Tennis Grips | What's Best?

What’s the best tennis grip? What grip do the Grand Slam champions use? Below you’ll see the 3 most common tennis grips, why you should use them and how to form each. Then watch as your tennis strokes improve.

tennis grips
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Tennis Grips

No matter if you are an amateur tennis player or are an accomplished one, you keep learning about new skills to improve your technique. Key to tennis is technique and tactical thinking. Learning about the  fundamental tennis strokes helps you become good at your serve and will help you avoid unnecessary injuries.

 

One of the central and most integral aspects of tennis is the grip. Tennis grip selection is a crucial part of the player’s strategy to exploit the opponent’s weaknesses and make the best use of their strengths to win the match.

 

A tennis grip, essentially, is the way you hold the racket/racquet. But, it’s much more than holding the racket. It reflects your expertise on the game, understanding of your strong points, and level of focus. There are many types of tennis grips, which the player strategically uses to play certain shots, keeping in mind the opponent’s abilities.

 

Considering the type of shot, you can keep changing your tennis grip throughout the match. To do this, first learn about tennis grips. This comprehensive guide on tennis grips will help you learn all about tennis grips, their types, and how to select the best grip for yourself.

How To Grip A Tennis Racket

The first and most important aspect to understand is how to grip a tennis racket. You must already know that the racket handle is octagonal. Have you ever wondered why it is so?

That’s because the octagonal shape facilitates a firmer grip and enhanced friction without making it uncomfortable for the player. Its edges encourage muscle memory to help the player change grips while focusing on the ball and choosing the next move. It wouldn’t be easy to change grips on a round handle without taking a glance at the racket every time.

There are eight sides of a racket handle, which are called bevels. Bevels are used for various types of shots. The grip type also depends on which bevel the heel pad and index knuckle lie on. The bevels are numbered from One to Eight and measured clockwise for right-handers and counterclockwise for left-handers. Bevel #1 is the bevel facing up if you are holding the racket’s blade perpendicular to the ground.

Adjusting your grip on the racket means the way you alter the racket’s angle when it meets the ball. Usually, when you trade forehands from the court’s back, you’ll start with your standard grip, which you will determine as per your strengths and weaknesses. Such as for serves, smashes, volleys, and slices, you’ll switch to a flatter grip, and to play backhands, you will reverse the grip.

Move your hand around the racket’s handle in a clockwise direction to understand different types of grips. If you are a left-hander, move the same distance in an anti-clockwise direction. Do remember that the racket handle’s narrow side, which looks down on the frame’s edge, is the top of the handle, and it will always be 12 O’clock.

This video will help you understand more about the different tennis grips.

Understand Your Hand

Before learning about the different types of tennis grips, you must learn a bit about your hand. Sounds basic but your hand is actually the key to holding a tennis racket. Start by identifying the two main landmarks on your hand that will set up the racket handle’s grip.

The knuckle at your index finger and the heel pad are the two primary landmarks on your hand’s palm side. These will play a fundamental role in setting up any grip. The difference between different types of tennis grips is from the position these landmarks hold.

As mentioned above, there are eight different sections on a tennis racket handle called Bevels. These are numbered in a clockwise (anti-clockwise for left-handed players) order starting at the top. To switch between different grips, you have to place your heel pad and index knuckle on the desired bevel.

Watch this video to understand how to hold a racket.

Types of Grips Explained

In modern times, tennis grips have evolved considerably with advancements in equipment and court surfaces as the sport has significantly progressed. Players have become faster and stronger than before, while their grips now play a central role in controlling the extreme power they can generate through topspin. Beginners need to understand the shifts in tennis grips over the years and the best grips to compete at higher levels.

Tennis grips have evolved over the years. In the beginning, there were three types of tennis grips- Continental, Eastern, and Western. Gradually, variations emerged in these types, particularly in the Western grip, which prompted the Semi-Western Grip and Extreme Western Grip.

Continental Grip

This is a neutral grip that dominated the initial years of competitive tennis. This style of grip has disappeared from the sport now as far as forehands are concerned. Also called the Hammer Grip or the Chopper Grip, the continental grip is reserved mostly for slices, volleys, serves, overheads, and defensive shots. It helps the player play powerful shots while putting minimal stress on the arm.

However, one downside is that for forehand shots using the Continental grip, it becomes challenging to put topspin on the ball.

To use a continental grip, your heel pad and index knuckle will rest on Bevel #2. You’ll know if you are holding it right when your forefinger and thumb form a V shape across the racket handle’s top, roughly at 11 O’clock for right-handed players and 1 O’clock for left-handers.

It is a flat grip that usually helps with serves, smashes, and volleys. You may use it to slice a soft drop shot from the court’s back to hit down on the ball and punch through it for a backspin.

How To Form a Continental Grip

If you are a right-hander, place the palm side of the bottom knuckle of your index finger against the second bevel. If you are a left-hander, put it on the eighth bevel. Now, position the racket handle’s butt at your palm’s base and wrap your fingers around the handle.

