Western, Semi-Western, Eastern, Continental. What do these Forehand Grips Mean?
Have you ever to spoken to someone about tennis forehand grips and felt consumed by weird names that sounded like they belong more on a compass than a tennis court?
Even some of the most advanced players don’t really know what all the grips are called, so don’t be alarmed.
But if you are looking to improve your game, and especially your forehand through some online coaching videos it might be worth knowing some of these ‘tennis lingo’ terms.
We’ve found you our favorite video that demonstrates all the grips in an easily digestible way that will have you discussing the merits and downfalls of an Eastern forehand grip in no time.
What We Like About This Video
It’s not too long! The forehand grips are very simple, but many people seem to go off on huge tangents whenever talking about grips, this video keeps it nice and simple without rushing, and throws in a few examples of pros that use some of the grips.
It’s just a grip, guys! So don’t be wasting hours of your time trying to figure out a few simple names!
Things to Remember When Choosing your Forehand Grip
The grip you choose needs to feel comfortable for you. There’s no point deciding you want to hit the ball like Nadal, copying his forehand grip, and then continuing with it, despite the fact that its uncomfortable and you’re not getting the results you want.
There is a relatively wide range of grips and variations that can be effective, so it’s more about selecting what works for you personally.
If you’re at the beginning of your tennis journey, then you perhaps have more flexibility in what grip you’re going to choose.
But if you are an established tennis player, then it is going to be tough to make big changes in this area. If you do think your grip needs a big change, then it is best to make small changes at a time.
If you’re all the way round at Full Western, and just can’t hit a flat forehand, then make gradual changes, working your way towards Semi Western.
What Do the Bros Use?
“I’d say I’m around the same grip as Nadal and what the video refers to has a hard Semi Western. I’m a leftie too, so a lot of my game is based around getting my forehand crosscourt bouncing up high into the right-handers backhand.
To do this, I need to generate good spin, and the openness of the grip allows me to do this.
Having said that, I do find it difficult to flatten out my forehand when I want to put the ball away, and I tend to move more to the regular Semi western grip when I have a short ball.”
“I’m pretty much bang on the Semi Western. For me, this is the best way to generate the mixture of spin and power that I need. I’m one of those guys who would have had no idea what all the grips were called before I watched the video, so it’s quite useful.
Will showed me his grip, and I can’t believe he can hit the ball over the net with such a grip, but it just goes to show, each to their own!
Maybe that’s why I’m always beating him!
I’m standard semi western as this allows me to deal with any type of ball effectively.
I can hit low balls and high balls without any difficulty and can hit heavy topspin or a flatter, more penetrating ball flight without changing my technique too much.
I used to use a very strong semi western grip, but eventually made the switch to a more neutral one as I felt I lacked consistency.
Making the change really helped take my game to the next level.
Our Guide to all the Forehand Grips
This is the most natural way to hold a racket when you pick it up. To find it (for a right-handed player), the “V” between your thumb and index finger would sit on the first line/ridge to the left of the grip, if you were to hold it out in front of you like a hammer.
It is used for the serve, backhand, and volleys – pretty much anything but forehands.
Needless to say, that does not stop some people using it for a forehand. This however, is a very old-fashioned grip to use on the forehand, and you’re very unlikely to see it on the pro tour today.
The problem with using this grip for the forehand is that it makes it much harder to generate topspin.
If the ball is low, then you can just brush over it, but as soon as the ball is waist-height or higher the grip really limits your ability to get over the ball.
One reason why the continental forehand grip has almost completely disappeared in modern-day tennis is because of the added importance of topspin in today’s game.
40 years ago, the equipment they were using just wasn’t geared to creating topspin, and so they never had to worry about freeing up the wrist to create spin.
Less moving parts meant less to go wrong, and the continental grip complemented that very well indeed.
Look at any video of John McEnroe’s forehand (with or without the classic headband!), and its striking contrast to a modern-day forehand.
The grip is very open and is somewhere between a continental and eastern grip, where the wrist remains locked the whole way through the stroke.
Compare this to someone at the other end of the spectrum like Rafael Nadal…
Notice the huge difference in the wrist rotation of the two players.
Obviously, there are huge technical differences between the two of them, but the biggest thing that allows Nadal the extra wrist rotation is the grip and freedom in the wrist.
So, in summary, the continental grip is great for serves, great for volleys and backhands, but it’s yesteryear’s forehand grip!
Now we’re getting nearer to what the majority of pros use as their forehand grip.
Using an Eastern forehand grip should make it a little easier to generate spin than the Continental grip, but much easier to flatten the ball out than the Western grip.
The top pro who we think demonstrates the Eastern forehand grip well is Richard Gasquet.
