attained a 55-13 overall record, winning some matches he should not have, and losing some he should have won.

During his time at Grand Island, Beatty gave credit to the Miller Tennis Center teaching staff for improving all aspects of his game.

Although singles has always been his game Beatty is also becoming an excellent doubles player. Other players have related that his return of serve is so good they are not sure where they should serve to his forehand or backhand side as he wreaks havoc with his deadly returns off both sides. As for his net play he hits every volley with two hands and hits many high swinging volleys. He will only hit a one-handed overhead if he can't reach the shot with two hands. Beatty does serve with one hand and admits it isn't the strongest part of his game. However, he places it well.

Beatty acknowledges that the two-handed forehand isn't for everyone. However, he feels it is especially good for tiny tots and youngsters who can't possibly hit the ball over the net with any control or power with a one-hander. As they get older they can switch back to a one-hander.

Beatty also feels that juniors or adults who aren't sure which is their dominant hand or players who feel that they can't the ball with any power might be wise to try the two-handed forehand.

Like the old saying goes, "Try it! You might like it!"

Event concludes today

At 1 p.m. today, the semifinals for the Orville $5,000 Men's and San Marco $1,500 Women's tournaments will be played at Miller Tennis Center. The women's finals and third- and fourth-place playoffs will be at 4 p.m. The men's finals and third- and fourth-place playoffs will be at 6 p.m.

The matches are free to the public. Call 632-8600.