4 Things You Must Know About Tennis Grips

Mar 27, 2023
Tennis Grips

How to grip the racquet is one of the first things you learn when you start to play tennis. Kids are taught to place the racquet on the ground, pick it up with their dominant hand and bingo! – that’s the grip you play with. Simple.

But the fact is, grips have many complex and subtle implications. Let’s have a look at some of them by debunking four myths about grips.

Myth 1: The semi-western forehand grip is the best.

Not true. Every grip has benefits and limitations. It’s also very hard to pin down an exact grip for a lot of the top players. Most use a hybrid. We only need to look at the three most dominant male players in the last decade - Roger, Rafa and Novak for proof.

Roger uses a hybrid between an eastern forehand grip and a semi-western, often going more towards a semi on clay - a slower, higher bouncing surface.

Novak has the ‘purest’ forehand grip with almost a straight semi-western, but even he makes small variations.

Rafa’s grip is probably the most contentious. Some believe he holds a semi-western grip but with his leverage shape at impact being a straight arm, it looks more like an eastern. So, it’s likely that his palm is closer to the eastern grip but with the base knuckle closer to a semi-western/western grip. The hybrid nature of Rafa’s grip means he has variation in his swing paths.

The truth is there’s a range of acceptability within each grip type and most players find a grip that feels right for them. Then they make tiny adjustments with their hand positions to achieve different shots. This means it’s often misleading to lump players into neat grip categories.

Below is a table showing the advantages and disadvantages of each grip.

How to find each grip

Myth 2: All players should impact the ball at the same point – hip high.

Not true. A player’s impact point will vary according to their grip. Both in height and how far in front they make contact.

A player with an eastern grip will impact the ball below hip height and further out in front, compared to someone with a semi-western grip, who will impact the ball at hip height and a little further behind.

Since the ideal contact point is different for each grip, this needs to be considered when trying to apply interventions.

Myth 3: Grip force should be constant throughout the swing phase.

Not true. Grip force will vary throughout the swing phase. A firmer grip should occur through impact to allow more speed to be generated if the ball isn’t impacted in the sweet spot.

This is probably not so important for mature athletes who do this subconsciously but may be important for kids starting out who might grip too firmly or loosely.

Myth 4: You should grip the racquet at the same height no matter the shot.  

Not true. How high or low you grip affects leverage, racquet head stability, racquet drop, and flexion. There is no right height to grip the racquet, so it comes down to personal preference and what shot you are trying to hit. The best players all adapt their grip heights.

As a rule, you should hold the racquet higher for volleys to have more racquet stability and lower on the serve for more leverage and pronation.

By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of different grips and their implications on game style, shot production, and shot selection you can learn to:

  • Make tactical adjustments to better exploit an opponent’s weaknesses,
  • limit your own weaknesses,
  • make technical adjustments that are better suited to your grip preference.

So how to grip the racquet might be one of the first things a player learns, but it has implications on their game for years.

By Marc Sophoulis.