tennis grips

Tennis Grips | What's Best?

What’s the best tennis grip? What grip do the tennis Grand Slam champions use? 

Tennis grips are a very important part of the game. It’s not something many players think about, but it can make all the difference in your game. 

The grip you have on your racket will determine what type of shots you’re able to execute and where exactly they’ll go – so it’s crucial to experiment with different types until you find one that suits both your playing style and hand size.

Tennis Grips

Whether you are an amateur tennis player or an accomplished one, it’s important to keep learning new skills to improve your game. Technique and tactical thinking are key to tennis, and learning about the fundamental tennis strokes helps you develop a strong serve and avoid unnecessary injuries.

 

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

 

Essentially, a tennis grip is the way you hold the racket/racquet. But it’s much more than just holding the racket. It encompasses your expertise, understanding of your strengths, and level of focus on the game. 

 

Players can strategically change their tennis grip throughout the match to suit different kinds of shots and their opponent’s abilities and weaknesses. 

 

To learn to do this, you can read all about tennis grips, types of grips, and how to select the best grip for yourself in this comprehensive guide.

How To Grip A Tennis Racket

Firstly and most importantly, you need to understand how to grip a tennis racket. You may have noticed that racket handles are octagonal. Have you ever wondered why?

Imagine trying to change grips on a round handle – you would probably need to glance at the racket every time. The octagonal shape lets you grip the racket firmly and use enhanced friction without making it uncomfortable. Its edges encourage muscle memory to help you change grips while focusing on the ball and choosing your next move.

Racket handle have eight sides, which are called bevels and are used for various types of shots. The grip type depends on which bevel your hand’s heel pad and index knuckle lie on. The bevels are numbered from 1-8 and measured clockwise for right-handers and counterclockwise for left-handers. Bevel #1 will be facing up if you are holding the racket’s blade at a right angle 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 back of the court, you’ll start with your standard grip, which you will determine based on your strengths and weaknesses. 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, do the same action in an anti-clockwise direction. 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 explain more about the different tennis grips.

Understand Your Hand

Before learning about the different types of tennis grips, you need to learn a bit about your hand. It might sound 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 the palm of your hand, and they play a fundamental role in setting up any grip. The position they sit in is what makes types of tennis grips different from each other.

As we learned, 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, place your heel pad and index knuckle on the desired bevel.

This video will explain more about how to hold a racket.

Types of Grips Explained

Over the years, tennis grips have evolved considerably with advancements in equipment and court surfaces. The sport has considerably progressed as 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.

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

Also called the Hammer or Chopper Grip, this neutral grip dominated the initial years of competitive tennis. It is now 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 it is challenging to put topspin on the ball when using the Continental Grip.

This is a flat grip that usually helps with serves, smashes, and volleys. It can be used to slice a soft drop shot from the back of the court to hit down on the ball and punch through it for a backspin.

How To Form a Continental Grip

If you’re a right-hander, place the palm side of the bottom knuckle of your index finger against Bevel #2. If you are a left-hander, put it on Bevel #8. Now, position the racket handle’s butt at your palm’s base and wrap your fingers around the handle.

You’ll know that you’re holding it right when your forefinger and thumb form a V shape across the top of the racket handle, at roughly 11 o’clock for right-handed players and 1 o’clock for left-handers.

This video will explain how to form a Continental Grip.


Eastern Grip

The 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.

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

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 for forehand and is suitable for players who like to attack the net. 

However, one downside of the Eastern grip is that players cannot get enough control for long rallies.

Watch this video to learn more about the Eastern Forehand grip, and read on to learn how it’s formed.

How to Form an Eastern Grip

If you’re a right-hander, place the palm side of the bottom knuckle of your index finger against Bevel #3 and on 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. 

 

Your 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.

 

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.

 

The 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.

The Semi-Western grip is popular among baseline players as they can produce both power and topspin. If mastered, it can be devastating for your 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.

 

 

The Semi-Western grip was popularized by players like Martina Hingis and Andre Agassi during the late 1990s and early 2000s. These days, it’s the most prevalent grip used across the ranks. Top pros like Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams use this grip to incredible effect.

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 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. 

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 balls back more powerfully and generate greater spin with more control and safety.

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. Many amateur players (particularly from Latin America and Europe where clay is the preferred surface for tennis courts) use this grip. Let’s not forget that clay makes the court surface slower, and the ball will bounce higher, which is accentuated by the topspin for more extreme grips.

 

Most Spanish players twist their grip so far that they can 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 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.

 

In this grip, the V shape can form anywhere beyond the 3 o’clock.

Extreme Western or Hawaiian Grip

This grip is not as popular as other grips on the list because it combines all the drawbacks of a Western grip in 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 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 is to determine what feels 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, it’s important to take into account your comfort and personal playing style. Hence, you should experiment while practicing on the court to identify which grip works best for you. You may want to slightly tweak the grips to suit 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. The Continental grip doesn’t provide much topspin on your forehand, and you may have to struggle a lot to make these shots.

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

To master a Full Western grip players need to dedicate several hours per day to practicing, which is unrealistic for many people. Therefore, a Semi Western grip is most appropriate for forehands if it feels most natural for you.

Begin with the Eastern forehand and once you gain confidence and control, try to ace one of the Western grips. Try different versions to find out what works best for you. 

Remember, most tennis pros don’t rely fully on one specific grip, and regularly make 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, but 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. Nowadays, however, 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 this grip is like playing a forehand with the wrong hand. The left hand will do all the work for right-handed players with their other hand merely supporting the grip, and vice versa for left-handers.

How To Form A Two-Handed Backhand

Although there are three or four different variations in a two-handed backhand grip, the standard principle remains the same. 

Position your right hand in a neutral Continental grip and adopt an Eastern Forehand grip higher up at your racket’s handle with the left hand.

A common problem players face in the two-handed backhand grips is that their 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 immense popularity of the two-handed backhand, the one-handed backhand lives on, and 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

The rules are the same for both right and left-handers in 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 your knuckles, except for the thumb. 

It can be difficult to master this position, and many players position the racket incorrectly. 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 your 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 the shot to have. 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 to your performance. 

 

Too small a grip requires more muscle strength to keep the racket from getting twisted in your hand. If a small-sized grip is used for an extended period of time, it may contribute to tennis elbow problems.

 

Similarly, too large a grip can inhibit wrist snaps when you are serving. This can cause problems switching between grips as it requires 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 space for your index finger, 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.

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