I've gone over to the dark side

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Frank Silbermann, Apr 7, 2008.

  1. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

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    Well, I finally did it. This month's Tennis magazine has an article about Jimmy Arias, claiming that he, more than anyone else, is responsible for the new, post-modern western grip forehand that replaced the technically correct modern (i.e. eastern) forehand. (I claim that the modern forehand is eastern because I have a book, published in the 1940s, which describes the eastern style as being "the modern forehand". Since the eastern forehand already has a long tradition of being described as "modern" -- clearly the heavily topspun western style must be post-modern.)

    Apparently, this shrimp of a kid Jimmy Arias began beating really serious players using his powerful forehand, and so impressed coach Nick Bolletieri that he began teaching this stroke to all his juniors. Many of these players were bigger and more athletic, so when they learned Jimmy's technique and took away his advantage, he "great promise" was never fulfilled.

    The article notes that when Jimmy Arias plays on the grandmasters circuit, his forehand looks ordinary to today's eyes, whereas the style of opponents his age looks antique.

    What impressed me, however, was the fact that this revolution began when wooden rackets were still the norm, and therefore would have occurred even if graphite rackets had never been invented.

    I should have seen it coming. Way back in the middle 1960s Paul Metzler advised in his book, _Advanced Tennis_, that when playing someone with a western grip you shouldn't come to the net on anything he can get a good swing at. His advice was to hang in there and maybe he'll wilt in the second set, the western style being a very tiring way to play (especially on grass courts where he has to squat down lower than everyone else for the low balls). This was especially true in the days before tie-breakers, when a set could go on and on before either player could obtain a two-game advantage. He also advised bringing the western player to the net, as the western grip had poor reach there on balls that were wide or low.

    Yes, in the old days only rich pampered kids got lessons -- not the kind of people who went into athletics full time. The desperate, gritty kids who had the hunger to claw to the top had to pretty much learn on his own. Whereas a never-married tennis bum like **** Bill Tilden could learn a different grip for every shot, most players had time to learn at most one style, therefore using their ground-stroke grips at the net. If a player happened to start with the Eastern or continental grips, then he could master an all-court game; but if he started (and stayed) with the western grip he'd start losing as soon as his opponents mastered the drop shot.

    But nowadays most kids with potential can get expert coaching, and everyone can see the best strokes up close and in slow motion on the computer. Kids are taught to volley with the continental no matter how they hit their ground-strokes; they train harder (and have access to excellent surgical repairs should they overdo it); their sets are limited by tie-breakers -- so it no longer matters that the western style is more strenuous. Western grip players, with their big swings, used to have trouble with bad bounces on poorly maintained courts, but no serious matches are played on irregular courts anymore.

    Several times, in the 1970s, I'd notice that I was hitting my forehand especially well only to realize with dismay that my grip had slipped a quarter-bevel towards western -- a flaw that had to be corrected immediately before the incorrect stroke became grooved and it eventually hold back my progress. But now I see that as a wasted opportunity. I cannot envision any change to the pro game -- not even a return to wooden rackets -- that will lead the pros back to the use of traditionally-correct grips and stances.

    So, given that everyone these days, from beginner to pro, is cheating on their grips to make the game easier, I might as well do that too. My forehand was already barely within the eastern range -- both heel and big index knuckle solidly on the broad flat plane in back of the grip. But this week, I lowered my index knuckle by half bevel, placing it on the lower edge that lay at the bottom of the broad, flat plane adjacent to the angled bevel towards the bottom -- edging me over the eastern boundary and ever so slightly into western territory. Within a few minutes I was hitting harder and with more topspin, even when hitting with casual footwork and without perfect balance. I'm doing that with forehands on both left and right-handed sides.

    As long as I have the strength, stability and topspin to allow me to swing freely without fear of error, I don't think I'll need to go any further than that; it's already become more difficult to hit balls that fall below knee level, and at age 52 I don't want to have to start squatting to hit the ball. (I can always switch to a continental slice if someone insists on giving me one ultra-low ball after another.)

