To start with, it is very important for a tennis player to know how to properly hold a tennis racket.
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We use different grips to achieve different shots, but this does not only depend on the various ways in which you hold your tennis racket but also the player’s level, racket weight, length, head size and string combination.
As the years progress with loads of practice, each player will eventually hold the racket in their most convenient and favorite hold. Of course, this depends on their style of game and strength on the court.
However, we must take into account that the way we hold the tennis racket will make a huge difference upon the way we return the ball as you would need to change grip for hitting the ball down the line, cross court, volley, overhead, serve, add topspin, backspin or cut the momentum of the ball with a slice.
Let’s look at the basics, which is of course the ways of holding a tennis racket correctly.
How to hold a tennis racket correctly
There are many ways of correctly holding a tennis racket as this depends on the player’s level, height and strength. If you are a beginner you might not know which grip you are using, don’t worry as we will explain in detail how to hold each grip. Before we go into detail of each grip, we should understand the autonomy of the racket handle.
A racket handle has an octagonal shape with 8 flat planes referred to as bevels. We find the 1st bevel when holding the racket blade perpendicular to the ground moving to the right (clockwise), you will find the 2nd bevel, then the 3rd bevel and so on all around to the 8th bevel. For left handed players we would move the racket handle to the left (anti- clockwise).
Well the most common ways of holding a tennis racket are listed below:
- Continental Grip
- Estern Grip
- Semi-Western Grip
- Full Western Grip
- One-handed Backhand Grip
- Double Handed Grip
1. Continental Grip
This is just like the hammer grip, starting with placing the index knuckle along the 2nd bevel and the end of the handle meeting the heel pad of your hand.
This grip allows for you to naturally bend your wrist inwards after each impact and is therefore used for serves, volleys, smashes, overheads, slice or delicate drop-shots from the back of the court.
2. Eastern Grip
We can use the eastern grip for both the forehand and backhand, when trying to hit a forehand with the Estern grip you need to place both the index knuckle and heel pad on the 3rd bevel. This is one of the easiest grips to learn for forehand and a great grip for players close to the net.
Whereas when using the Western grip for a backhand, we place the index knuckle and heel pad on the 1st bevel. This is great for players as it allows them to easily change from an Eastern backhand to a Continental grip.
3. Semi-Western Grip
A quick way to understand the semi-western grip is to place the racket on the ground and pick it up, you should find that the index knuckle and heel pad is on the 4th bevel.
The Semi-Western grip is a popular grip for baseline players as with this grip you can easily produce topspin and power, has more safety and control, however, it is difficult for low balls.
4. Full Western Grip
This grip is famously used on clay courts especially amongst spanish players when hitting a full western forehand, we place the index knuckle and the heel pad on the 5th bevel. With this grip you can achieve more topspin than any other tennis grip due to the rotation movement in the wrist, the returning balls end up high and fast. However, it is very difficult when playing on hard surfaces and difficult to return low balls.
5. One-Handed backhand Grip
The One-handed backhand grip is also similar to an Eastern backhand grip but instead using your non-dominant hand, you would need to place your knuckles on the top of the handle on the 1st bevel. The knuckles can be placed straight across aligned with the bevel, this helps to release the racket as others might have the knuckles slightly spread across for a better hold. This grip allows the player to return the ball flat and with topspin.
6. Double Handed Grip
This is when you hold your racket with two-hands where the dominant hand is placed like a continental grip and the non-dominant hand is placed in an eastern forehand or semi- western grip. The combination of grips across the right and left hand allows to drive power from one hand to the other, working together smoothly to gain a perfect return.
How to hold a tennis racket forehand
You can hit a forehand with almost any grip, Roger Federer uses an Eastern grip for topspin, allowing to hit the ball flat, add speed to the ball or a delicate slice drop shot from the baseline allowing to generate great spin and weight through the ball.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic play their forehand with a Semi-Western grip, and this grip has become the favorable forehand as it can be used to punch down the ball, generating much more topspin with little stress on the wrist. The impact should be between the waistline and the shoulder height.
One can also be using a Full Western forehand, this is quite new and not so popular on hardcourt, but Karen Khachanov finds this forehand grip well, the grip is so far twisted that the impact upon the ball is with the opposite face of the racket, this generates a massive racket speed hitting the ball in a steep low to high movement making the ball-to- bounce high.
How to hold a tennis racket backhand
There are different ways of holding the racket when returning a backhand, you can hold a single or double handed backhand. With a double handed backhand, you place your right hand in the neutral Continental position and the left hand placed as an Eastern forehand grip just above the right hand.
The double handed grip is mainly used for stability and control, which leads to a powerful return as the force comes from the rotation of the shoulder with a proper swing. The benefit of a double handed backhand is that it is easier to learn than the single-handed backhand, it is great for low shots and of course creates loads of power and topspin. However, this grip makes wide shots harder and one needs time to change the grip between shots.
The single-handed backhand is all about timing, good reaction and speed. This will come over time and loads of practice, but once executed correctly it can be dangerous.
The classical grip of a one-handed backhand is the Continental grip, this proves to be very difficult as the racket should be vertical after impact, leaving the wrist in an odd position.
Therefore, modern one-handed backhand players use the Eastern grip, this makes it easier to hit the ball as the racket makes the impact in a natural position and this is a lot more favorable when trying to hit a topspin.
How to properly hold a tennis racket
The principle of the grip comes from the fingers as we need to achieve a V-shape on top of the handle between the thumb and the index finger, wrapping the fingers around the racket handle. It should be a firm and tight grip with no gap between the end of the racket handle and the heel pad of your hand, but not so tight that there is no fluidity in the return.
The index finger should wrap around nicely just before the bottom of the racket handle. Wrapping the other finger around the handle where the thumb ends over the middle finger and the index finger a bit separated above the middle finger on the opposite side, meeting the thumb face to face.
The index finger is separated slightly to help change the hold of the grip and turn the angle of the racket with the aid of the wrist.
How to hold a tennis racket for beginners
If you are new to the game of tennis and have just started playing, the best way to hold a tennis racket as a beginner is to think of comfort, the grip that beginners usually start with is a continental grip, however if you are a young player due to your height it might be best to start with a Eastern grip.
And the grip could be a bit higher up the handle as this allows you to have more control. At the beginners level a tennis player should aim to hit the ball in the middle of the racket (sweat spot) and hit consistently in-order to learn how to play the game. Once a player progresses their level then one can move on to learn to hold different grips and eventually find their favorite grip.
Some beginners that have been playing for a while tends to change the grip slightly to an Eastern or Semi-Western grip, but this is based on the player’s style, strength and game.
Finally, the most important part of improving your grip is to find the grip that works the best for you and that feels natural. I would also recommend knowing the bevels of the racket by heart and learning to change grips quickly as well as effortlessly.
Knowing how to change between grips in a quick game and the return to any given serve can result in a point difference. Also utilize the double handed grip for a backhand if you practice at an early stage to place your non-dominant hand on the proper bevel for your backhand, you can quickly rotate to the Continental grip without swapping your non-dominant hand position in case you need to change back to a backhand quickly.