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
First, make sure to measure your grip. 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 surface of the net.
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 strokes) when you want a yellow tennis 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.
Lesser Talked About Tennis Grip
In addition to the four tennis grips we have outlined above, there are still others you may want to familiarize yourself with at some point.
Also known as an extreme-western grip, the Hawaiian grip pops up every once in awhile, but its use really isn’t widespread. It has all the drawbacks of the Western grip, but those drawbacks may also be amplified. Players can find it extremely difficult to flatten out and drive the ball.
The biggest advantage of the Hawaiian grip is the high levels of topspin that can be achieved. However, the disadvantages far outweigh the one big advantage. It can be challenging to switch grips quickly, difficult for beginners to learn, increased likelihood of injury, tough to drive the ball and play offensively, and hard to handle low balls or shots. It can cause players to stretch wide outside of their strike zone.
To form the Hawaiian grip, you place the palm side of your index finger’s bottom knuckle against the sixth bevel. This is the proper way to do it if you are right-handed. If you are left-handed, however, you will place it at the fourth level, rather than the sixth. The bitt of the racquet’s handle will then be positioned at the base of your palm, and then wrap your fingers around the handle of the racquet.
If you are looking to play at a high level, then you will want to learn how to develop a reliable backhand. A weak backhand makes an easy target for your opponents. When you do a backhand, you have to hit across your body, and this has been one of the weaker shots for many players.
There are also two types of backhands: the two-handed and one-handed backhands. Once you find your ideal grip, you can develop an awesome backhand that is even more reliable than your forehand.
This is one of the more popular backhands used in the sport today. This is because it is easier to learn, allows for added control, and allows you to achieve extra power. ON the other hand, the two-handed backhand can also ultimately limit your reach on shots and can cause you to stretch wide outside of the strike zone.
To form a two-handed backhand, form a continental grip with your dominant hand. To do this, place the palm side of your index finger’s bottom knuckle against the second bevel for right-handers and the eighth bevel for left-handers. You can then position the handle at the base of your palm and then wrap your fingers around the handle.
The non-dominant hand is placed against the seventh bevel for right-handers and the third bevel for left-handers. So, while your dominant hand is following through with the continental grip, your non-dominant hand is essentially using the eastern grip.
While not as popular as the two-handed backhand, the one-handed backhand is still widely used in the sport. However, it is more widely used with advanced male players who are competing at higher levels.
You start by learning the two-handed backhand, and as you hone your skills, you can start experimenting more with the one-handed backhand. It requires a bit more skill and coordination to pull off.
The advantage of the one-handed backhand is an added reach and the ability to achieve superior angles in some situations. However, there is a steep learning curve for many. It requires strength and coordination. You may have difficulty returning serves, it can be harder to handle high balls and has a more challenging open stance execution.
To form a one-handed backhand, the palm side of the bottom knuckle of your index finger should be against the first bevel. This applies whether you are right or left-handed. You then want to make sure that the racquet’s handle, runs parallel to the rest of your knuckles with the exception of your thumb.
Here is where it can get tricky because it is only a slight adjustment from how you would be holding your grip forehand. You then position the butt of the handle at the base of your palm and wrap your fingers around the handle.
How to Choose a Grip
Now you may be wondering how to actually choose a grip. It is recommended that players use a forehand grip for semi western, a backend for a two-handed grip, and continental for serves, volleys, and slices.
However, don’t be afraid to experiment with the different grip types to find what is most comfortable for you. You don’t want to limit yourself to just one grip option.
Switching Between Grips
You should also practice quickly switching between grips as well. If you use a two-handed backhand grip, then you should hold your forehand grip with your dominant hand. You should also hold the handle of your racquet with your non-dominant hand as well, making sure it is on the correct bevel for a backhand.
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.
Tennis Grip FAQ
What tennis grips are used by pro players?
The eastern forehand grip was the most common tennis grip that is used by Roger Federer and other pro players use the eastern forehand grip as well.
Which tennis forehand grip is the best?
The semi western grip is the most common forehand grip in tennis today. The semi western grip provides more spin than an eastern grip.
How often should you change your tennis grip?
When playing tennis only once or twice a week, you are going to want to change your grip or tennis racquet overgrip at least once per month. It depends on how much you sweat and how sensitive your hands are to the change. A player that plays less seems to need a new grip the most.
When do you use the eastern backhand grip?
If you are looking for a significant amount of power and control, you want to use the eastern backhand grip. With this grip, the opposite face of the racquet is used when compared to the eastern forehand.
What is a semi western grip?
When you use a semi western grip, place the palm side of your index finger’s knuckle against the fourth bevel if you are right-handed. For left-handers, it would be the sixth bevel. A semi western grip allows you to achieve a greater topspin shot with immense power.
What is tennis overgrip?
A tennis overgrip is when soft, padded tape is wrapped around the grip of the racquet. It is also known as an overwrap. It is commonly used in tennis as well as other sports, including badminton, squash, and pickleball.
What is a tacky overgrip?
A tacky overgrip is just one category of a tennis overgrip. The tackiness refers to the stickiness of the handle and allows for a better grip, minimizes slipping, and can absorb more sweat coming off the player’s palms.