You can see here that Gasquet still doesn’t get the huge amount of wrist rotation that Nadal does, especially on the take-back, but he still manages to roll his wrist nicely over the ball to finish the stroke.
While you are much more likely to see a pro playing with an Eastern grip than a Continental grip, they still wouldn’t be the most common.
The video suggests that Roger Federer’s forehand uses an Eastern grip, and it’s true if you see him hitting an average forehand it does appear to be an Eastern grip.
However, he tends to change his grip slightly depending on the height of the ball, and the shot he’s looking to hit.
In general, he’s probably somewhere between Eastern and Semi Western.
This is fairly common on the pro circuit. These guys play so much tennis that they can adjust their grip slightly to suit certain shots.
However, it’s probably a little dangerous to start playing around with this if you’re not playing a lot of tennis.
Choose your grip and stick to it is our advice!
The semi-western is the most common tennis forehand grip you’ll find in tennis today, and it is used by many of the top players.
The benefit of this grip is that it allows for a great deal of wrist motion, whilst also allowing the player to hit through the ball.
The Semi Western is showcased by Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray and typifies the modern forehand.
The Semi Western is well balanced, and easily allows players to get under low balls (a problem with the Full Western) and over high balls (a problem with the Continental, and to a lesser extent, the Eastern).
Being in the middle of the spectrum for grips that are viable for forehands, the Semi Western also gives players the option of slightly adjusting one way or the other to suit their game.
If you rely more on flattening out your forehand and hitting big winners, then perhaps you might choose to use a grip that is between Eastern and Semi Western.
As the video explains, this grip involves having the index knuckle at bevel number four on the racket, with the hand slightly underneath the racket.
From this position, you will notice the full range of motion you can get with the wrist, an aspect that can be used to create top spin and power.
However, with more functioning parts, the more room for error, so beware!
There are a lot of benefits to the Semi Western, but if you’re not confident in your technique already, switching to a Semi Western could add to your problems.
Full Western Grip
This is the one where you look at some players and think, “how on Earth does he hit the ball like that?” One pro who uses the Full Western to good effect is Kei Nishikori.
Some of the Eastern and Semi Western grips can be quite difficult to spot, but the Full Western is generally quite easy to see.
Look how far Nishikori’s hand is around the racket! Nishikori makes the shot look very easy, but to most people, just picking up the racket with a Semi Western grip is enough to put them off.
The Semi Western forehand grip is very convenient for getting good topspin, but it can make it much more difficult when you want to flatten the ball out.
Nishikori for example is not known for his ability to finish off points with his forehand, but Roger Federer at the other end of the spectrum is the king of the flat forehand winner!
Yes, we just used two very convenient examples there, but in general, the Eastern forehand grip is going to allow you to flatten out your forehand and finish points, whereas the Full Western allows for more topspin.
Each has its merits and drawbacks.
What do the Coaches Recommend?
We spoke to one of our ‘Brossociates,’ Edward Spilman, a former student and coach at Sanchez-Casal tennis academy (where we used to play) and he told us that some coaches lean towards the Eastern forehand grip and others towards the Semi Western.
“Many of the courses I go to today are heavily into the Eastern grip at the moment, and I guess much of that has to do with Roger Federer. It is a slightly simpler technique to teach beginners, as there are fewer parts to it, but really a player should use the grip that they find comfortable. Of course, that grip needs to be within certain parameters; if it is too Western, the player won’t get any power, and if it is too Eastern then they’re going to struggle to generate spin.”
TheTennisBros.com tend to agree with Edward. The fact that there are top pros playing with all kinds of different grips just goes to show that certain people are better suited to certain grips.
As you develop your tennis, it’s natural that slight changes will occur in your grip, as you consciously and subconsciously figure out how to hit better shots, and the best way to do that is to let it come naturally.
So, Now You Can Speak the Lingo…
Even if you’re very happy with your forehand grip, it’s worth knowing the terminology surrounding tennis forehand grips, and with the help of the video, you can get a good idea of the different grips and their variations.
Now when your tennis friends start discussing the fact that “full Western grips struggle to get under the ball when the ball is low, and that you should keep hitting low slices to anyone with a Full Western grip”, you can remind them that many players will make adjustments for different balls and that they may well be wasting their time!
People like to go on about grips as if they are the holy grail, but in reality, they are just a preference.
Discover what you prefer, and what suits your game, and if you feel like you need to make a change, then do it gradually.
Going from a Full Western straight to an Eastern would likely be tennis suicide, but nothing is stopping you from making small changes to your grip to potentially enhance your performance.
Article By: Lawrence “Larry” Palmer