    Now that the top players' style is again relevant to me, maybe I'll even start watching professional tennis again.
     
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  2. smoothtennis

    smoothtennis Hall of Fame

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    What did you finally do? You read about Jimmy Arias?
     
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  3. goober

    goober Legend

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    It's near the bottom of that diatribe. He moved his eastern FH grip over by half a bevel towards Western side.

    Earth shattering isn't it :)
     
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  4. tbini87

    tbini87 Hall of Fame

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    haha, yeah baby! a huge adjustment of a half inch or so!

    well good for you frank, you might realize that the dark side isn't so dark after all!
     
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  5. heycal

    heycal Hall of Fame

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    I don't know how you can switch your main grip so easily after so many years. I learned an eastern forehand as a kid, only played sporadically in the last thirty years, and then started playing frequently in the last couple of years. And I have a real hard time when I try experimenting with a semi-western grip and not automatically reverting back to eastern without even realizing it. Seems like it would take a lot of effort and concentration to make the switch on a full-time basis.
     
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  6. Sentinel

    Sentinel Bionic Poster

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    Let me get this straight. He moved to a SW right, not a full western.

    And a SW is the dark side?

    I opened this thread thinking it was something as serious and unforgivable (haha) as moving to a 2hbh :)
     
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  7. BiGGieStuFF

    BiGGieStuFF Hall of Fame

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    I went the opposite. Went from a western to a Semi-western. I'm happy now. the transition was tough but it's paid off huge. My forehand is much more versatile now.
     
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  8. tennisfa

    tennisfa Rookie

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    “The dark side of the force is a pathway to many abilities, some considered to be UNNATURAL...."- Darth Sidious:)
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2008
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  9. chess9

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    Funny piece, Frank, but, what's next-knee length shorts, Luxilon strings, a young blonde? This is a slippery slope, Frank. You will be wearing a nose ring soon, I fear, maybe listening to Neo-Grunge or Techno music. It's sad to see a human being go downhill so quickly. Does the USTA have a helpful 10 step program? Shall we send money? :)

    -Robert
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2008
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  10. DJG

    DJG Semi-Pro

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    I found the original post quite funny and at the same time enlightening, mostly for the history bit.

    Good luck, I hope you find the groove very soon (almost sound like you already have) and that no funny injuries start appearing. (Quite possible after years of playing a certain way - your body has a way of adapting.)
     
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  11. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Oooh, so you're using extreme eastern? Pretty scary stuff! :roll:
     
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  12. smoothtennis

    smoothtennis Hall of Fame

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    LOL - well, at least you found it, I was reading all about the history of Arias there - whom I have seen hitting recently, and the boy can still crank out the forehand!

    Half bevel adjustment - good adjustment Frank - now start cranking that forehand!

    PS. I was expected a 1HBH swith to the 2HBH myself when I opened the thread.
     
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  13. lawrence

    lawrence Hall of Fame

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    i moved my SW up a tiny bit toward eastern, probably inbetween
    SW is great and all but it just seems less versatile ;o and i end up switching to eastern for some shots.. now with my grip inbetween its all sweet hah
     
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  14. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    (FRANK at the X-EASTERN FOREHAND ABUSERS MEETING): Hi, my name is Frank Silbermann, and I am an Eastern forehand-aholic.

    (PARTICIPANTS): Welcome Frank, glad to have you. (some clapping)

    (FRANK): For a long time I didnt realize how much I was in a rut. I wear white shirts, white shorts, white wristbands, white shoes, and white head bands. My socks are white too. Heck, I even still hit white tennis balls and take them out of metal cans with the twist offs! And to be honest with you, I still use those pump-up ball pressurizers so I can use my tennis balls over again for several days if not weeks.

    Anyway, recently I decided it is time to change. I needed to take control of my life and although I know I can't change everything in a day, I decided to move my hand over one bevel on the handle. It felt good but I was so scared...

    (PARTICIPANTS IN THE BACKGROUND): Way to go Frank! We're with you buddy!

