Novak Djokovic


'Don't be afraid of extreme grips'

Getting a ‘Grip’ on the Advice!  

As a player, and a coach for that matter, I was always told that so called extreme grips such as ‘western’ forehand grips should be outlawed and discouraged as soon as possible.

Even the semi western was taboo before players such as Borg, Wilander and Agassi made them acceptable.

But why?

Because they won majors and because of that the ‘grip bigots’ had to concede their point to these rising stars.

You see, the one quality that sets a champion’s mind set from the others is that they are totally resilient.


Sure they take advice, but in the end they do what’s right for them.

When I qualified as a coach in the mid 1990s, I had (and still have I might add) a semi western forehand grip, I may even slip round to a full western on shoulder height balls which I can ‘rip’ as a favourite shot.

Yet I was told by my tutor, that I had a ‘grip problem’, and would have to change in order to pass! Eastern with occasional semi western grip would only be acceptable. I was told that these grips would never work on grass.

So I limped through the course feeling very unsure of my forehand when I was happy before.

Funnily enough, I was also told and I’ve heard this advice on a recent coaching DVD that players with semi western grips should never have a shoulder follow through.

I was….semi/full western grips + shoulder finishes + grass = failure. They only work on clay. Oh and they can hurt your volley game!

Hmmm. Please watch this video and please notice the grip plus the finish.

Who has just won Wimbledon? Oh and who did he play in the final? Thankfully, Novak and Rafa didn’t have the same tutor.

The worry amongst the bigots is that the extreme forehands have too much spin and will land short in the service box and therefore be attacked.

Rafa and Novak had multiple rallies when their forehands landed inside the service box. Even Federer does. But you have to maintain your acceleration to make sure that the ball ‘kicks’ deep when this happens.

To be honest with you, a slow three quarter ball is more attackable than a fizzing service box ball.

The Importance of footwork and movement – work your heart out!

However, Rafa and Nole are two of the greatest movers on the court in the game at the moment, and if you do hit with a lot of spin then you could be drawn into a lot of rallies. Which means that you will need plenty in the tank.

Work on your endurance and mobility training to enable you to not only defend against the bigger hitters but also to wear your opponents down into making forced and unforced errors.

So, having an extreme grip does NOT necessarily mean that you can’t hit winners! Nor that you can’t win on grass? Nor that you can’t volley properly.

Some people advise against these grips purely on the basis because they consider them cosmetically ‘ugly’.

Many players adapt their grips depending on the situation anyway.

If they are lunging for a low bouncing ball, a player may even adopt an eastern or even continental grip to loft the ball.

Be flexible and remember to do what’s right for you.

Andy Magrath (Pictured right)

Andy Magrath is the Head MTI Tutor. He has tutored all over the world and coached county and national players whilst mentoring many young coaches. He has also co authored the book; ‘Tennis Strokes and Tactics. A former county swimmer, he is also a dan grade in karate.


Andy Magrath MTI Head Tutor

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