Written by Ian Westermann
Grips — 13 March 2014
Rafael Nadal’s Forehand Grip Revealed

There’s been a lot of debate online about what grip Rafael Nadal uses on his forehand groundstroke so I wanted to prove what it is once and for all.

Today’s lesson will show you exactly where he is. Believe it or not you do NOT need a full western grip to hit big time topspin, not even if you’re Rafa ;-)

Questions? Comments? Leave them down below. Thanks for watching!

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  1. good video. i want to see more of his backhand and footwork. thanks.

  2. Do you have the same thing about the nadal's slice backhand? because I have a doubt about the nadal's grip backhand….The grip on his racket, which for me is taking a grip forehand? I say this because I have watched many times its movement and I came to this conclusion. The proof is that his topspin backhand is less efficient than the forehand, backhand slicé this is actually a shot of defense which is only done to hinder the opponent and cause fault … What do you think? thank you

  3. Yes, Nadal has the standard semi-western grip. Many people probably assumed that he has a full western just because his swing looks different. So it's a great video to clear the myth.

    Djokovic on the other hand, does seem to have a grip that is more than semi-western. Most people seem to think he has a full western, but I think he is still a bit short of full western (the knuckle would not be squarely on the center of bevel 5 but towards the intersection between bevel 4 and 5). Call this modified semi-western grip for lack of better term. For most people it is extremely difficult to play a full western grip. But with this slight adjustment, to modified semi-western, it's actually a fairly playable grip not so different from semi-Western. Could you do a video analysis on the Djokovic grip?

    John Yandell has called the Federer grip "Modified Eastern" some time ago (http://www.usfreeads.com/1311072-cls.html). (The modified Eastern has the knuckle on the intersection of bevel 3 and 4.) For players who are adapting the semi-Western grip, it's probably not a bad thing for them to experiment the two variations towards either the Eastern edge or the Western edge of bevel 4.

  4. Ian–There does not actually seem to be a whole lot of "upward brush" to Nadal's stroke through the contact zone. It would be interesting to compare this to Fed and Djokovic. However, the face of the racquet appears closed 10-12 degrees at contact, which is VERY similar to the closed angle of Federer's topspin forehand. My theory is that the vast majority of the topspin is created not by brushing upwards or by string deflection but instead by the unequal distortion of the ball at impact caused by the closed racquet face angle. Because the racquet face is tilted, the top part of the ball is compressed more, causing the top of the ball to rebound with more force, thereby creating the topspin effect. Note that the ball in your freeze frame appears egg-shaped on the stringbed. There has been a lot written recently about how string movement and snapback creates the topspin. I don't agree with the string movement theory because my poly strings never move (in fact, after a few hours of play my crosses start to get notches in them that further prevent string movement), yet they impart lots of topspin, particularly when my racquet face is somewhat closed at contact. Your thoughts? Side note–Rafa imparts massive racquet head speed through shoulder rotation multiplied to the racquet via a longer radius of a straight arm rather than a bent arm. To a somewhat lesser extent, Rafa also appears to generate racquet head speed due to the prestretch of his forearm as the racquet head remains VERY laid back and tip-of-the-whip-ish just prior to entering the contact zone…

  5. Great stuff , Ian ! . Your videos are unbelievably informative . I for one have never been able to comfortably hit a semi western forehand but get plenty of topspin from a grip where my base knuckle is somewhere between bevel 2 and 3 I'd say 2 1/2…half way between continental and eastern forhand …thanks for all your great videos and info !!!!!!

  6. Thanks Ian, enjoy all your videos. Any chance of magnifying Rafa's grip with a close-up? Really is remarkable that it is a semi that he's using. Keep up the good work!

  7. Hi, Ian,
    Great video and thanks for all you do-Always thought Rafa used a western grip due to the tremendous rotation on the ball-
    It seems to me that Rafa creates more topspin than anyone ever-and that this comes primarily from his use of the wrist and his 'reverse-bolo-over the hitting shoulder' finish (and secondarily from a low to high swing shape and strings)
    Would you agree with this assessment-or would you give more responsibility to any of the items mentioned or something else?
    URDAMAN! Thanks again, Richard in Tampa 8-)

  8. You are a leftie, why do't U help us lefties in the differences in play/strat/grips/shots/et al vs righties–us lefties are disregarded some times!! TYVM
    RH

  9. Not related to grip, but I listened to your "there is no spoon" video some time ago and my response at the time was, "Yadda, yadda, yadda, whatever." I clicked on it again last week accidentally, and again, I only listened distractedly. But then I was out hitting forehands a few days ago and in a moment of frustration with my timing, that silly phrase came to mind: "There is no spoon." So I tried your advice. I simply ignored the point of contact and tried to swing with a loose, fluid motion well through the follow through. And it worked. And still does. I don't know when I started bracing for the point of impact, but I've been doing it for years. It may take years to dump the habit, but thanks for showing me how.

  10. Can you speak to the point of how pros weight their racquet heads as well as their butt ends of their grips? Thanks.

  11. Great video! What camera/ lens do you use for these slow motion shots?

  12. Hi Ian, as always, your videos are very interesting. Thanks.

    One question, do you know what grip uses Dimitrov for his topspin backhand?. I think he uses continental.

    (and now you are making us remember mathematics :) …)

    • Just watched him in slow mo. He does what I do. Continental in the ready position and changes to easterns on both sides unless he chips

  13. Which players play with true Western? Jack Sock?

  14. Hi Ian,

    Again, I find your videos and information to be of the highest order. Thank you so much for the work you do to help people learn and enjoy this great sport.

    Sincerely, Barry, USPTA elite pro

    • You're very welcome, Barry. Thanks for watching!