Written by Ian Westermann
Grips — 13 March 2014
Roger Federer’s Forehand Grip Revealed

So what grip does Roger Federer use on his forehand groundstroke exactly? Find out in today’s video!

Many of you may be surprised to find out that Roger doesn’t turn his hand under the grip very far, but he’s clearly still able to make plenty of topspin on his forehand.

Full western and even semi western aren’t prerequisites to hit a great forehand, that’s an important thing to understand no matter how popular they may be.

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

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  1. Ian, high . I've been a tennis coach for almost 35 yrs, and find your website very interesting and informative.
    Correct service grip and motion in gereral v difficult to teach to young juniors.
    not far behind in degree of difficulty is the volley.
    I keep repeating the T word to my promising juniors. TECHNIQUE!!!!!
    EXCELLENT SERIES IAN. I WILL BE LOOKN FOWARD TO MORE OF THE SAME.
    CHEERS. DOUG B.

  2. I have to disagree. I think it's clearer to look at the "V" at the 1:00 mark. If he had a standard eastern grip, the V would have been on the top bevel. But the picture seems to show the V on the 2nd bevel, which means the knuckle would be on the edge between bevel 3 and bevel 4, so I would agree with Steve below that Roger's grip is about half way between the standard eastern grip and the semi-western grip, or what he called the "extreme eastern grip".

    I also find it puzzling that seems very few teachers ever teach the "in-between" grips. It seems to me that if one moves the knuckle by about 1/4" between the bevels, you would get significantly different feeling in the grips. So for those who'd like to fine-tune their grips, there can be one or two positions between the eastern on bevel 3 and the semi-western on bevel 4.

    • I should clarify – I was referring the top as bevel 1, and then clockwise, bevel 2, 3, 4, and the bottom is bevel 5.

  3. Bjorn Borg was once asked what grip he used when he became the dominant player on the men's tour. His response was perfect, "It depends on the shot!" It demonstrates the fact that the top players may have a grip that they prefer in their strike zone, but even Nadal has used a backhand grip to slap a forehand when the ball gets behind him on a lob. There is simply no one in the top ten that can't hit a shot with several different grips if they have to. Have your students understand what golfers are taught, shot selection will require selecting the right club. Similarly, if you want to hit a certain shot you better know what grip is optimal.

  4. Rogers knuckle appears to be on the lower part of the 3rd bevel (not down the middle), it's what I use and call an " extreme eastern grip".

  5. Hi Ian, and thanks for that video. Yes, it confirms what Will demonstrated a few years ago, as you point out. Thanks for the additional proof.

    Now, since the semi-western grip is possibly the most popular grip on the pro tour, why does Federer go for the eastern forehand? I have a hypothesis, and I wonder if you would comment.

    The full western grip, apparently used by many clay-court players, is good for dealing with high-bouncing balls on that surface. (Doesn't Nadal use the full western grip?)

    But it's not so good for balls that stay low, which is what happens on grass and even on some hard-court surfaces. Wasn't Federer's grip chosen with an eye to dominating grass-court play? It seems to have served him less well on clay.

    • I personally, believe that it is because of the strong playstyle and popularity in the older days of tennis. You had more people use a the grip Federer use, and it just suits his playstyle. Semi-Western is more popular these days, b/c of the "increase spin". But really unless you have Rafa's style and strength, it is difficult to generate the 3000-4000 rpm that Rafa has. Federer himself though still generates spin around Novak level. Rafa really just popularized the grip.

      Also i don't think it is dependent on the surfaces. When you play on clay, grass, or hard, in the end it really comes down to how well you play. The grip you use is meant to be what is most comfortable to you. I really doubt any pro concentrates to win on a certain surface. Most pros in my head would train to win on any type of surface, and would train appropriately.

      I may be wrong, b/c i didn't do much research into this but i don't see a scientific explanation to why one grip would be better on one surface then another, and if so i think the difference is just so minute, that fed. sense of touch with his current grip prob outweighs the reasoning to switch after using it for so long.

