What grip is best for topspin on the forehand groundstroke? Find out what my thoughts are during today’s video tennis lesson. The above is somewhat of a trick question, especially since pro players make huge topspin using such a wide variety of grips. The reality is grip is not the most important factor, not by a long shot! Comments? Questions? Leave them down below! Thank you so much for watching, I appreciate it. Topspin Technique| Related Posts Leave A Comment Cancel reply Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. 44 Comments UtahPete (Mark) August 8, 2014 at 5:54 am - Reply Ian: Thanks for the instruction video entitled "What Grip is Best for Topspin"? It really helped me to understand what my tennis coach has been trying to help me understand. He tells me that rather than keep a stationary grip for the forehand, to keep it in the neutral position and then adjust to the shot I intend to make. (Same of backhand – neutral to backhand grip and return etc). Being a novice, this was a relatively new concept to me – that I should adjust my grip to EACH shot. Now, I need to get the concrete and glue out of my grip, hand and forearm so-to-speak and learn to be more fluid and adjust for EACH shot. Your video reinforced that point, Question, how about putting a training video together to explain this concept of "continual grip change"? I assume that is why I see the grip tape on so many good players rackets worn and beat up. RAY POLLOCK July 17, 2014 at 6:06 am - Reply If the basic low to high swing pattern is maintained for all swings (easier than changing swing pattern for different grips), the Easter or semi western grip will always produce more topspin..Sorry to disagree..Ray.. mblack July 18, 2014 at 7:58 pm - Reply hey Ray, just read ur comment and found it interesting. i'm likely a beginner compared to you as i've been playing only 11.5 yrs, starting when i was 35. i'm now a mid-range 4.0 with a solid, extreme eastern/weak semi-western forehand and an instructor. i'm curious if u've ever taught the 4hand, and if so, did u recognize any issues with eastern? from my experience when learning AND practicing a lot (b/c i felt like i needed to catch up…hehe) with an initial eastern 4hand grip, i discovered thru imitation and by accident, that when i let my hand naturally swing upwards, but really quickly, it took on the hand position of being "under" the handle. and on the wall, with that "natural" position to have the most wrist leverage "behind" the racquet, i found the heavy topspin swing. and it was much easier to produce than the prior eastern. also, i found that the older players at my park who hit w/ the eastern and close to continental 4hand grips, hit much flatter and struggled w/ heavier topspin, and even w/ returning moderate topspin shots. add'ly, when i started working w/ folk looking for more top, who had the more eastern like grips, they found their wrist to be in weaker positions to brush up vertically as quickly as necessary. some gradually found this position that Ian is describing and transformed their 4hands into topspinny weapons. any thoughts?? 🙂 Dag July 13, 2014 at 10:30 am - Reply What grip is best for backhand topspin? The video shows only forhand. Denis Hopking July 12, 2014 at 3:04 am - Reply Thanks Ian. A great explanation. Going on from this it is important to note that the racket SWING is different for each GRIP! For example both Federer and Nadal hold an Eastern/Semi-Western grip therefore their contact with the ball is with a STRAIGHT arm. But a Western grip cf Tsonga, contact with the ball is with a BENT arm. mblack July 18, 2014 at 8:11 pm - Reply dennis, unless there is something i'm not considering, the difference b/w the str8 arms of Fed/Rafa and the bent of Tsonga/Djok is not really the grip. i offer this b/c i hit w/ a grip similar to Fed's (extreme eastern/weak semi-western), and depending on where the ball is, or what i want to do w/ it, i will use either the str8 or bent arm. however, i agree that the grip does effect the swing….particularly the shape of the swing 😉 NLBwell July 10, 2014 at 10:24 pm - Reply Thank you for explaining on video what I have said on TW's Talk Tennis board quite a few times: You can hit just as much topspin with a Continental grip as with a Western grip. It is just more comfortable and natural to do it with a more Western grip. I hit as much topspin as anyone at a 4.5 or 5.0 level with my Continental grip (and can windshield wiper it if I choose), it just isn't as natural a shot as with a more Western grip. Carol July 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm - Reply Good information concerning using the topspin and the different grips. Cori July 10, 2014 