Well, admit it, tennis is a complicated sport. This article is going to add one further layer of complexity, albeit a very important one: THE GRIP.
There are four fundamental grips in tennis:
- The Eastern
Each grip has a unique function on the court. Grips determine both the quality and quantity of spin you can develop, and therefore how well you can dictate points. Let’s now discuss each grip individually… Note: the orientations described below are for that of a right-hander; left-handers should do the mirror image rotation.
The Eastern Grip
The first grip we’ll discuss is the eastern grip. The eastern grip is obtained by centering the “V” that forms between your thumb and index finger on the top panel of the grip when the strings of the racket are parallel with the nets surface.
The eastern grip is great for hitting very flat shots with lots of pace, but minimal amounts of spin. It is normally used while hitting groundstrokes (both the forehand and backhand) when you want a flat ball that gets through the court quickly.
The Semi-Western Grip
The second grip is the semi-western. To get to a semi-western grip you’ll hold the racket in the eastern position (as discussed above) and rotate the “V” of the thumb and index finger slightly to the right. The point of the “V” should sit on the line between the top panel and the first diagonal panel.
This grip is probably the most commonly used grip for the forehand in the modern game. It allows players to hit with slightly more topspin without sacrificing much penetration.
This grip closes the racket face slightly allowing the strings to brush up the back of the ball as you follow through; this results in the ball toppling over on itself, condition tennis players refer to as topspin.
The Western Grip
A more extreme example of the semi-western grip is the western grip. This grip is obtained by rotating the “V” even further to the right. If you are physically trying this at home this maneuver closes the racket face, even more, allowing a greater degree of “brushing” when you follow through.
This ultimately results in even greater amounts of topspin. Extreme western grips can be difficult to use when your opponent hits you shots below the knees because of the extreme angle the racket face makes at the contact point.
Therefore it is generally used on shots that are waist height and above. The topspin developed with the western grip can help you “kick” the ball up high forcing your opponent to hit shots above their shoulders.
The Continental Grip
The final grip we’ll discuss is the continental grip. To get the continental grip, start with an eastern grip and then rotate the “V” to the left (rather than the right). This opens the racket face and allows the strings to carve underneath the ball. The ball will then rotate with underspin, a condition commonly referred to as “slice.”
Continental grips are most commonly used on the backhand side, the serve, and both the forehand and backhand volley. A continental grip should always be used on the serve because it allows the player to hit three different serves (flat, slice, and kick) with minimal changes in the wrists position.
Slice is great for keeping the ball below your opponents’ knees and for slowing the pace of the point.
Overall it is important to develop comfort hitting each of the various four fundamental grips in tennis. The key is to be able to switch between the grips during a point so that you can keep your opponent off balance by throwing different types of spin and pace at them.