Is the semi-western forehand grip the best for EVERYTHING?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by tennis_hack, May 19, 2013.

  1. tennis_hack

    tennis_hack Banned

    Joined:
    May 14, 2013
    Messages:
    1,826
    Conventional wisdom says that the semi-western forehand should not be as good as the eastern forehand on very low balls as the contact point is higher. However, Nadal's semi-western forehand is the best at attacking Federer's GOAT low slice. The reason is that the semi-western forehand can whip topspin on low balls, and thus hit them with pace as the spin will still bring the ball up over the net, then back down safely into the court. An eastern forehand would struggle to clear the net or would sail long when confronting a heavy and low slice.

    Conventional wisdom says that the semi-western forehand should not be as good as the western forehand for hitting heavy topspin. However, Nadal's semi-western forehand hits the most topspin ever seen in the game - more than many other players with more extreme grips than him. Maybe the reason for this is that the semi-western forehand allows a straight-arm swing path, which would be hard to recreate with a western forehand due to strain on the wrist. Having a straight arm forehand means more leverage and more spin on the ball.

    So here we have the semi-western forehand - and conventional wisdom says it should be a jack of all trades, master of none. The eastern forehand should be better at handling low balls. The western forehand should be better at imparting heavy topspin. Yet I present to you the semi-western forehand as jack of all trades, and master of all. It is better than the eastern forehand at doing the things the eastern forehand is said to be good at. And it is better than the western forehand at doing the things the western forehand is said to be good at.

    I know I'm basing my argument on Nadal's forehand. But Nadal is not a freak. He is not 6ft 10in tall - his biomechanics are rather average for a tennis player. He is not double jointed or insanely flexible like Djokovic is. He is not a straight up fast-twitch laden beast like Monfils. It suggests if you are an average professional tennis player, the straight-arm semi-western forehand is absolutely the way to go.
     
    #1
  2. Venetian

    Venetian Professional

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2004
    Messages:
    1,397
    Wait, Nadal's semi-western? I always thought his grip was super western. My idea of semi-western is Agassi's forehand though, so I guess I'm a bit oldschool.
     
    #2
  3. tennis_hack

    tennis_hack Banned

    Joined:
    May 14, 2013
    Messages:
    1,826
    It is semi-western, leaning very slightly towards western.

    Agassi's was a hybrid between eastern and semi-western.

    Hence you could call Agassi's grip and Nadal's grip both semi-western, but they're a fair bit different.
     
    #3
  4. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2013
    Messages:
    6,592
    Location:
    France
    Today SW is used for both flat and TS shot, as demonstrated by both men and women tour. A bit of Jack of All Trades. But really master of none: it's hard to pick up a ball with SW or W grip in your shoe laces, and harder to put TS on a ball up your head with E grip. Not to mention volleying. Personal experience is needed before doing such assumptions. And if you look at a good chunck of claycourters, especially old school ones, it's striking: they have on average a much stronger grip than other players who aren't clay specialists.
     
    #4
  5. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2010
    Messages:
    5,541
    I once read that Nadal's low forehand topspin shot was also possible because of the poly strings. The author basically said the shot didn't exist below poly strings.

    Anyhow, my opinion is no the SW is not best for everything. I think it is best for high bouncing surfaces which is where Nadal thrives as his record on clay is much, much better than on any other surface.

    If the ATP played exclusive on grass (even the new grass), I think the E, or E/SW hybrid and possibly even a few conti (or eastern toward conti) would be the grip of choice.

    Yes, Nadal is very good at hitting top on the mid-court low slice but most pros are not as adept as Federer's mid-court slice gives everyone else a fair amount of trouble. So, just because one player is very adept at hitting a shot with a certain grip is not evidence that it is the best grip. It might just be evidence that Nadal has a talent for hitting that shot.

    And, when you say everything, I assume you don't mean everything as the SW is poor for forehand volleys and serves.

    But, I do think anything between and E and SW is the forehand grip for today's forehand.
     
    #5
  6. tennis_hack

    tennis_hack Banned

    Joined:
    May 14, 2013
    Messages:
    1,826
    ^^ you're correct, I mean the SW is the master of all in groundstrokes, not volleys. Everyone uses continental for that anyway.
     
