Grip Basics

If you’re new to coaching, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the grips used on the forehand and backhand groundstrokes, as well as the serve, volley and overhead. There is no one, correct grip that is universally accepted as the “best” grip for a stroke. An understanding of what grips go with what strokes and the best combination of grip, contact point and stance for a particular stroke is a good place to begin.

The following information uses a right-handed player as the model. Simply reverse the information for left-handed players.

The easiest way to remember grips is to use the knuckle of the index (pointer) finger as a reference point. Depending on which bevel of a racquet’s grip the knuckle rests, that will tell you which the grip the player is using.

Forehand Grips

Continental Grip
Using the numbers on the bevels of the grip shown in above, a player who places the knuckle of their index figure on the second bevel (#2) would have a Continental grip.

(see more diagrams like this at Australian Sports Camps’ website)

The Continental is the grip a player should hold when in the ready position, because it is neutral (not a forehand or backhand grip) and allows a player to quickly change to either side for a forehand or backhand. This is also the main grip players use for the serve.

Many coaches recommend the Continental for the volley because when a player is at the net, he or she has less time to change grips. Other coaches disagree and recommend that as players become more skilled, they switch to Eastern grips on both sides to provide more power and control to volleys and make it easier to volley down the line.

Using a Continental grip for a forehand provides a comfortable, yet less-stable, less-powerful grip and places the elbow in an unnatural position. A Continental grip requires a contact point closer to the body than other grips. No advanced players use a Continental grip for groundstrokes.

Eastern Grip
When the knuckle rests on the side of the grip (bevel #3), the player is using an Eastern forehand grip. This grip puts more hand behind the racquet handle and increases stability and power. An Eastern grip closes the face of the racquet slightly and provides more topspin. The Eastern grip can be hit a bit farther from the body, and is effective when used with a more open stance.

Semi-Western Grip
When the knuckle is placed on the bevel below and on the right side of the grip (bevel #4), this is a Semi-Western grip. This grip is popular with baseliners who hit lots of topspin because it closes the face of the racquet even more, gets more hand behind the grip for more power and provides a contact point much farther out front. This grip is often used in conjunction with a semi-open or open stance.

Western Grip
This grip is made when the knuckle is placed on the very bottom bevel (#5) and is the most extreme of all grips. This grip provides maximum topspin and power. The Western Grip requires the contact point to be even farther out in front, and is best used with an open stance.

While the Semi-Western and Western grips provide more power and topspin because of their contact points and the fact that they close the racquet face so much, they are difficult to use when hitting short, low-bouncing balls. So much so, in fact, that hitting short, low-bouncing balls (especially using slice) is a common tactic used against players with these grips.

These grips are also not conducive to efficient serving, volleying, hitting slice or hitting overheads, and opponents may also take advantage of this. However, these grips are the choices of most top-ranked players. If your player has the coordination, power and footspeed to use these grip and stance combinations to generate massive power and spin, they may be able to keep most opponents so under pressure, that this outweighs the shortcomings.

Most coaches fall into one of two camps these days when it comes to competitive players, recommending either a square (not fully closed) stance with an Eastern grip, or a semi-open stance with an Eastern or Semi-Western grip.

Again, there is no right or wrong answer here and the true test of any stroke or grip is still the four tests of an optimum stroke: can the player hit the ball where he wants it, when he want its, with pace, and without causing a repetitive stress injury?

Backhand Grips

One-Handed Backhand
Placing the knuckle on the top bevel (#1) produces an Eastern backhand grip and is the most widely-recommended backhand grip for one handers. This grip provides a longer reach than a two-handed grip, and the slightly closed grip is conducive to more topspin. High bouncing balls, however, are much more difficult to play with this grip. These should be played with a slice shot using a Contiental grip.

Two-Handed Backhand
Players use a number of hand combination for the two handed backhand, depending on the player’s style of play and whether or not her left or right hand is dominant for this shot.

One combination includes a Continental on the lead (right) hand, with an Eastern forehand grip for the trailing (left). This gives the player the power and topspin associated with a forehand (for a left-hand dominant player) while in a two-handed stroke, but allows the player to hit a slice passing shot or defensive (slice) lob if the player is pulled wide and must hit a one-handed (defensive) shot with the right hand only (which is in a Continental grip).

This grip is conducive to the more modern, left-arm dominant backhand, where the ball is hit at shoulder or eye level. Some players prefer to make contact closer to the body, while others use a more baseball-like swing and contact point.

The original two-handed backhand, favored by Evert, for example, used an Eastern/Eastern combination, and was hit much lower (below the hip) and closer to the body. In this backhand, the right arm is the more dominant of the two.

Diagrams with hands on grips

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