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Ways of the Forehand
Varying the Grip and the Contact Point
Just as there are so many ways to “hit that ball,” equally there are any number of ways to grip the racquet. But interestingly, each and every grip has its own particular advantages and disadvantages, and further each and every grip has its own “preferred” contact point. semi-western forehands, favor heavy whipping topspin, and look no further than Rafael Nadal for the best example of this shot. And though Rafa sometimes finishes the stroke behind his head, in the main he meets this semi-western forehand well in front.
Mac uses a continental grip, Federer an eastern forehand, and Nadal is much
more towards the western.
Continental forehands (yes they are darn hard to find) produce more of a blocking shot played with less spin and more at the side than way out in front, and for better or worse John McEnroe exemplified this shot. And in between the western and continental lies the eastern forehand, the one favored by Sampras and Federer. Certainly there are nuances here, including a low eastern (which is close to a high semi-western) as well as a high eastern closer to the continental grip, and subtle adjustments occur from shot to shot.
And just as the game has and continues to evolve, so to for the grips. In general, grips have to do with the bounce of the incoming ball. Higher bouncing balls, chest if not shoulder height are more easily returned with semi-western grips (and certainly one sees just this in a 12 and under tournament). Lower bouncing balls, as well as balls skidding off slick grass courts, are more easily returned with continental grips. And most balls bouncing somewhere between these two can be played with any of the three grips, but traditionally the eastern forehand did and does the trick.
But as to the names of these grips, there is a story (not necessarily documented). Bill Tilden, hailing from the East coast, dominated in the 1920’s playing “classic tennis.” He could and did do anything with the ball, spin, pace, touch, power, but from a gripping standpoint his grips were “eastern.” One of his rivals in that era was the diminutive Little Bill Johnston, and Tilden exposed Johnston’s lack of height with high bouncing balls. Little Bill, from the West coast developed a grip to answer this higher point of contact, and therein I believe came the terms Western and Eastern. To belabor this analogy, Fred Perry and others playing on the continent (Europe) developed continental grips to counter the low bouncing balls produced by grass courts.
Interestingly, with new racquet technology players have developed much more topspin, and topspin shots do not bounce as low on the grass courts. Further, as players favor extreme topspin, the grips evolve to the semi-western side of the handle, and the grip change to continental for the volley or to the eastern one handed backhand is so difficult that we see less and less volleying and fewer and fewer one-handed backhands.
But back to you and I. When exploring grips on the forehand side, first and foremost relax the hand and wrist. Grips are not changed by contorting the wrist into unusual positions, but rather by adjusting the racquet within the hand. Again, not by twisting the wrist but by turning the handle. If, unfortunately, tension is introduced as one grips this wonderful appliance, all that follows will be corrupted. Harsh, yes, but true.
Now, as regards the forehand, the following experiment may shed light on the point of contact as regards varying grips. Standing slightly sideways to the net, holding the racquet in the non-dominant arm, allow the dominant arm to swing back and forth, in a gentle pendulum motion. Note, on the back side (referencing the forehand) that the palm ever so slightly faces down, and on the front side (towards the follow thru) the palm ever so slightly turns to face up. No wrist, no contortions, just the arm swinging back and forth.
Now swing the arm back and forth and stop with the arm well out in front, palm open. Place the racquet in your hand at this position, and you will find the semi-western grip. Said another way, when introducing the racquet at this point in the swing the hand automatically rotates under the grip. Viola! You have found the ideal contact point for the semi-western forehand. Now again holding the racquet in the non-dominant hand, swing the other arm back and forth but this time introduce the racquet with vertical racquet face and your hand falls behind rather than beneath the handle, and this lo and behold is the eastern grip and the eastern contact point. Were you to introduce the racquet to your hand well behind you, you find the continental grip if not the eastern backhand, and we see this when Federer plays his squash shots from well behind, chopping down viciously on the ball (for at this point the opponent has learned to expect nearly anything from the king).
So next time on court, check out your contact point on the forehand side. Are you hitting ever so slightly late (continental), just forward of your left hip (eastern) or well out in front. Further, are you playing with under spin (continental), flat or with a little topspin (eastern) or vicious topspin (western). And then, check and see if your grips agree with your style. If not there will be much room for improvement.
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The Serve within the Advanced Foundation
The serve has been discussed in many articles. Most identifying a particular player’s service sequence, a particular type of serve, or various ways to increase a serve’s effectiveness. All of these articles provide a great deal of information regarding the serve. Here, Dave Smith provides a clear “blueprint” for anyone who is looking to either build their serve from the “ground up” or understand why their current serve is not the weapon it should be.
Strategy and Tactics of Tennis
Ray Brown and Katherin Hashemi break down tennis singles strategies and organize them into six classes determined by the type of rally used. Each rally type is keyed to a specific generic human limitation in performance or training. While any particular rally or match may not fit into one of these six classes, these classes provide a very convenient organization of tennis strategies that can be used make sense of a very complex subject. What kind of player are you?
T1 Super Slow-Mo™ Video - Marat Safin
Marat Safin still lurks in the top echelons of the game, hovering at number 22, but capable of oh so much more. Marat turned pro ten years ago, and stunned the tennis world in 2000 with 64 63 63 drubbing of Pete Sampras to capture the US Open title. Then in 2005 he won the Australian Open beating Federer in the semifinals and Hewitt in the finals. Otherwise his career has been stalled with injury, indifferent motivation, and a somewhat continuous change of coaches. But this big hitter, so strong off both wings, may still make a run at the top 10. Check out his strokes in T1 Super Slow-Mo™ Video.
Crosscourt with Nadia Petrova
Tennis pundit Matt Cronin sits down with top ten player Nadia Petrova. Nadia has 7 tour singles title and 11 tour doubles titles, prefers hard courts that suit her aggressive game, and looks to finish the point early with her big forehand and serve. Nadia holds wins over Mauresmo, Henin, and Dementieva. In this revealing interview Nadia talks about her game, her career, her aspirations, and life on the Sony Ericsson WTA.
ProStrokes Gallery - Ivan Ljubicic's Serve
Ivan Ljubicic turned pro in 1998, and has firmly established himself within the men’s top ten. He has been ranked as high as number three, and is currently ranked number twelve. He holds wins over every other player in the top ten including Roger Federer (though this was in 2003 before Roger really hit his stride), Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Nikolay Davydenko, Fernando Gonzalez, Tommy Robredo, Novak Djokovic, James Blake, and Tommy Haas. Check out Ljubicic's strokes in the TennisOne Prostrokes Gallery. New this issue, the Ljubicic serve.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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