    #6
  7. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2012
    Messages:
    829
    Location:
    UK
    Semi-Western is the most versatile forehand for the modern game, but not the absolute best in any category (flat power, topspin potential, hitting low balls, hitting high balls).

    Continental: Awesome flat power, pathetic topspin potential.
    Low contact point (Carpet/Old Grass)

    Eastern: Very good flat power, okay topspin potential.
    Medium-low contact point (Carpet/Grass/Hard)

    SW: Good flat power, Good topspin potential.
    Medium contact point (Modern Grass/Hard/Clay)

    Western: Okay flat power, Very good topspin potential.
    Medium-high contact point (Hard/Clay)

    Hawaiian: Pathetic flat power, Awesome topspin potential.
    High contact point (Clay)

    In terms of topspin/flat shots Semi-Western is the shot with the least problems, but the least maximum potential. This is obvious as it is right in the middle, and you can't get energy from nowhere, so any energy put into spin doesn't go into flat power, and visa versa.

    In terms of contact point, it is also right in the middle, so you can use it successfully on any regular court surface.
     
    #7
  8. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,432
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Yes, NADAL's SW forehand is pretty reliable, has range, can be hit hard.
    However, MY SW forehand, and I'm lefty also, sucks.
     
    #8
  9. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2004
    Messages:
    7,189
    This post is a good overview. However, the term should not be "topspin potential," but should be "ease of topspin."
    The amount of topspin is driven by the speed and path of the racket head. The same amount of topspin can be created by using any grip. However, getting the racket into the proper angle with respect to the ball and into the correct path for topspin is easier (more natural and easier to learn) with more Western grips than those more toward Continental. There is the potential to hit big topspin with a Continental, just as there is the potential to hit absolutely flat with a Western grip.
     
    #9
  10. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Messages:
    12,974
    Nadal mostly uses sw with an over the same shoulder finish, which has quite a different topspin potential than across the shoulder finish.
     
    #10
  11. aimr75

    aimr75 Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2007
    Messages:
    3,336
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    the racquet path up to and past contact look very much the same to me between the two..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMtC4oD8S0c

    Maybe a little more up than through, but if you see the first couple of shots and the third shot.. swing path is pretty similar except for the finish
     
    #11
  12. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Messages:
    12,974
    There is a difference in racquet path and the over the opposite shoulder finish was closed stance as well with a much deeper knee bend.
     
    #12
  13. aimr75

    aimr75 Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2007
    Messages:
    3,336
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    I think stance, knee bend etc aside.. the racquet path from the end of the takeback through to contact and a bit beyond look similar in both cases..
     
    #13
  14. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Messages:
    12,974
    They have to look a bit similar from takeback to contact, so the finish just provides a slight but noticeable change to trajectory.

    With the deeper knee bend closed stance forehand you can see why the sw is good for low balls as long as you get down low.
     
    #14
  15. ProgressoR

    ProgressoR Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Messages:
    2,005
    Location:
    No Man's Land
    Guys, I am still a kind of beginner (only been playing year and a half) and I have thought a lot about grips, what is best etc, and how people can gravitate to a grip that suits them most.

    In the end, doesnt it all revolve around what works for that player? If a player likes to use the Eastern FH grip and is comfortable with it and gets rid of major flaws in his technique, can he not then work to correct what might be seen as weaknesses of that grip?

    Doesnt it make sense for a player to try what I will call moderate grips like E or perhaps SW and then work out from there what works for him, and then modify things (hopefully with the advice of a coach) like grip, use of core and legs, arm, shoulders etc to make it work in an overall structure he is comfortable with?

    I tried moderate with everything, EFH, EBH (1H) and serves with conti/mild EFH and to be honest I dont see any concerns i have to top spin production at all. My concerns are with working to get the foundations solid, working within the grips I have decided I am comfortable with. So if I have an EFH and have to think and work out how to hit back high shots or low shots then I make darn sure I put the work in and make it happen. I dont think maybe I should change grip, and everything that goes with it, to make shot X easier. I work harder to make sure I hit as many balls in the place I want them, and get rid of a weakness that way.

    I tried SW FH once and it didnt suit me even though i hit quite well with it, and my coach said its not for me, and I left it and happily went back to EFH, no looking back at all.

    Now I have decided my grips I work hard to get everything right around it. It strikes me that is a sensible approach isnt it?

