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 “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 12:00 position is #1, the next bevel section going clockwise is #2, then #3, and so on through #8.
For you lefties, start numbering going counter-clockwise.
Now we should all be on the same page for learning the different grips.
First is the Continental grip. Learn this by simply holding your racquet as if you are shaking hands. Notice the first knuckle of your index finger will be resting on #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 ground stroke.
Second is the Eastern forehand grip. Rest the first knuckle of your index finger on #3, with 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.
The third grip is the semi-Western. Rest the first knuckle of your index finger on #4, with 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 is used by many players on the pro tour today to generate tremendous upward drive and topspin on the ball.
The full-Western grip our fourth style. Rest the first knuckle of your index finger on #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 and pace on the ball.
There is a fifth grip, the Eastern backhand grip, that I will save for another article.
In the meantime, if you want to get a grip on your game, check your current grip against these guidelines and consult with your tennis pro for further help.
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio & Youth Tennis Coach who lives and teaches in the greater Bluffton/Hilton Head Island area.