A basic element for learning tennis is holding the racquet correctly for each of the different strokes. Since most folks are right handed I’ll explain in “righty” terms. If you’re a “lefty,” don’t worry – it’s simply a mirror image.
All tennis racquet handles are octagonal. Starting with the racquet standing on edge (strings up and down just like the net), look at the handle base like it’s a clock face.
The 12 o’clock position is No. 1; the next facet going clockwise is No. 2, then No. 3, and so on through No. 8. For you lefties, start numbering going counter-clockwise.
Also, have about a finger-width of space between your index and middle finger. If your thumb is higher on the handle than your index finger (like holding a hammer), you won’t have as much control of the racquet.
Now we should all be on the same page for learning the different grips.
- Continental grip. Learn this by simply holding your racquet like you’re shaking hands. Notice the first knuckle of your index finger will be resting on No. 2 with the rest of your hand comfortably wrapped around the handle.
This grip is mainly used for serves, overheads and volleys (forehand and backhand). Many “old school” players also used this grip for their forehand groundstroke (ahh…memories of wood racquets).
- Eastern forehand grip. Rest the first knuckle of your index finger on No. 3, the rest of your hand comfortably wrapped around the handle. Take note that the face of your racquet is tilted slightly forward.
When you hit the ball and follow through over your shoulder you’ll add topspin (forward rotation) to the ball, helping it more reliably clear the net and better stay in the court.
FYI: This is Federer’s forehand grip of choice.
- Semi-western grip. Rest the first knuckle of your index finger on No. 4, the rest of your hand comfortably wrapped around the handle. Now the face of your racquet will be almost parallel to the ground.
This type of grip is a product of the “modern game” and used by many players on the pro tour today to generate tremendous upward drive and topspin on the ball.
- Full-western grip. Rest the first knuckle of your index finger on No. 5, the rest of your hand the same as the other grips. The racquet face is parallel with the ground.
This grip is not highly recommended for most players due to difficulty in generating drive/pace on the ball.
- Eastern (one handed) backhand grip. Rest your first knuckle on No. 1, like you’re making a fist and punching forward. The backhand face of the racquet is tilted slightly forward to help generate topspin.
- Two handed backhand grip. Dominant hand in the Continental grip, add your off-hand above it on the racquet handle (similar to holding a baseball bat).
If you want to “get a grip” on your game, check your current grip against these and maybe consult with your tennis pro for additional help.
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. lwmarino@ hotmail.com