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Phil on Federer’s grip / wrist problems. Thanks.

Posted by tennisplanet on July 20, 2010


I might be in the minority here, but I reject the whole “his wrist fell apart because he’s so tall and hits so hard” theory. Delpo’s current situation is entirely his own fault. He had wrist problems after the US Open last year, and NEVER let it heal fully before playing again. He kept taking short breaks, letting the wrist rest for a few weeks, but it never was 100%. Wrist problems are fairly common for tennis players, and the solution is always to let it heal the second it starts. He didn’t, so this surgery was, in my opinion, preventable, and has nothing to do with his “brute power.”


Interesting points about Fed’s grip and I bow to your expert knowledge on this, Phil. I agree about the careful scheduling, but as I recall, he played far more smaller tourneys when he was younger which would make sense as a young, ambitious player on the rise.. It would be interesting to back-track to say 1999/2000/2001/2002. Possibly our colleague Sergeant, or anyone else may find this of interest if they have time :-)


Well obviously his careful scheduling plays a large part, but I think it also has to do with his grip. I believe he uses more of an Eastern grip on his forehand, and he uses extreme “whip” on his wrist to get the top spin he needs. The impact is less strenuous and easier on the wrist than doing the same thing with a Western grip, which almost everyone else uses on the forehand side. (Actually, as far as I know Fed is the only one using this grip at the moment, at least of the top guys).

True, he did play much more when he was younger. He has been lucky on the whole.


Very few people have pointed this out, but Federer’s grip is actually insanely difficult to play with in today’s game. I’ve tried to emulate it, and when you time it just right the ball really does fly beautifully, but the timing required to do so consistently is inhuman. The more traditional Western forehand is much more forgiving. This is why, when Fed is playing poorly, he frames a ton of balls, because there really isn’t that much margin for error on his shots.

At first I thought I was just not good enough to play with a grip like that, but after talking to many coaches and kids playing elite juniors, it is apparently just insanely difficult. It’s a shame that such a technical marvel isn’t highlighted by commentators more often.


Great observations Phil. I use the semi-western forehand grip on a Wilson N-Code N Tour 85 simply because it seems more natural to me. No strain on the wrist. You are right about shanking forehands with this grip when the timing is off; especially with a smaller frame. I used to wonder why that happened, now I know. The only time I switch to eastern is when taking a high-looping ball on the half-volley near the baseline. Again, this is because it seems to be the best suited grip to effectively get the ball back in play.


No worries Jenny. I think it’s good to get into the technical details sometimes. It just gives one a greater depth of appreciation for what these guys do.

@Sir Vibhudi Aatmapudi…Yeah it’s especially difficult with a heavy, small frame like that. Your timing just needs to be superb every time or you’ll shank the ball into the stands on a regular basis. It’s funny, but Fed seems to make his life as difficult as possible (small frame, difficult grip), but still makes it look so easy.


11 Responses to “Phil on Federer’s grip / wrist problems. Thanks.”

  1. Jenny said

    Also, thank you for the diagrams, TP? Phil? All very interesting stuff.

  2. Jayson said

    I hit with a ton of top spin, but that full western grip in the diagram looks pretty extreme! Looks like you could basically turn the racquet over and hit a backhand.

  3. Bettyjane said

    This is great stuff Phil. You’re a wonderful addition.

  4. Phil said

    Hehe, thanks guys! Didn’t know people would be this interested!

    Thanks TP for the diagram. I didn’t even think of that.

    To illustrate it a bit more graphically, here are some photo links:


    A good indicator as to how extreme a grip is, is to look at the position of the thumb. With Fed you can see that his thumb is almost gripping around the racquet towards the bottom. With Delpo and Djokovic the thumb is pretty much at the top of the racquet. They use the full Western grip (as does pretty much everybody else).

  5. Growltiger said

    Always wondered how anyone could use anything but an Eastern grip myself, so I guess it’s all what you get used to. I can’t imagine holding the racquet like a frying pan (semi Western and Western) and the few times I tried the Continental, I knew my wrist would come off it I hit it that way. But then that’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla. When I started playing tennis, I hit with a natural open stance. The teaching pros went nuts forcing me to change; now just about everyone hits with an open stance.

  6. ricky said

    very interesting! I’ll watch my grip next time… Nadal’s is lower though

  7. Chris said

    @Phil… Thanks for your insight Phil. I was interested because I’m currently reworking my forehand to practice getting more power. I was surprised that you said it’s very difficult; Did you mean difficult at the professional or tournament level, or just very difficult in general ?

    I’m a club player, maybe 2.0-3.0. I’ve been trying out both eastern & semi western, and I like the “rolling wrist” feeling I get with the eastern. My forehand does go lower to the net (6-12 inches ?) but seems more consistent. Conversely I still have trouble getting a lot of topspin with semi western, unless I take a lot of speed off it. In that case my ball speed seems relatively slow, like about 2 seconds to reach my opponent off my racquet. Any advice for a good approach to improving speed while still using a control-oriented racquet ?

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