      (i might be wrong about all this, for i am not an expert on grips, but just base on reasoning this is my opinion right now)

  6. If you split step at server's contact, as you suggest in this video, you'll be late. Split-stepping should be done while the server's toss is in the air before he/she makes contact with the ball. At least that is the way I have been taught and in my experience is correct.

    Best regards——————Jim Bill

    • Jim B- you have the incorrect video, but your response is rather interesting. it seems to me that if you split step at the ball toss, that toss & hit would have to be pretty darn quick…..if it's not, u're pretty much waiting and flat-footed until the ball is struck….thereby defeating the purp of the split. the serve-return split step operates similarly to the ground stroke split, where you take a slight hop at contact, touching down as the ball begins flight, ready to push off in the direction of the ball.

  7. I have played semi-western for a long time and have recently moved slightly towards an Eastern. I am 6'4". It seems Eastern is good for tall guys because the ball is hit lower than with the SW and we don't need to bend so much. Do you agree with this? I think Del Potro also hits an Eastern forehand doesn't he?

  8. My knuckle falls at the borderline between eastern and continental when hitting waist-high balls. So I guess that's a weak eastern/strong continental. But I change my grip all the time, depending on what type of ball is coming. On a high bouncer, I'll even go to semi-western.. and even angle my wrist to close the face. I feel much more natural when varying my grips.

  9. Thanks for the information. I think what it shows is that you don't need some extreme grip to generate topspin. I think so many people think you have to use some crazy grip in order to put some RPM on their shots, but this is a rather conservative grip. Not that we can all generate Fed's spin, but it shows that going full Western or even Nadal's semi-Western isn't a necessity. Thanks again!

    • Don't forget that today's technology makes it a whole lot easier to create topspin. Nadal uses those strings that roll with the ball (then snap back into position). I heard that they are hard on the arm, at least for out-of-shape hackers. I'm old-school, and would rather learn better technique than take those shortcuts.

  10. Agree an your analysis of the Federer forehand grip…now where are you on the McEnroe forehand and backhand grips? Fun to tear into that and try to make sense of how in the world he got away with them.

  11. And yet, he is closing the racket face much more than used to be possible with the eastern grip.

    I suspect that with a fat racket handle like those used in the 1930s-'50s, a player had much less flexibility to open and close the racket face, as contrasted with the very thin handles used today. (Try it, comparing a 4 1/8 inch grip versus a 5 inch grip.) In wood racket days players preferred thick handles because you needed very precise control of the racket face angle when skimming the net hitting hard and flat, and also because with wood you needed a thick staff to get even a little stiffness and power.

    With heavy topspin you don't need as much precision in the elevation, so thin handles are feasible to use. Thin handles also make it easier to generate heavy topspin, in either of two ways:

    (A) If you use an eastern grip, a very thin handle lets you close the racket face for topspin to a degree that with a fat handle used to require a semi-western grip.

    (B) A thin handle makes it easier for western grip players to open the racket face when scooping up low balls. Opening the racket face to lift a low ball was much more difficult with a western-leaning grip back in the days when rackets had fat handles, which was a severe disadvantage (especially on grass).

    • FSILBER-
      great points! it appears Federer is playing with a small grip but it is hard to be sure, maybe his hand is very large…
      But for sure, the same player with the same grip position will get a different effect with changing grip size.

      I once heard an anecdote that Jack Kramer used a 4 1/2" grip for grass, 4 3/4 for hard courts and a 5" grip for clay – essentially creating a grip change without changing the feel of his grip !

    • The face is not closed at contact… it's perpendicular to the ground. Plus, these guys all set the racquet face straight at the ground at the beginning of the lag, in the back-swing. Any 'closed' face comes long after the ball has left the strings… and that is probably caused by the force of the ball driving the racquet off-perpendicular, plus the fact that Fed has contacted the ball below the center of the string-bed.

