As the game of tennis has evolved and moved towards hard hitting baseline rallies, the western grip has gained in popularity among players of all ages and skill levels.
In this article we’ll take a complete look at the western forehand tennis grip and talk about some of the main benefits and drawbacks for players that choose to use this grip.
The Western Tennis Grip
About 100 years ago, the continental grip was the de facto tennis grip used by virtually all tennis players. At the time, the game was slower and the technology, in the form of racquets, tennis balls and gear, was much more simple compared to the equipment available to tennis players today.
Add to this that the sport of tennis has become considerably more competitive, and it makes sense that there has been a natural evolution away from the ultra conservative continental grip, to the rather extreme western grip.
As a result, the western grip has become one of the more popular grips used by professional and recreational players, providing them with the ability to generate an unprecedented amount of topspin when hitting the ball.
Holding a Western Grip
When most players grab a tennis racquet for the first time, the western grip is usually far from how a player would consider holding the racquet. However, it can be rather easy to find a western grip by using the handle of the racquet as a guide.
When holding your racquet you may have noticed that your grip forms roughly the shape of an octagon, just like a stop sign with eight sides, as pictured in the diagram below.
We can easily find the western grip by placing the palm side of your index fingers knuckle against the 5th bevel of the racquet handle.
At first, many players might find this grip hard to work with. As such, many players might prefer to start with a semi-western or even eastern grip and then slowly move towards a grip that better suits the type of game they’re trying to develop.
At the end of the day there is no right or wrong grip, rather you’ll want to find something that feels comfortable and allows you to play the style of tennis you’d like.
Benefits of a Western Grip
If you’re looking to develop a heavy baseline game with big groundstrokes that have a ton of topspin, then the western grip might be the right grip for you.
Without a doubt, the main benefit of the western tennis grip is the ability for players to generate a significant amount of topspin, which can be great for a few different reasons.
First, topspin is important in the game of tennis because it allows you to hit the ball aggressively, while still keeping the ball in the court and not hitting it out of bounds. Topspin occurs when a player brushes up and over the top of a tennis ball causing it to spin forward extremely fast.
When this occurs a player can hit a few feet over the net, and due to the topspin, have the ball drop back into the court. This can be extremely beneficial as it allows you to hit the ball consistently into the court.
Beyond consistency, a high amount of topspin also causes the ball to “jump,” or spring back upward when it hits the ground on your opponent’s side of the court.
This is beneficial because it keeps the ball out of your opponents ideal striking zone for groundstrokes, which is typically about waist high, forcing them to step into the ball to catch it on the rise, or to step away from the ball to catch it as it drops.
The farther back your opponent stands, the harder it becomes for them to hit a winner and the fewer angels they can hit, which can be helpful to keep your opponent on the defense.
Drawbacks of a Western Grip
Unfortunately, while a western grip can be a fantastic grip it does have some drawbacks.
Most notably is that switching from a western grip to the continental grip used for slice shots and volleys can be challenging since it requires the player to rotate the racquet in hand quite a bit. New players often find this transition to be quite difficult, however with time most players will become quite comfortable with the transition to the point where it’s not a major issue.
Another, less impactful drawback of the western forehand grip is the ability for players to hit a tennis ball that bounces extremely low. In order to be effective, a player hitting a forehand with the western grip needs to get underneath the ball to hit up and over the top, which can be particularly difficult using this grip.
Should I Use a Western Grip?
For many players, the western forehand grip may be a great choice. However, if you’re just getting started with tennis you may opt for the eastern or semi-western grip and then move your way over to the western grip if it feels comfortable.
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer to which grip a player should use. However, through experimentation and remaining flexible you’ll be sure to find a grip that suits your style of play.
Have questions about the western forehand grip? Feel free to ask in the comments below.
Photo Credit: LJ Kong
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