    (FRANK ALMOST IN TEARS): I..i...i..am so ashamed...i hurt my family...oh, my beautiful family...and have missed...sniff...so much of life...

    PARTICIPANTS GIVE A STANDING OVATION) YEAH!!!!! WAY-TO-GO FRANK!!! THAT A BOY!!!! WE"RE GONNA CHANGE WITH YOU!!!! YEAH!!!!!
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2008
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  15. Rickson

    Rickson G.O.A.T.

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    I thought Frank started using a 2 handed backhand. Thank goodness it's just a western grip.
     
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  16. smoothtennis

    smoothtennis Hall of Fame

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    Amen brother Rickson - can't believe we are giving this one so much 'air time'!
     
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  17. heycal

    heycal Hall of Fame

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    Are you suggesting that the one handed backhand favored my metrosexual Swiss guys and French-speaking women is somehow superior to the macho two fister favored by tough guys like Connors, etc?
     
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  18. Rickson

    Rickson G.O.A.T.

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    You're member #133.

    The OHBS post #1532
     
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  19. chess9

    chess9 Hall of Fame

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    Bwuahahaha!! YESSSSSSSSS. That's exactly the kind of thing I had in mind. LOL! The USTA is missing an income opportunity here. Imagine all the geezers they could 'cure'.

    Do we have fun here, or what?

    -Robert
     
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  20. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

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    You have to understand

    Others have brought up the two-handed backhand. When I started playing (in 1973), someone told me that in Australia any tennis pro who was caught teaching a two-handed backhand could lose is license to teach tennis. (A license to teach tennis?!? Yeah, I guess this is not beyond plausibility for a country that had a Democratic Socialist Labor government. Just kidding!)

    Having been born a nerd, the first thing I did after starting my jr. college phys. ed. course was to start reading "World Tennis" magazine and instruction books. One article raved about the talent of the teenager Bjorn Borg, speculating sadly on just how much greater he would be if only someone had been available in his childhood to teach him the correct technique. A regular feature had a famous teaching pro answer readers' question. (I don't remember the writer; maybe it was Bill Talbert.) The reader wrote, "I'm a middle-aged club player with a semi-western forehand, but it's my best shot. Should I correct it?"

    Now, in 1973 the Eastern grip was taught as having the heel of the hand squarely over the upper angled bevel that lay between the top horizontal side and the wider vertical rear side. The index knuckle was near the top of that broad, vertical panel, right next to the angled bevel. If the heel slipped down to that vertical panel (i.e., Sampras' grip) -- that was "semi-western". (Hence all the concern about Bjorn Borg's "extreme western forehand" -- which looks pretty eastern to most people nowadays.)

    The author was sensitive to the situation. He explained, "Your grip is not good enough to win Wimbledon, but it's possible to win the French open or the U.S. Hardcourt championship with that grip. If you were a junior I would definitely advise you to change to the eastern grip, but since that level of play is out of the question for someone at your age and since this is your best shot, I would advise you to keep your current grip unless it later gives you trouble -- and instead work on other areas of your game. Though correcting your grip will increase your long-term potential, with your limited practice time you may never get there, and you'll likely go through a long period in which your forehand is unreliable. Since your forehand is your best shot that will likely be quite discouraging."

    Yes, modifying one's grip is difficult for most people; perhaps it's easier for me because -- in a vain effort to rise above crappy play -- I've tried every variation between the most open-faced continental and closed-faced eastern, on both forehand and backhand. The latest grip is probably the one I would have naturally developed had I not been so concerned about correctness.

    By the way, back in 1973 the full western grip is what most beginners naturally picked up until they had lessons. The eastern grip was more difficult because you had to turn sideways and reach way out; with the western you could stand facing the net holding the racket vertically in front of your right ear and just bop the ball back over the net -- with the strings facing forward the whole way. But when you'd progress beyond lobbing the ball back and forth, and had to face someone good who could hit fast net-skimmers, then the ball would pass under your racket -- until you switched to a correct grip. The higher a level you played, the closer to the net your opponent could skim his shots. Therefore, you could almost tell just how good a player was by seeing how close to continental his eastern grip was. Topspin? That was only for experts.
     
