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The Integrated Approach to the Forehand (Semi-Western Grip)

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Ron Waite, USPTR

Last month, I dedicated the column to those who use the full, Western Grip. This grip is probably one of the two most common grips seen on either of the pro tours. The second would be the Semi-Western Grip. There are only slight differences between these two grips, but when it comes to grip, every little bit can make a huge difference.

The great Rod Laver was once quoted as saying, "The grip determines everything." I couldn’t agree more. So, if you are looking to adopt my Integrated Approach to the Semi-Western Forehand, this month’s column is for you.

There are four grips that are possible for the forehand…with variations that are in between each grip. However, there are only three that I teach. The Continental Grip is, in my opinion, not suited for the modern game. In fact, I know of no major national or international tennis academy that teaches this grip for the forehand.

At the end of next month’s column, I will try to put into perspective what I believe are the strengths and weaknesses associated with each of the three most common forehand grips.

But, let’s move to the semi-western forehand.

Here are some pictures of what the semi-western forehand grip looks like. You should play with your specific grip, as there is some room for adjustment and individual variations. The most important parts of the hand to which one needs to pay attention with any grip are the base knuckle and the heel. If you are confused by what I mean by these, go to last month’s column which is available in the Turbo Tennis Archives.

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As you can see from these pictures, the hand is not quite as "underneath" the racquet handle as would be the case with the western grip. The base knuckle is usually on the side of the racquet handle and the heel is located on the lower bevel of the racquet. Please note that the black areas on the racquet handles represent bevels.

Once you have the semi-western grip firmly (but not in a death grip) in place, the next aspect is stance. Now in reality, one cannot always determine what stance she/he will be able to take when hitting the ball. This is especially true when you are on the run. However, whenever possible, the best stance for the semi-western grip is the three quarter open stance. The second best would be the full open stance. The least desirable stance would be a closed stance.

Here is an image of the 3/4 open stance.

Although these are seen from a somewhat side view, the player is not facing either sideways to or straight at the net. Rather, the player is somewhere in between these two extremes.

Here is an image of the open stance. It should be noted that in this image, the player is using a full western grip. However, the semi-western grip can be hit well from this stance. In these images, the player is facing directly at the net.

Lastly, I will show you the least desirable stance for the semi-western grip. This is known as the closed stance. (Actually, some of you purists will write that the closed stance would actually have the player’s back toward the net. However, I am using the term a bit loosely).

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The third major component in any stroke would be the contact point. The beautiful part of the semi-western grip allows for some "play" in this regard. Whether the ball bounces high or somewhat low, the semi-western grip is adaptable and can handle either bounce, well. This is why I prefer the semi-western grip to any other forehand grip.

Remember to quiet or freeze the head at the moment of impact. By this, I mean that it is imperative to not try to look at where the ball you have just hit is headed for a second or so. Not to worry. You will have plenty of time to pick up your opponent’s reply. By keeping your head motionless at the moment of impact, you allow your body to be as balanced as is possible throughout the stroke.

However, the following two pictures show you what is usually the ideal contact point for the semi-western grip.

Lastly, every stroke needs a good finish or follow through. In fact, I find that the more consistent your finish is (regardless of how high the ball may bounce, or what stance you may be in) the more consistent your strokes will become. Working in practice or against a backboard/wall and focusing upon your finish will go a long way toward improving your game.

Like the western grip, the semi-western grip requires an over-the-shoulder finish. In fact the finishes with these two grips can be, and often are, identical. Sometimes, the finish for the semi-western grip is less over the shoulder and more to the side of the body. If this seems natural to you, don’t hesitate to use this as your consistent finish. However, it is usually not comfortable for most players.

Here is the proper finish for the semi-western grip.

It has been my experience that players who use the semi-western grip can change to volley grips, overhead grips very easily. In addition, the semi-western grip naturally imparts topspin, but does allow for a flat ball to be hit with authority…especially, if this flat shot is hit off a high bouncing ball.

If there was one single forehand grip that I would recommend most in the modern game, it would be the semi-western grip. Its spin potential, flexibility and power potential make it ideal for virtually any surface…including grass.

The key to mastering this stroke is to take an Integrated Approach to producing the semi-western forehand. When grip, stance, contact point, quiet head and ideal finish are all in place…this stroke will become a weapon!!!

With this weapon in your armament, it will not be long before you become a tennis overdog.

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This column is copyrighted by Ron Waite, all rights reserved. Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to Ron by using this form.

Ron Waite is a certified USPTR tennis instructor who took up the game of tennis at the age of 39. Frustrated with conventional tennis methods of instruction and the confusing data available on how to learn the game, Ron has sought to sift fact from fiction. In his seven years of tennis, Ron has received USTA sectional ranking four years, has successfully coached several NCAA Division III men's and women's tennis teams to post season competition, and has competed in USTA National singles tournaments. Ron has trained at a number of tennis academies and with many of the game's leading instructors.

In addition to his full-time work as a professor at Albertus Magnus College, Ron photographs ATP tour events for a variety of organizations and publications. The name of his column, TurboTennis, stems from his methods to decrease the amount of time it takes to learn and master the game of tennis.


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