at 10:52 am - Reply A+. Ian. This explanation should be framed and hung in every tennis club Excellent. Vertical brushing is what matters for topspin Merv July 9, 2014 at 4:15 pm - Reply Good explanation on the top spin technique…. John Willis July 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm - Reply Hi Ian Thanks for another interesting video. The new insight I've gained from it is that the western grips lead more naturally towards an upward trajectory of the racquet at impact than the continental grip. As has been mentioned in other comments below, these grips also require you to hit the ball more out in front otherwise the racquet face is not perpendicular to the court at impact. John bogdan July 9, 2014 at 10:53 am - Reply Hi Ian, I think the grip has to do with the impact zone, meaning also the height of contact point. Playing an oponent with strong topspin forces you to adjust the grip for a higher contact. JOEL COHEN July 9, 2014 at 6:57 am - Reply Your slo-mo videos of Djokovic and Nadal are great for learning topspin forehands and backhands! Both use semi-western grips. At times it seems that Djokovic is even further west than that! BUT – I notice that the racquet head is pitched forward about 20 degrees from vertical at contact! And – the racquet is definitely moving upward! What I consider to be even more important is something I don't believe you have ever discussed. And I consider it the most important aspect of their entire swing, because it provides for both consistent upward motion of the racquet and for added power because, and this is only my opinion based on observation and knowledge of mechanics, doing it requires wrist movement to bring the racquet face into contact position! It is the observation that both players, and seemingly all top players, loosen their wrist simultaneously "cocking" the wrist in its most possible backward position, at the back of their backswing, dropping the racquet head below the ball height, at the exact moment they begin the forward motion of their arm! In my opinion this drop guarantees upward motion of the racquet head to contact point, and also enables greater head speed at the contact point ; as the head "lags" behind the arm and hand through most of the swing, then catches up as it accelerates into the contact point via a combination of core movement and wrist movement. Some would call it "breaking" the wrist. It's irrelevant what it's called. I believe the wrist helps accelerate the racquet head from lagging behind to hitting position by "breaking" for lack of a better term, either before or at the point of contact! This is the same motion that produces the "windshield wiper" motion. The wiper occurs after contact, but the racquet head is already moving upward, and must somehow be brought to contact point in proper hitting position in time to make the shot, even though it lags behind through most of the swing! This is a great subject to discuss in video using your slo-mo videos of pros as examples. You can also observe the racquet drop in the backswing in Djokovic's two-hand backhand! john Benevoli July 9, 2014 at 2:28 am - Reply Will, I think its also imperative also to show the grip as a 'relationship relevant to the hitting zone's' potential with Continental to the side, Eastern slightly more in front in front, Western more so, and how this affects a player's orientation as he/she move toward the ball in preparation for a stroke and also possibly relate that back to specific playing surfaces and how that aspect contributes to a players forehand stroke development. Gudrun Anderson July 9, 2014 at 1:41 am - Reply well explained, however with this more extreme grip the point of contact is now more out in front, i hope you agree, because only then the racquet will be perpendicular/square.with a continental grip the point of contact/squareness would be not as much out in front. Michael July 9, 2014 at 12:35 am - Reply Excellent explanation Ian, this topic comes up so often but it's always great to hear it explained from another perspective. With your directions together with the feedback comments of others here I can now see that I am netting many of my forehands probably because I've moved my grip "westward" but not properly adjusted my contact point. When I get all the timing right the outcome is great, however, I now realise I've been focusing too much on the grip change at the expense of a contact point with a near perpendicular racquet face! Thanks again for the clarity of your analysis. Rich Simpson July 8, 2014 at 10:35 pm - Reply So..semi-western grip? Fred July 8, 2014 at 8:23 pm - Reply Nice review of spin and how to get it. Wish more of my club teammates had more