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  21. BeHappy

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    what do you mean by ''correct'' frank?

    And are you hitting a semi western with both your forehands?, (I have the memory of an elephant my ambidextrous friend).
     
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  22. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Frank, I am impressed with your knowledge of tennis history. I hope you know I was kidding above. I thought you might have liked remembering the metal cans we opened with those twisties.
     
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  23. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

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    Yes, slightly semi-western, a one-handed forehand on each side. This helps me pull even with those cheaters who hit to their opponents' backhands while running around their own. ("You're not a better tennis player. You just win 'cause you're a better runner.")

    As for the incorrectness of anything even slightly western, go to an online old-book store and order Ed Faulkner's _Tennis: How to Play it, How to Teach it_. This was first printed in 1970, and reprinted several times -- as recently as 1975. For each stroke it has an entire chapter of photos demonstrating stroking flaws to look for in your pupils so you can correct them. One of the flaws demonstrated was "the semi-western grip" on the forehand (more like extreme Eastern, as I described above). It also showed photos of the pupil after his forehand grip was corrected.
     
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  24. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Cut out all this tennis history, Frank, you're making me look stupid. :(

    Australia was right about the two-hander though.
     
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  25. chess9

    chess9 Hall of Fame

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    When I first came back to tennis after a very very long layoff I took some tennis lessons from a pro. He said it was like looking at some old deguerrotypes, and he offered that I had strokes like Maria Bueno! (The Swallow). Well, yes, I did, because we probably both learned from the same or similar sources. For me it was Jack Kramer, Tilden, Pancho Gonzales.

    Anyway, I have gone from hitting flat forehands with the Continental to topspin forehands with the semi-Western. That transition took about two weeks of hard practice, so it isn't that difficult to do, IMHO. On the backhand side, I still goof up occasionally because I tend to hit my topspin backhand with a bent left elbow-a remnant of having hit a million backhand slices. This season I'm working hard on eliminating that elbow bend!

    Fortunately, serving has become even easier with time as I don't need to keep my feet planted, and the strings and racquets are much more powerful these days.

    Things I miss:

    1. CONTINUOUS PLAY!
    2. Win by TWO GAMES.
    3. The old DOUBLE HIT rule.


    -Robert
     
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  26. eagle

    eagle Hall of Fame

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    Darn.

    All this time I thought in addition to inventing the Internet, the Western Grip was given to the tennis world by none other than Al Gore.

    :)

    r,
    eagle
     
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  27. Tim Tennis

    Tim Tennis Professional

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    This thread is too funny. Who says you can't teach an old dog new grips.

    Ed
     
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  28. chess9

    chess9 Hall of Fame

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    Nice pun!

    -Robert
     
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  29. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

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    Too bad you didn't learn Tilden's topspin backhand -- the one he developed to establish his supremacy over (western-grip player) Little Billy Johnston. I heard Tilden's topsin backhand spun at over 120 rpm!
     
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  30. chess9

    chess9 Hall of Fame

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    That high? :) No, quite a few people were trying to hit topspin backhands, including topspin backhand lobs. Very few guys would use that stuff in matches however because most of us couldn't execute the shot reliably. I hit a few topspin backhands in practice but never in a match. The new racquets have made topspin very available to the average player. I was definitely nothing special, though I'm getting more 'special' every year. :) I hope to have my own age group soon.

    -Robert
     
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  31. heycal

    heycal Hall of Fame

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    Two things, Robert:

    1) You really managed to change a life long grip in two weeks? I would have thought it would have taken ages.

    2) What is the old double hit rule?
     
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  32. AndrewD

    AndrewD Legend

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    We also had a Deadly Serious Party but neither it nor the Democratic Labor Party (the Socialist part doesn't exist- same as the licensing story) were ever in office.
     
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  33. soyizgood

    soyizgood G.O.A.T.