Watch this video to understand how to form a Continental Grip.

Eastern Grip

Eastern grip is your best bet for flat and fast shots. Generally, shots made using the Eastern grip are at the waist level. You can quickly change from the Eastern grip to Continental grip for volleys.

It is a crucial forehand grip in tennis and was extremely popular during the 1980s and 90s. Players who relied mostly on the Eastern grip to dominate their opponents are Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf. Nowadays, the Eastern grip is more prevalent among recreation or tour players, who use modified versions.

For an Eastern grip, move your hand around the racket in a clockwise direction. The thumb-finger should create a V shape between 12 and 1 O’clock. It is similar to shaking your hands with the racket in a relaxed manner.

The Eastern grip allows the player to get a small amount of acceleration on the racket to spin the ball slightly while keeping it relatively flat. It is the easiest grip to learn the forehand and is suitable for players who like to attack the net. One downside is that players cannot get enough control for long rallies through the Eastern grip.

To learn more about the Eastern Forehand grip, watch this video

How to Form an Eastern Grip

If you are a right-hander, place the palm side of the bottom knuckle of your index finger against Bevel #3 and on the Bevel #7 if you are a left-handed player. Position the racket handle’s butt at your palm’s base and wrap your fingers around the handle. 

 

To ace the Eastern forehand grip, you need both the heel pad and index knuckle to rest on Bevel #3 or #7. You may place your hand flat against the strings and slightly slide down to the handle.

Eastern Backhand Grip

The Eastern Backhand grip is ideal for getting the best spin and control for the one-handed backhand. You may combine it with the Western Forehand grip as both are more or less the same. For this grip, you need to place your heel pad and index knuckle on Bevel #1.

 

Eastern backhand grip allows more control on the handle as the player can spin the ball efficiently and change to a continental grip quickly. It is the best choice for a kick serve. A downside of the Eastern Backhand grip is that it makes it challenging to hit shoulder-height shots.

Semi-Western Grip

This grip falls between the Eastern and Western grip. It is the most common forehand grip in modern tennis as it lets the player enjoy excellent topspin and quickly switch between different grips. Check out this video to understand the difference between the Eastern and Semi-Western grips.

Semi-western is quite popular among baseline players as they can produce both power and topspin. If mastered well enough, it can be devastating for the opponent. That’s why the Semi-Western grip is preferred over all other grips for forehand. Remember that the ball’s point of contact will be between waist and shoulder height.

 

For a Semi-Western forehand spin, you need to create a V shape between 2 and 3 O’clock. When you move your hand further round the handle, the wrist will come into play and put the racket into a deeper position. This lets you hit the ball’s back more powerfully and generate greater spin with more control and safety.

 

The Semi-Western grip was popularized by players like Martina Hingis and Andre Agassi during the late 90s and early on in the new millennium. These days, it is the most prevalent grip used across the ranks. Top pros like Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams have put it to work incredibly well.

How To Form A Semi-Western Grip

If you are a right-handed player, place the palm side of the bottom knuckle of your index finger against Bevel #4 and on the Bevel #6 if you are a left-hander. Now position the racket handle’s butt at your palm’s base and wrap your fingers around the handle.

Watch this video to learn how to use a Semi-Western grip like a pro.

Full Western Grip

This grip generally exists on the pro tour. You may find many beginner players, mostly amateurs from Latin America and Europe where clay is the preferred surface for tennis courts, using this grip. Let’s not forget that clay makes the court surface slower, and the ball will bounce higher, which the topspin for more extreme grips accentuates.

 

In the Full Western grip, the V shape can form anywhere beyond the 3 O’clock. Most Spanish players twist their grip so far that they would hit the ball with the racket’s opposite face, which generates a lot of speed and strings line up, and they can swirl the ball in a vertical low-to-high movement.

 

The point of contact will be in front of the player with a Full Western grip, allowing more topspin than any other grip. However, the downside is that it makes it difficult to return low balls.

How To Form A Full Western Grip

If you are a right-hander, place the palm side of the bottom knuckle of your index finger against Bevel #6 and on the Bevel #4 if you are a left-hander.


Position the racket handle’s butt at the base of your palm and wrap your fingers around the handle.

Extreme Western or Hawaiian Grip

This grip is not as popular as other grips on the list because it has all the drawbacks of a western grip combined into one. Moreover, it makes it difficult for the players to drive or flatten the ball. Topspin is one of the benefits of a Hawaiian grip, but you must hit through the opponent periodically and put shots away if you want to compete at higher levels.

How to Form a Hawaiian Grip?

If you are a right-hander, place the palm side of the bottom knuckle of your index finger against Bevel #6 and on the Bevel #4 if you are a left-hander. Position the racket handle’s butt at the base of your palm and wrap your fingers around the handle.

Which Forehand Grip Is The Best?