aggressive top spin… I've settled on semi-western, after playing with the other options. I like the way it provides a ton of relaxed wrist racket movement in the contact area for adding spin with feel. In my experience, this translates into less tennis elbow problems than other grips. I had to slowly walk my grip to reach the semi-western — took a couple months. Not sure it can be easily done in a few quick days… The two other keys to a quality top spin are good upward knee action — with care to where the feet are pointed properly to reduce knee injuries, and a solid stable core movement initiated by the opposite arm movement horizontal to the net that ends up tucked into the opposite arm side somewhere. John July 8, 2014 at 7:53 pm - Reply Hi Ian, I was interested in this discussion regarding topspin since I also play table tennis. With table tennis, an extreme topspin, called a loop, and in this shot the table tennis bat actually comes over the top of the ball with a closed face and at the highest level with a fairly acute swing path angle. I know the net is only 6 inches high but I am always amazed that the ball still manages to be lifted, even against a backspin ball. I think that 2 things contribute to the ability to lift a ball upwards with a closed bat face. Firstly, the extreme grip of the table tennis rubber on a very light ball and secondly, a very high bat speed. Having said that, the grip between tennis strings and the furry nature of a tennis ball should create a lot of friction and the racquet head speed may even be faster. This makes me wonder if a tennis ball can be lifted over the net with both a closed face and a fairly shallow swing path. I am interested to hear your thoughts. Cheers, John mike serena July 8, 2014 at 7:51 pm - Reply Ian….just a great description of the grip and its relation to topspin generation. I certainly enjoy your sessions and you have a very down to earth teaching style….thanks again!!!! Ian D July 8, 2014 at 6:23 pm - Reply Wow! Thank you, Ian for your excellent explanation. Thanks to your logical clarity, I get it. Grahame July 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm - Reply Thanks Ian. Now strings. How much influence will a different string or tension make to spin? Yes I am an equipment junkie I admit it. But, is it worth chasing the tech? or is it just for players who have great technique and want an extra couple of percent at a high level of comp? What is your string and tension choice and why? Richard Kennedy July 8, 2014 at 3:37 pm - Reply I find your recent emphasis on racket path and position of the racquet face very useful. Many, many years ago I read a book by Vic Braden that heavily emphasized bending the legs and rising upward as the ball was struck to produce the vertical movement of the racket face necessary for top spin. I don't remember what he had to say about the the racket heads path though (loaned the book and never got it back!). How do you think that fits in with what you are talking about? (Perhaps a contributor to, but not the major source of topspin?) Ian Westermann July 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm - Reply I would say that it can definitely contribute, but it's an overall small piece of the puzzle. Huge topspin is possible regardless of how actively the legs are involved. Can adding an active push upwards with the legs add even more topspin? Yes, but we very frequently don't have the luxury of being in a balanced position to do that. Just like it isn't at all practical to try and "step in" on most forehands or backhands – more common advice that can absolutely be helpful and applicable, but it's often times not practical at all. Hopefully that makes sense. I'm not by any means saying that advice is "wrong", but if somebody ever tells you that it must be done on every shot or topspin won't happen then they're way off base. danny July 8, 2014 at 2:34 pm - Reply Hi Ian you are correct that moving around to a western grip does encourage an upward swing plane ie. low to high, If players try to hit topspin with an eastern/ continental grip then the wrist must be used to get the racket face to a vertical position which can result in timing errors. There is more of a forward swing ( still slightly low to high ) of the racket with a western grip when dealing with an early / rising ball where the racket face is not perpendicular at impact. Edward Blomgren July 8, 2014 at 2:14 pm - Reply I often err in not hitting forehands out in front…and am eager to try the western grip and feel how this changes things. Thanks, Ian, for another exc. video. e.b. Bennett July 8, 2014 at 1:54 pm - Reply I've recently changed from a continental forehand grip to an Eastern (let's just say when I learned the game, rackets were made of wood). Now you want me to move my grip even more? Seems Federer gets plenty of topspin with what looks like an Eastern grip. Ian Westermann July 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm - Reply No, you absolutely don't have to change your grip further, Bennett. In my opinion if you want the ability to hit good drive AND good topspin as well either eastern forehand or semi-western are the two best general choices. Which is "better" really depends on which individual player we're talking about (their natural swing path and tendencies). If I was to shoot this video again I would have said those two sentences, heh. Bennett July 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm - Reply Thanks. This change has been hard enough, but as you once said, it was worth playing poorly for a while to make the change stick. Theo Toscano July 8, 2014 at 12:58 pm - Reply OK, Professor ! For the very first time I have a soooo clear " definition" about top spin grip. Cheers !!! Bob C. July 8, 2014 at 12:25 pm - Reply Ian, good video, good points. The semiwestern and western grips also engage the stronger wrist muscles, the ones you use when you do barbell curls in the gym. You can't curl as many pounds with the continental grip muscles. And I agree with Jeff! Moving the grip toward the west moves the contact point ever further out in front of your body. If you try to have a contact point in front of your body with a continent grip, you'll break your wrist. Bob C. July 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm - Reply Sorry, I meant "continental," not "continent," and I should have said that engaging the stronger wrist muscles by using the more western grips supports what Ian says in the video: it's not only more natural for creating the upward motion, as he says, it's also uses the stronger muscles. Charles July 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm - Reply Hi Ian, I changed my grip to a semi-western last year. It seems to me that I needed to supinate my forearm and hit with my elbow more bent than before. The increase in top-spin was somewhat offset by a longer preparation time (supination) and a shorter range because of the bent elbow. Please comment. Charles Patrick July 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm - Reply Wonderful explanation and demonstration of palm of the hand to racket face and subsequent leverage applied to the topspin stroke! BrianB July 8, 2014 at 11:39 am - Reply Racket head speed is also a factor in creating topspin. I've seen a lot of slomo videos of pros and they don't always swing with a steep low-to-high racket path. In fact, I bet if you analyzed a bunch of Rafa vids you'd see that usually his racket path is not more than 5 to 10 degrees through contact (I'm guessing that it's less than 5 degrees a lot of the time). For sure there is some low-to-high angle. But the resulting amount of topspin is a combination of angle through contact AND racket head speed. Ian Westermann July 8, 2014 at 11:46 am - Reply It is important, assuming that the racquet path is steep enough to create topspin! For that reason the racquet path will always be the MOST important factor, not grip or racquet head speed. More racquet head speed along the same racquet path ("flat" or "drive") will simply result in a faster ball, not more topspin. jeff s cherry hill, nj July 8, 2014 at 11:37 am - Reply Ian – Please correct me if I'm off base on this: Doesn't the more toward western grip that is used move the contact point further out in front ie: moving the contact point forward as the racquet face becomes vertical further in front? Thanks Jeff Ian Westermann July 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm - Reply Yup, you're absolutely correct, Jeff. The more towards continental you are the further back a comfortable/natural contact point will be and vice versa. sam July 8, 2014 at 11:27 am - Reply so what about the one hand backhand to put more topspin and also more consistency ? Ian Westermann July 8, 2014 at 11:37 am - Reply I would say that the one handed backhand is a little bit different, Sam. The same basic elements apply (the racquet must be moving up at contact regardless of grip) but there are a few other factors at play on that side. I'll create a video about that in the future, great topic. sam July 8, 2014 at 11:52 am - Reply thanks a lot. your tips really help me a lot. Ian Westermann July 8, 2014 at 11:59 am - Reply You're welcome, Sam! jim allen July 8, 2014 at 11:26 am - Reply As all way's. Thank you for all these tip's. Ian Westermann July 8, 2014 at 11:26 am - Reply You're welcome, Jim. Thanks for watching!