This is the second part of our series on one-handed backhand contact points. In the last installment, we discussed the continental and eastern grips. This month we will move on to the semi-western and western grips.
One-Handed Backhand: Semi-Western Grip
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c.2005 Barbara Banks
Let's first take look at the semi-western one-handed backhand. The position of the hand should be behind the racquet, with the knuckles on top of the racquet. The ideal contact point for this grip will be above waist level and well forward of the players front knee. Players incorporating this grip will have difficulty when playing very low bouncing balls. Intermediate players will be able to use this grip to hit with topspin, and advanced players are able to hit with heavy topspin while also hitting flat drives.
The evolution of this grip started on the clay courts to help players combat the high-bouncing balls often encountered when playing on this surface. In today's game, many of the top players have incorporated this grip including: Tommy Haas, Ivan Ljubicic, and Roger Federer.
One-Handed Backhand: Western Grip
This particular grip is a different animal. Rarely, if ever, is this grip taught by teaching professionals. Often a player with very little instruction may inadvertently grip the racquet this way, and the coach will allow the player to keep this grip only if the player shows that they have the ability to do so. (Would you tell Gustavo Kuerten to change?) If the student is able to use this grip effectively, the coach may end up bewildered and not knowing if they should change the student's grip.
The position of the hand should be behind the racquet, and players incorporating this grip will hit predominantly heavy topspin balls. The contact point will be between waist and shoulder level, and players will find it very difficult to play low-bouncing balls or hit flat drives. The western grip requires impeccable timing and tremendous racquet head speed therefore you see very few players using it on a regular basis.
Before allowing students to use this grip, it is essential that a qualified coach determine the game-style in which their students will play. Why? If the student is primarily a baseliner than this grip will work fine for them, but if they come to the net often they will struggle. This is because the preferred volley grip is the continental grip, and it is difficult for players to make a smooth transition from the extreme hand position of the western grip back to the continental grip. Therefore, most players you see using the western grip are primarily baseliners and make seldom forays into the net.
Nick Bollettieri founded the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in 1978, the first full-time tennis boarding school to combine intense training on the court with a custom-designed academic curriculum. He has coached 10 players who have reached No. 1 in the world, including Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Martina Hingis. To learn more, visit IMGAcademies.com.