The Semi Western grip is a staple in today’s tennis game, to understand the popularity we first have to understand the grip. What is it about today’s game that’s so much different from the game 50 or so years ago? The era in which the Eastern forehand grip reigned supreme. Well, we can begin with technology; everything about the rackets, balls, and string of today are drastically different from the equipment used in the days of Arthur Ash or Poncho Gonzales. Moreover, the player of today’s era learn the importance of nutrition and strength training at a much younger age; as a result we have a much faster game. A faster game leads to a faster player, which then leads to a faster/harder hit balls. All this combined forced the evolution of a more modern, more versatile grip; Thus, the Semi-Western grip was born.
If we can consider all these changes, its no wonder why the game of tennis has made a shift towards a grip more adaptable to today‘s game. But why the Semi-Western? Why not the still modern full Western forehand grip? The father of the semi-western grip. Or, why not stick to the Eastern forehand grip? A grip which is often taught to beginners to help lay the foundation for the Semi-Western grip. The former has it’s advantage in taking higher balls and creating heavy spin, but becomes problematic when confronted with lower balls such as slice. It can be said of the latter that the game itself, and perhaps it’s vast amount of changes, has forced the decline in usage of the grip after a certain level of player development.
Maybe the more important disadvantage of the Eastern grip is the narrow strike zone that it provides. This grip not only has it problems with lower ball, but higher balls as well. So naturally, there was a move towards the middle, hence the Semi-Western grip. This grip bridges the gap between the Eastern and Western grip literally, by meeting in the middle. The Semi-Western combines the power of the Eastern grip, as well as, the ability to add topspin taken from the Western grip; and maybe most important of all, the wider strike zone provided by the hands slight change on the handle. As a result, we find that Semi-Western grip allows player to take higher balls(heavy topspin), and lower balls(slice) with more comfort and control, coupled with the ability to add power and spin to just about any ball on the court. This of course, is a dangerous combination which may help explain why most pro player of today’s ilk(Roger Federer and Serena Williams) use this grip in mass numbers, and why you should add it to your game.
Is this grip the be all end all? Not likely- while it is probably the most complete grip it is not without its disadvantages. Mainly, the grip change when changing a forehand to a backhand, as most backhand grips typically sit on the top bevels. The Semi-Western grip, however, rest on the bottom bevels of the grip; this makes for a longer transition from forehand to backhand- but in reality, it is only a slight adjustment. In my opinion, the advantages of this grip are plentiful, and the disadvantages very few. If you are not currently using this grip, I challenge you to give it a try. Be patient though, as it will take sometime to get comfortable with a new grip. For the players that already use this grip, move to perfect the spin generated- or move to prefect the depth and angles that can be created with this grip. The combinations are endless.
Here now are a couple of pictures of a Semi-Western forehand grip:
*Note that the index finger is on bevel 4 not bevel 3. The heel of the hand/palm is on bevel 3.