    If I wanted to change grips now I would have to remodel a fair bit of the stroke and preparation around it so why would I do that if i am comfortable with my current grip?

    Do we not focus too much on grips, changing for this or that reason, rather than just find a relatively moderate grip we like and then working hard around that and letting future grip changes occur once we have the basics in place?

    Just my take as a beginner hacker.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2013
    #15
  16. Bartelby

    Bartelby G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Messages:
    12,974
    You can get used to anything in terms of grips, but coaches will try to modify grips if they see you are not getting topspin.

    You then either change grips or give up getting coached.

    I've just come across some good players who thrash the ball with an eastern grip and its a bit hard to adjust to the flat pace.
     
    #16
  17. ProgressoR

    ProgressoR Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Messages:
    2,005
    Location:
    No Man's Land
    I hit very moderate EFH and have no problem with spin and coaches tell me I hit with as much or more spin than they do on FH and BH, and I have to work to reduce spin and hit deeper.

    I dont think EFH and EBH is a real barrier to spin at rec and lower club levels
     
    #17
  18. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2012
    Messages:
    829
    Location:
    UK
    It's a bit more complicated than that though. Physics says that:

    -If you swing completely flat, with an inclined racquet head, you must generate spin, so extreme grips naturally launch the ball downward with spin. One solution is to swing up at a sharp angle to the ball, with a closed racquet face, changing the trajectory and imparting more spin. The other solution to the closed face issue is to open the racquet face through the contact point. This opening of the face also requires upward motion and results in more spin.

    -A higher contact point forces a greater amount upward motion from a similar take back, so more topspin.

    -Forearm rotation allows for increased racquet head speed along a particular plane. With a continental grip the movement is perpendicular to the string bed (more power), with a western grip it is parallel to the the string bed (more spin).

    So it is possible to hit with more spin from a more closed grip. However, this does not mean that a Western hitting player will always hit with more spin than an Eastern player, or that an individual player won't find more spin with a grip they are more used to, but there is more potential for topspin with closed grips.
     
    #18
  19. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2013
    Messages:
    6,592
    Location:
    France
    A certain Swiss pro player agrees. He gets the second most RPM on average on his forehand with a rather conservative grip and a small racquet. His backhand stands in the opposition though...
     
    #19
  20. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2004
    Messages:
    7,189
    I agree about the effect of the grip on higher contact points, but the player chooses the height he contacts the ball.
    Your point on the elbow may be correct, but a more Eastern/Continental grip allows more wrist freedom. The more Western grips should allow more consistency to the heavily spun shots since the wrist movement can be inconsistent.
     
    #20
  21. anubis

    anubis Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    3,038
    I'm right in between SW and Eastern. I go full Eastern if I'm between the net and the service line. If I'm behind the service line, I'm SW.
     
    #21
  22. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,432
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    There is a total of ONE guy who can hit a forehand like Nadal currently.
    Everyone else is looking to pass the train that is in front of him, so they're trying variances of the technique.
    When Borg came onto the scene, lots of guys tried copying HIS style. Nobody came close to passing him using HIS style.
    When McEnroe came onto the scene with HIS style, some juniors and some adults tried HIS style. None worked to any decent level.
    Connors.
    Rochus.
    JohnLucas.
    VijayAmritraj.
     
    #22
  23. max pl

    max pl Rookie

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2011
    Messages:
    334
    heres a different question thats semi related:

    what grip do you guys use to feed the ball?
    continental or whichever you use for your forehand?

    i use to be a really bad feeder cause i'd feed using SW, but after switching to conti, i'm fairly consistent now.
     
    #23
  24. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2012
    Messages:
    829
    Location:
    UK
    That statistic is fairly old, and compares Federer to Agassi, Safin and Sampras who very flat by today's standards. Even then there were two players that definitely have a higher average RPM than Federer.

    Nadal (obviously)
    Brugera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBNfL7LaGPU

    Nowadays there are probably a few others who are worth considering.
    Andreev: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTP6c6XO3No
    Ferrer
    Almagro

    I would also bet on Soderling, Gonzalez and Verdasco having a higher average spin when they are really going for it, as some of those 100mph forehands still really jump off of the court.

    That being said, only Nadal can even be argued to have as good a forehand as Federer, because they are the only ones who hit with lots of pace, spin and accuracy consistently.
     
    #24

Share This Page