An ideal way to determine which type of tennis grip is the best for you, feel what is natural for you. Try to hit several forehands with every grip to check which one suits you best.

Most tennis pros claim that the Semi Western is an ideal forehand grip. However, doing so would neglect the comfort, tendencies, and personal playing style of the player. Hence, you should experiment while practicing on the court to identify which of these grips suits you best. You may want to slightly tweak the grips as per your preferences and comfort level, which is fine.

Generally, the Western grip results in more topspin, whereas the Eastern grip helps you generate more power with a flatter ball. Although fun to try, Continental or Hawaiian grips aren’t suitable for recreational tennis players. 

Continental grip doesn’t provide more topspin on your forehand, and you may have to struggle a lot to make them.

On the other hand, a Hawaiian grip allows topspin, but it doesn’t let you generate more power. Hence, it becomes difficult to time the shot. Continental and Hawaiian grips prevent most players from reaching their full potential. That’s why we never recommend these grips to beginners.

For mastering a Full Western grip, players need to practice for several hours daily, and not many have enough time at hand. Therefore, a Semi Western grip is most appropriate for forehands if it feels most natural for you.

Start with the Eastern forehand and once you gain some amount of mastery over it, try to ace one of the Western grips. Find out what works best for you. Remember that most tennis pros don’t rely fully on a specific grip and keep making minor adjustments to achieve the desired impact, such as creating a flatter shot or more topspin.

Backhand Grips

Players intending to compete at higher levels of tennis must develop a reliable backhand grip. It could be your best weapon to dominate your opponent. Poor or weak backhand will make you an easy target for your opponent to exploit.

 

Most players tend to struggle with a backhand grip. That’s because it requires them to hit across the body. Historically, the backhand grip has remained the weakest of all shots for most players. But, nowadays, the backhand can be just as reliable as the forehand. It may even prove to be far more lethal than the forehand grips.

 

There are two types of backhand grips- Two-handed Backhand and One-handed Backhand.

Two Handed Backhand

In modern tennis, the two-handed backhand is the most popular of the two backhand grips. Around 88% of the top 100 male players prefer a two-handed backhand, while 97% of the top female players use this grip. Using it is like playing a forehand with the wrong hand. The left hand will do all the work for this grip for right-handed players, whereas it will be the right hand coming into motion for left-handers. The other hands merely support the grip.

How To Form A Two Handed Backhand

Although there are three to four different variations in a two-handed backhand grip, the standard principle remains the same. You need to position the right hand in a neutral Continental grip and adopt an Eastern Forehand grip higher up at your racket’s handle with the left hand.

Most of the two-handed backhand grips have the problem that the dominant hand thinks it is supposed to play the shot. To prevent this from happening, practice taking your racket in the two-handed grip and slowly remove the right hand. Now practice playing left-handed forehands. Swing low-to-high but keep your left hand at the top of the grip. This method helps teach your weaker hand to control the swing when you put the other hand back on.

One Handed Backhand

Despite the two-handed backhand’s stupendous popularity, the one-handed backhand is still alive. It is the preferred grip of players on the WTA and ATP Tour. Most players use it to compete at the highest levels of tennis. Dominic Thiem, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov, and Richard Gasquet are some of the tour veterans who have aced the one-handed backhand. Emerging stars like Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov also use it frequently.

How To Form A One Handed Backhand

For both right and left-handers, the rule is the same for the one-handed backhand. Place the palm side of the bottom knuckle of your index finger against Bevel #1. Position the racket so that it runs parallel to the rest of the knuckles, except for the thumb. It is difficult to master this position, and many players position the racket wrongly. You can consider it a small adjustment from how you hold the racket for your forehand grip. Lastly, place the racket handle’s butt at your palm’s base and wrap fingers around the handle.

Here’s a video explaining the difference between one-handed and two-handed backhand grips.

How to Change from Forehand to One-handed Backhand?

To change to one-handed backhand from the forehand, use the clock principle. Start from the continental grip and move anti-clockwise, depending on how much spin you want to impact. Usually, one-handed players try to stick with a rough Eastern Backhand.

How To Measure Your Grip Size

In a tennis game, the right grip size can make a massive difference in the player’s performance. Too small a grip would require more muscle strength from the player to keep the racket from getting twisted in the player’s hand. If a small-sized grip is used for a longer time, it may contribute to tennis elbow problems.

Similarly, too large a grip would inhibit wrist snaps when the player is serving due to which switching between grips would become problematic as it would require more muscle strength. If used for a long time, a large grip can also lead to tennis elbow problems.

 

To know whether your grip size is small or large, hold an eastern forehand grip and fit your non-hitting hand’s index finger in the space between your palm and ring finger. If there is enough room for your index finger, this means the grip is too small. Conversely, if there is space between your palm and finger, the grip is too large.

 

If you don’t have a racket at hand, use a ruler to measure your grip size. To do this, open your hand and extend your fingers close together. Align the ruler with your palm’s bottom lateral crease and measure your ring finger’s tip.