Like every other racket sport, knowledge to hold a tennis racket is the most fundamental learning for every new aspirant.
To hold a tennis racket properly, first, you have to be familiar with the parts of a tennis racket. The handle of a tennis racket has an octagonal shape. Each horizontal surface between the edges of the handle is called the bevel. So a handle of a tennis racket comes with eight bevels.
Now the relative position of your index knuckle and the bevel will determine the type of grip. There are six different grips that are commonly used in tennis.
- Continental Grip
- Eastern Forehand Grip
- Semi-Western Grip
- Western Grip
- Eastern Backhand Grip
- Two-handed Backhand Grip
In the continental grip, your index knuckle is on the bevel 2 (for a right-handed player). The “V” formed between the index finger and the thumb is at 11 o’clock. This is also known as a hammer grip because this grip looks like you would hold the tennis racket like a hammer.
The continental grip is mainly used to serve, volley, and smash the overhead balls. For a beginner, it is an ideal way to start with this grip as it places the racket in a neutral position that can also be used for forehand and backhand shots. This grip allows one-handed backhand shots.
It is hard to generate topspin with the continental grip.
Eastern Forehand Grip
The eastern grip, also known as the Shakehand grip, is like that you would shake your hand with the racket. Here your index knuckle is on the bevel 3 (for a right-handed player). The “V” between the index finger and thumb, is somewhere between 12 and 1 o’clock. This grip gives you slightly more topspin than the continental grip.
This is the ideal grip for a beginner to start learning forehand strokes. You can hit the ball hard and flat using this grip. The grip is useful for a low-bouncy surface like the grass court.
Semi Western Grip
If you move your hand slightly more and place the index knuckle on the bevel 4, it will be the semi-western grip. The easiest way to get the semi-western grip is to place the racket on the ground and then pick it up with your hand on the grip.
This is the best grip either for brushing heavy topspin or a hard powerful drive. Players using the semi-western grip can hit the ball comfortably on all kinds of surfaces.
For western grip, your index knuckle is on the bevel 5. In this grip, you can generate massive topspin but it is hard to make a return for the low bouncy balls.
This grip is useful for a bouncy surface like the clay court or the hard court to make forehand shots more effectively. This grip is only for advanced players not for beginners.
Eastern Backhand Grip
It is a one-handed backhand grip that provides control and spins in your backhand shots. For an eastern backhand grip, place your index knuckle on bevel 1.
It is easy to switch over from a continental grip to an eastern backhand grip and vice-versa.
Two-handed Backhand Grip
For the two-handed backhand grip (for a right-hander), the left-hand acts as if it is your right hand. The left hand does all the work for the swing of the racket while the right hand gives the support.
There are many variations of the two-handed backhand grip. The most common is to hold the tennis racket like a continental grip with your right hand while the left hand would make an eastern forehand grip.
There are some important points to consider to make your grip the most effective.
- Hold your tennis racket at the end of the handle. That will make your grip more flexible and it is easy to maneuver with the racket which will effectively increase your racket speed.
- Start with the continental grip and once you are conversant with that grip, try other grips. Though the type of grip solely depends on personal preference, it is easy for beginners to hold the tennis racket with continental (for serve, volley, and overhead shots) and eastern grip (for forehand and backhand). Once you advance from the beginner’s level, the combination of continental grip and semi-western grip is more effective.
- Don’t hold the racket with your thumb over the index finger like a hammer. Your thumb should be on the middle finger with your index finger a little further up which gives more leverage to maneuver the racket.
- Make a habit to support the racket with your non-dominant hand when you are not offering any shots. This will enable you to easily switch over from forehand to backhand.
To be conversant with your grip, you have to practice more and more. Take help from your practice partner. Once you get the feel of the grip, it is effortless to change grip from forehand to backhand and vice-versa.
There is a nice visual explanation to hold a tennis racket from Howcast.