The Western grip is rapidly becoming the grip of choice for most elite tennis players. It allows players to hit more spin, hit the ball harder, hit the ball higher, and makes timing the ball easier. There are many other advantages to the Western grip and these are all magnified on the clay court.
First off, we have to understand how the clay court plays. The ball bounces slower, higher, skids slower, and drop shots die in the ground. Also you can slide on a clay court. This is to the advantage of a fast player who gets a lot of balls back. Understand how the clay court plays is essential to understanding why a Western grip is best on this type of court.
The first reason why the Western grip is best on clay is because of the spin. The Western grip keeps the racquet face closed, and forces the player to brush up on the ball, creating lots of topspin. Since the ball bounces higher on a clay court, this is even more of an advantage. If the ball bounces higher it will force opponents to hit the ball at shoulder level or above their head. Over the course of a match this will significantly wear out the opponent. It is also harder to hit a heavy topspin ball at shoulder level or higher. It is almost impossible to drive a backhand when it is that high, so many players utilize the Western grip forehand to their opponent’s backhand. This is a lethal combination on clay.
Another reason why the Western grip is so popular on clay is for power reasons. The added topspin gives the player more margin for error on their forehand. In turn, this allows the player to take larger more powerful cuts at the ball, and lower their risk of making a mistake. This is similar to one of the other advantages, making timing the ball easier. When your margin for error is very high, it makes timing the ball much easier. If you are using an Eastern grip, you have much less of a margin for error, and a smaller space to hit the ball. Over the course of a match this gives the Western grip a huge advantage.
Overall, the Western grip is dominant on a clay court. Most players also utilize it on a hard court but on clay it is almost necessary. For reasons such as spin, power, and margin for error, the Western grip is the predominant grip used by most players on clay.