Eastern vs Semi-Western Forehand – BEST Tennis Grip (Modern ATP Forehand)
Should you be using an Eastern or a Semi-Western forehand grip?
When it comes to picking a grip, what a lot of players don’t realize is that it’s not just about you…
… it’s also about your opponent.
…and your footwork.
By the end of this video, you’ll know not just which grip gets you the most power and topspin, but also how your opponents and the court surface you play on should determine which grip you use.
Because at the end of the day, what you truly want is control of your shots and your tennis game right?
So watch the video all the way to the end because you’ll need all the knowledge to make a definitive decision about which grip is your best option:
Eastern or Semi-Western.
There are 3 main elements that go into your grip:
- Your racquet handle
- The base of your index knuckle
- The center of your heel pad
These three factors will determine what grip you have, along with some small variations in the position of your fingers along the handle, your thumb and how far down the handle your hand sits.
The handle has eight faces or bevels, and we’ve labeled them from 1 to 8. If you’re left-handed, then the numbering runs counter-clockwise, rather than clockwise.
So, to put it as simply as possible, for the traditional Eastern Grip, your index knuckle and your heel pad will both be on the third bevel.
And for the Semi-Western Grip, your whole hand will just rotate around one bevel, so your knuckle and heel pad are both on the fourth bevel.
Feels like I’m giving a math lesson
So which grip should you use?
Well, let’s first look in more detail at the grip that almost every player on the modern ATP tour uses – the all mighty Semi-Western grip.
As we said, with this grip, both your index knuckle and heel pad are on the 4th bevel. When you hold your arm straight out you can see that this naturally turns the racquet face down towards the ground.
This makes returning balls at chest height or above much easier. And this is one of the biggest reasons why most pros use this grip.
At the pro level, especially on the men’s side, opponents are hitting the ball so hard and with so much topspin that players are typically striking the ball at chest height or above.
So, they need a grip that allows them to maintain leverage in their hitting arm when the ball is high and return the ball with heavy topspin.
That’s why this is by far the most common pro grip.
You’ll see it used by Andy Murray, Dominic Thiem, Berdych, Nishikori, Wawrinka, Shapovalov, and many, many others.
Actually, to be completely accurate, most professional players use a slightly modified semi-western grip, where the heel of their palm is actually between the 3rd and 4th bevel, not directly on the 4th bevel.
Players like Zverev and Thiem play with an aggressive baseline playing style, generating a lot of topspin and often striking the ball at chest height or even up to their shoulders.
You can see sometimes they are even leaving the surface as they strike the ball, showing you just how high they are playing those shots.
A semi-western grip gives you control over these high contact points and the ability to return the ball with heavy topspin.
So, that’s the grip for you, right?
Well, hold on. Guess who uses an Eastern grip?
Yeah, this guy.
Federer has a slightly modified Eastern grip. He puts his index knuckle on the corner of the 3rd and 4th bevel, here. And then his palm heel is around slightly, directly on the 3rd bevel. He also holds the handle quite close to the end so his hand is a little off the racquet at the base.
For you, how far down you hold it, is really a matter of what feels right. So, if you prefer your heel pad completely on the racquet, do that.
This grip means that Federer is less consistent on the higher balls than some other top pro players but, and this is key, he’s not making that shot as often as they are.
Federer uses his incredible timing to stand slightly closer in and play the ball sooner. And that means lower, he’s striking the ball lower than a lot of players, more towards his waist than his chest.
And this is really important for you because here’s one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself:
What height am I typically hitting the ball at?
If you do receive a lot of balls up here, at chest height, then you can really get the benefit of the semi-western grip. Consistently returning high balls with serious topspin will come much more easily.
But if you’re playing at the club level, most of the balls you hit are probably at about your waist height. Unless you’re playing one of those moonballers.
“Seriously moonballers, stop it. Get help.”
And that’s where the Eastern grip shines. With a milder grip, you can still generate considerable topspin but the open face will let you play lower balls with consistency and ease.
The court surface you play on is a factor here too. The king of clay uses an extreme variation of the Semi-Western grip. Clay will make the balls bounce higher than any other surface and slow the balls down as they bounce, giving you more time to switch grips and set up on your forehand which is necessary for extreme grips.
On the other hand, most Wimbledon court champions have used milder grip variation. On grass courts the balls tend to skid lower and faster, making handling low balls, switching grips, and rushing to the net a breeze.
Let’s look at both grips in action.
Eastern In Action
This is the Eastern grip in action. Your ideal contact height with the Eastern grip is about waist height.
Also, just from the standpoint of developing your forehand, the fact that more of your palm is behind your racquet as you hit the ball will give you much better feel for your shot.
If it bounces higher, you can still return the ball with correct techniques but you’ll feel less control of your shot at higher contact points.
But when you need to react and play a low ball or a drop shot, the Eastern grip makes that very easy. The racquet face stays relatively open at low contact heights unlike extreme grips and you can easily switch to your volley grip and transition to the net.
Semi-Western In Action
When we switch to Semi-Western, here’s what changes.
Balls at waist height are okay as long as you’re building a lot of racquet head speed in order to consistently get the ball over the net. And again, if you’re willing to spend more time developing your timing and physical strength, that’s completely fine.
But when balls get lower or when you’re trying to transition to the net, things become more difficult. In a neutral stance, you’ll be forced to perform the complex motion of hitting and spinning off your front foot because extreme grips require you to rotate your body further into contact.
As the ball comes in higher, that’s when you feel the benefit.
Your racquet orientation with naturally be angled optimally with higher contact heights so you can return the ball with heavy topspin.
So, which grip is better for you?
Just click the link in the description below and you’ll see if you should be playing with an Eastern or a Semi-Western grip.
Until next time guys, go out and train hard.
See you in the next video!