We have had a busy time recently out in Turkey meeting loads of fantastic new people as well as seeing lots of friends that have been away with us previously. Today I am going to give you a few tips on how you can improve your set up. First of all we have to define what I mean when I talk about set up. The set up is a combination of your grip, the preparation of the swing, the movement to the ball and the position of your feet at contact. As you can see there are already four different teaching points within this one area of our coaching process and if you cast your mind back to the previous email we talked about how important it is to work on one teaching point at a time – work out what comes first” I would use the below as a guide as to what you should be working on first:
  1. Using an appropriate grip
  2. The preparatory phase  – turn of the shoulders and begin your movement to the ball
  3. Using an appropriate stance at contact
As well as all of the above, you also need to be able to read the ball effectively to help you maintain a consistent contact point as without this you won’t be able to maintain your balance once you are set up…this is the old “chicken and egg” conundrum. We need to be in a good position with a strong set up but in order to do this, you need to be able to read the ball effectively. We will be talking about developing your ability to read the ball in the 4th instalment of How to Win More Points. For the rest of this article we will be discussing how to find an appropriate forehand grip for you; I have focused on the forehand as this is an area where there are many people doing many different things and you have to find out what works for you.  

The Forehand Grip

You will not be pleased to hear this but there is no one answer nor one correct grip; there is simply just finding a grip that works for you. When talking about various grips on the forehand there is always a trade off between power and spin/control. The further round you go on the grip the harder you find it to generate power but ieasier to generate more spin and therefore more control. Over the last 20 to 30 years players have evolved from relatively defensive players into athletic, physically dominant baseline players who also have all court capabilities. Part of this evolution has been the technical development of more powerful, whipping, heavy-spin, but versatile forehands. These forehands have allowed players to continue to defend unbelievably well, but also attack with aggression and force. Rafa Nadal’s forehand—one of the best weapons in the modern game– is the epitome of this trend. Although Nadal is famous for his relatively extreme grip, I believe that a Rafa style forehand can actually be built with a range of grips, ranging anywhere between a strong eastern (bevel 3-4) and an extreme semi-western (Bevel 4-5). grips image The result of this incredible shot comes from a combination of the speed of the racket and the path of the racket through the shot – more on this in future articles. An example of a strong eastern is Roger Federer’s grip, with the index knuckle between the third and fourth bevel. An extreme semi-western is Rafa’s grip, with the index knuckle between the fourth and fifth bevel. grips image 1 Most, if not all modern pros, have grips in the same range as discussed above. This is one reason why players have very versatile forehands and can transition to fast court play more effectively than in past decades. It is a common mistake to call Rafa’s forehand grip a full western or extreme western, with the palm of the handle completely under the grip. This is inaccurate, it is a simply a myth that top pros use a western grip to hit big, heavy, whipping forehands. I would always suggest using a forehand grip in this range and ideally a strong eastern grip (Roger Federer’s) as this gives you a great combination of power and spin. I have covered a lot of information in this article, although bear in mind I have really drilled down in to what comes first. I have been talking about developing your set up of your shot; the first element being the grip and in particular the forehand grip with an aim for you to become more consistent from the back of the court and help you win more points. I have concentrated each article on one teaching point to help keep you focused. Remember to focus on improving “what comes first” – always ask yourself if you are working on improving the most appropriate point for you and where you are on your tennis journey or are you jumping ahead down the coaching process. I look forward to seeing you soon working on these in person on one of our holidays. Dates are now live on the site click here to have a look for 2014. All the best, Matt. Matt Allen profile pic