Every stroke starts from the same essential element: the grip. How a player holds the racquet has an enormous impact on the resulting shot.
The angle of the racquet face, the ball's distance from a player's body and the potential spin and pace are all directly affected by the grip.
The grip of a tennis racquet has an octagonal shape with four longer and four smaller sides, typically referred to as bevels.
The most common reference point in determining the placement of the hand for a particular grip is the base knuckle of the index finger. Which bevel the knuckle of the index finger is placed determines the grip.
Nature and nurture play a tremendous role in an individual's preferred style of play. As the style of play is customized to fit the individual's tendencies, so are the basic stroke components. In other words, what's best for a backcourt counterpuncher may not be what's best for a net-rusher. This applies to grip selection as well.
More: Three Forehand Finishes
Although there is no perfect grip system, the most popular and effective on the forehand side at this point is the semi-Western grip (see below), which has the base knuckle on the southeast bevel for a righty or the southwest bevel for a lefty.
Can a player get by with an Eastern grip? Lindsay Davenport racked up some Grand Slams using one. Is it possible to play at a high level with a full Western? Rafael Nadal can speak to that. But at this stage in the evolution of the game, the semi-Western offers the best compromise.
The closed racquet face gives a player the ability to impart topspin, yet it's not so extreme that it's difficult for a player to quickly switch to a backhand grip or a volley grip when transitioning forward. Also, because so many players in today's game use some form of a Western grip, balls generally bounce higher, resulting in higher strike zones.