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    I had an ex-2HBHer on our club move to OHBH and he considered that the "Dark Side". I was wondering which backhand the guy moved to and instead he changed his forehand. At least he didn't move to the "Dark Side" of forehand grips: the semi-western.
     
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  34. Rickson

    Rickson G.O.A.T.

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    You are so confused. The dark side is the 2 hander and the eastern fh. The bright side is the one hander and the semi western forehand. Why is it that way? Beginners use the 2hbh, efh combo while advanced players use the ohbh, sw fh combo. Enough said.
     
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  35. heycal

    heycal Hall of Fame

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    How could you confuse such a simple matter? Yes, the two handed backhand is the dark side, but so are the western grips. Both are new fangled strokes, aka the dark side, while eastern and 1hbh are old fashioned and obsolete.

    They go hand in hand, no pun intended.
     
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  36. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Unfortunately advanced players DO use the devil's backhand whether we like it or not, but unless your name is Pete Sampras or Radek Stepenek (spelling?) most will have trouble advancing with that crappy eastern forehand grip. Take it from me, I used to use one.
     
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  37. chess9

    chess9 Hall of Fame

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    On the forehand side it's really pretty easy to do, Cal. Maybe my years of baseball made it easier. It's proven slow going on the backhand side, however.

    The old double hit rule said that a double hit was an error-you lost the point. Usually you immediately called it on yourself because you didn't want someone else telling you you'd double hit and lost the point! Now, if you double hit (unless it's intentional) you can still win the point if the ball goes over and in. My view is that if you've missed the ball that badly, you should lose the point. My view didn't prevail, alas.

    -Robert
     
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  38. heycal

    heycal Hall of Fame

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    The old fashioned and traditional way can't really be considered the "going over to the dark side", but that aside, doesn't that Federer fella use an extreme eastern grip? If memory serves, he has won several grand slams.
     
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  39. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Thank God you stopped photographing naked men and posted in a normal thread!

    Seriously though, Federer uses a semi-western.
     
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  40. heycal

    heycal Hall of Fame

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    I don't get the 'photographing naked men' reference. Huh?

    Anyway, most accounts, including in the recent issue of Tennis magazine, say R. Federer uses an extreme eastern grip.
     
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  41. soyizgood

    soyizgood G.O.A.T.

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    The truth hurts for those semi-western folks... :)
     
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  42. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    #42
  43. Rickson

    Rickson G.O.A.T.

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    Even the Bryan brothers said that Roger uses a semi western.
     
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  44. soyizgood

    soyizgood G.O.A.T.

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    That same video had Gilbert saying there were only 3 forehand grips and he conveniently left out the Eastern grip while he included his beloved, antiquated continental forehand. I doubt the Bryan brothers were going to correct Gilbert when he asked the Bryan's the grip Federer uses.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2008
    #44
  45. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    Maybe Gilbert just left it out because the eastern grip is dead.
     
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  46. soyizgood

    soyizgood G.O.A.T.

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    And the continental forehand is alive and well, huh?
     
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  47. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    He listed the continental? Wow, he's REALLY in the stone age. :shock:
     
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  48. LN_Dad

    LN_Dad Semi-Pro

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    You also have to change your timing since using a SW grip will require a contact point at least a foot in front of where you used to make contact with the ball with an eastern grip.

    Is Arias really the first guy to use a SW grip with a wood racket? When I was a kid I watched Elliot Telsher play at UCLA(circa 1978) and I thought he was the first one with a SW grip on both forehands and backhands. Very nice and smooth strokes on both sides that guy had; may be he still got it.....
     
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  49. heycal

    heycal Hall of Fame

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    All this talk is heresay. Look at the Tennis magazine issue that's out right now, and their article analyzing Federer's forehand, which they say is extreme eastern and different from most of the current players' grips.

    So here's what we have:

    Federer and Sampras using eastern grips.

    Rickson and Djokovicfan4life using semi-western grips.

    Next case!
     
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  50. Djokovicfan4life

    Djokovicfan4life Legend

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    It's pointless to compare Federer to Sampras, I'm sure that he doesn't use the classic full eastern grip.
     
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