      I've seen that issue discussed on other forums… some people think he does that on purpose… unfortunately the result can be that you see all sorts of hackers adding weird body-english in attempting to do what they think Roger is doing on purpose… when in fact it's just a 'Newtonian' after-effect.

  12. I am learning Tennis and I feel like the grip, swing path, contact point, where you hit the ball all important and each person has his unique combination to make the shot most effective. It is possible what a pro is doing for his game is not necessarily good for someone ease's game. We all need to find out what works for us.

  13. Why can't you guys ask from him, what does Federer say about his grip choice?

    • Heard of Google…?

  14. I feel like talking just about the grip of Federer isn't that useful unless you talk about his swing path. Don't you think there is a relationship with the grip and the swing path of these pros?

  15. It looks more like a modified eastern grip due to the heel pad. But I don't find the views of the heel pad very discernible and can't tell for sure. Some players rotate their heel pad on high backhand volleys more toward the top bevel and it is still called continental…..so maybe this modified grip is also called eastern.

  16. Thanks For TheVideos. I FindThem Very Helpful

  17. Ian-
    the index finger knuckle is one indicator of the grip. however the heel of the hand is another – and just as important.
    You can have the knuckle on # 3 like Roger and have the heel on #2 – the first bevel. This would be essentially an Eastern grip. however with the heel of the hand also on #3, the effect of the grip is quite different. the hand is now more behind instead of slightly above the grip. the racquet head is now lower,and lags behind the hand during the swing (instead of cocked slightly higher than the wrist) – a telltale sign of the modern forehand – and plays more like a semi-western grip.

    it is also interesting that the heel of Roger's hand is actually off the end of the grip – makes a regular frame a longbody and creates a looser whippier swing.

    you can see this best in the frame at 58 seconds.

    anyway, if this is now an Eastern grip, it is not the Eastern grip that players used 30 or 40 years ago.

    • Great comments, Dan. I actually talk about this in my "grips explained" video without discussing the "heel pad" specifically. Virtually all modern players spread their hand/knuckles across the grip at a 45 degree angle for their forehand, I feel like this is by far the most comfortable and natural ways to do things. As such, I simply tell players to spread their hand across the grip comfortably, I don't personally feel like referencing the heel pad or forcing players to put it on a certain bevel is necessary at all.

      Thanks for watching!

      • "I don't personally feel like referencing the heel pad or forcing players to put it on a certain bevel is necessary at all. "
        I will say, not as an opinion, but as a reality, that i can show you two very different forehands with the same front knuckle position.
        I think Jon and I made a compelling case so I guess we just disagree.

        • If a student of mine was using a heel pad location that lead to an awkward grip then I would most certainly advise a change. In my experience when I show a player where their base knuckle should be the rest of their hand falls into a comfortable position 99% of the time, so I just personally prefer to avoid making the whole grip explanation twice as complicated than it (usually) needs to be. That's my opinion and until I come across a whole bunch of players with poor heel pad placement I'll be keeping it :-)

          • A hammer grip and a spread grip are both functional (in different ways) – I've come across both variations with students and had to fix the heel position in some cases.

            • I would say functional for different things, absolutely, but not a topspin forehand (which was the focus of this video).

      • Ian, I've always used the 'V' created by the webbing of my hand to find my grips… I guess that dates me!

  18. I think you need to check out where the heel of his hand is on his forehand grip. I think it is slightly under the handle, maybe at a 3.5 or so, leaning toward a semi western. I think the heel of the hand position is more telling that the 1st knuckle position.

    • Jon-
      exactly!!! you and I are on the same page.

      • Major Dan and Ian, I actually feel that Nadal's and Fed's forehand grip are not much different. I think Fed has his heel pad on 3.5 and Nadal on about bevel 4. To further illustrate the importance of heel pad position, in a continental grip, with the first knuckle on bevel 2, the heel pad position is a really big deal. Most folks tend to put their heel pad on the 2 or 2.5 bevel. Particularly for the serve, I think it needs to be on bevel 1.