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Tech Talk: The secret to Iga Swiatek's world class forehand
An extreme grip is igniting extraordinary results for the top-ranked 21-year-old; here's how you can incorporate her Western grip into your game.
Published May 11, 2023
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Three-time major champion Iga Swiatek is a powerhouse on tour. Five months into the 2023 season, and she has yet to disappoint, maintaining her lead atop the WTA rankings and winning two titles on two different surfaces. Her counter-punching style is an undeniable challenge for opponents, and a crucial component to that advantage is her forehand.
It's a shot that, let’s face it, makes every fan do a double take.
Swiatek uses a western grip, an extreme variation that requires intense training and discipline to master. It is an uncommon grip among the pros, more often seen on the ATP tour from players like Karen Khachanov and Jack Sock.
But while many players tend towards higher, loopier forehands with this grip, Swiatek accelerates with enough power and spin that yields a more offensive shot.
Instead of leaning into the open stance, neutral forehand more commonly seen on the WTA tour, Swiatek adopts a semi-open stance that works with her grip to control rallies and dictate points.
This makes all the difference towards an offensive baseline game: utilizing her extreme grip to execute her aggressive tactics is the secret to her dominating success.
Of course, the extremity of the grip can be a double-edged sword: players armed with enough firepower can jam Swiatek into errors, but beyond the likes of Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina, and Madison Keys, most of the tour lack the level of aggression necessary to overpower the world No. 1's high-octane, high-margin game.
Playing Iga is different than playing other girls—I would know, I played her quite a lot this year. She plays heavy topspin, more of a men’s-style game. Day in and day out, you usually don’t play girls that hit like that. Jessica Pegula
The reason the western grip is uncommon among pro players is because it is so extreme. Holding the racquet on the under end of the grip makes it more difficult to switch between grips during points, not to mention that the wrist is forced into a one-of-a-kind grip that increases risk for injury.
That being said, it can be very useful for developing a solid baseline game, keeping the shot controlled, high and heavy, and making it a solid resource during matches.
If you are considering a western grip or are looking to elevate your forehand, take a page out of Swiatek’s book and adjust your stance to complement your game.