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The Grip: Picture Perfect

Ron Waite Photo
Ron Waite, USPTR

Some time back, I dedicated my column to grips (see my article "True Grip...No, not the Movie"). The amount of e-mail that I received about this topic was to say the least impressive. However, some writers expressed their desire to actually see the grips, contact points, stances and stroke finishes described in the aforementioned article. Well, here they are!

First, I must thank Brent Starzyk, a local teaching pro, who is finishing his last year at Providence College. I had the great pleasure of training and coaching Brent as a junior player. Kindly, Brent agreed to pose for the accompanying illustrations. Brent is a right-handed player, but for you lefties, I have flipped all of the photos to show things from your perspective. So, as you look at the accompanying photos, choose either the right or left handed versions. You can also click on any of the photos below to view an enlarged version.


Grips

Continental Forehand Grip, Right Continental Forehand Grip, Left The Continental Forehand Grip

At one time, this was the only grip a player needed...for forehands, backhands, volleys and serves. However, this was true during the era of wood racquets and grass surfaces. The continental forehand was last used by Stefan Edberg and before him, by John McEnroe. The modern game provides more pace and higher bouncing balls than the traditional game. It is a credit to both of these players that they could achieve so much with this particular forehand grip...however, the forehand was each player's major weakness. I do not recommend the continental forehand unless you are playing exclusively on grass. The continental (sometimes referred to as the central grip) is great, however, for serves and for volleys. Note that the palm of the hand is somewhat on top of the racquet handle.

Eastern Forehand Grip, Right Eastern Forehand Grip, Left The Eastern Forehand Grip

This is frequently referred to as the "shake hands with the racquet" grip. It puts more of the palm to the side of the racquet. This provides more natural support on the forehand stroke and takes pressure off of wrist strength. This is the forehand grip that Pete Sampras uses...and we all know what he can do with his forehand. You can impart both slice and topspin with this grip...or you can hit it flatly. Topspin may at times fly deep and out, but essentially this is a solid grip for many players on the forehand side.

SemiWestern Forehand Grip, Right SemiWestern Forehand Grip, Left The SemiWestern Forehand Grip

This is another solid forehand grip. It places a bit of the palm under the racquet's handle. This makes the pressure on wrist strength minimal. It is a great grip for hitting flatly or with topspin. Slice is not recommended with this grip. It is the most common forehand grip in the modern game...it is the one that I prefer. When I teach players who are new to the game, I always teach the semiwestern grip. Agassi is one who prefers the semiwestern forehand.

Western Forehand Grip, Right Western Forehand Grip, Left The Western Forehand Grip

This is a fairly severe grip that is preferred by many a clay court specialist. It is also common among modern players. It is great for imparting topspin and one can hit flatly with some difficulty. Slice is definitely not recommended with this grip. Bruguera uses the western forehand.

Hammer Grip, Right Hammer Grip, Left The Hammer Grip

Not many pros teach this grip. It is really a tight-fisted continental. It is called the hammer grip because you hold the racquet the same way one would hold a hammer if hitting a nail. It is a great grip for serves, volleys and overheads. Beyond these applications, I do not recommend the hammer grip. The legendary Poncho Gonzales used this grip on serves and on volleys. If you have trouble volleying, try this grip.

Continental Backhand Grip, Right Continental Backhand Grip, Left The Continental Backhand Grip

Really, this is the same grip as the continental forehand...except it is rotated a tiny bit left for the right-handed player and a tiny bit right for the lefty. It is a great grip for hitting slice, but flat and topspin shots are less successfully struck with this grip.

Eastern Backhand Grip, Right Eastern Backhand Grip, Left The Eastern Backhand Grip

Onehanders very commonly choose to use this grip for all backhand strokes. This grip puts the thumb a bit behind the racquet handle when hitting backhands. You can hit flatly, or impart spin (slice or topspin) using this grip. For onehanders, this is a bread and butter grip.

Full Eastern or Western Backhand Grip, Right
Full Eastern or Western Backhand Grip, Left
The Full Eastern or Western Backhand Grip (two different names for the same grip) Onehanded clay court specialists love this grip (e.g. Muster). This grip puts more of the hand behind the racquet at contact. It is a great grip for imparting topspin, but you can still hit flatly. Slice is not very successful with this grip.

Twohand Grips

When one closely examines the twohander in the modern game, there are numerous grips used for both hands. Usually, it is best to have the non-dominant hand grip the racquet in what turns out to be an opposite hand eastern forehand grip or continental forehand grip. Combined with this, the dominant hand may grip the racquet is several distinct ways:

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  1. The dominant hand in a full eastern backhand/western backhand position.

    Twohand Grip with dominant hand in full eastern backhand/western backhand, Left Twohand Grip with dominant hand in full eastern backhand/western backhand, Right

  2. The dominant hand in a continental forehand position.

    Twohand Grip with dominant hand in continental forehand, Left Twohand Grip with dominant hand in continental forehand, Right

  3. The dominant hand in an eastern forehand position.

    Twohand Grip with dominant hand in eastern forehand, Left Twohand Grip with dominant hand in eastern forehand, Right

I use a twohand backhand for most of my shots and hold the racquet as seen in # 2 of the above. However, many of the top players prefer to use #1. A few, not many, players use the third combination.


Contact Points

Every grip has its own unique and ideal contact point. It is imperative that a player know the ideal contact point for each grip she/he uses. These are the "strike zones"...where you can really hit out with pace and authority. When a ball is at a point that is not within a particular grip's ideal striking area, a player should play it safe and hit the ball for control, not for pace!!! Since you a very likely to be changing grips during a match myriad times, you need to be aware of the contact point for each grip you use.

Continental Forehand Contact Point, Right Continental Forehand Contact Point, Left Continental Forehand

Here, the strike zone is low and actually behind the front leg of the player. Players using this grip/stroke combination need to be in a closed stance. This contact point makes the continental forehand perfect for grass surfaces, but very poor for clay and higher bouncing surfaces.

Eastern Forehand Contact Point, Right Eastern Forehand Contact Point, Left Eastern Forehand

The contact point for this particular grip/stroke combination is a bit higher and parallel with the front leg. The eastern forehand is good for virtually all surfaces, but a bit less effective on clay and higher bouncing surfaces. Note, that Brent is still in a closed stance...a 3/4 stance is acceptable for this grip/stroke combination.

SemiWestern Forehand Contact Point, Right SemiWestern Forehand Contact Point, Left SemiWestern Forehand

With the semiwestern forehand, one hits the ball higher and slightly in front of the body. Normally, an open or 3/4 stance is preferred with this grip/stroke combination, but a closed stance is acceptable. The semiwestern forehand is an all surface forehand but is a bit less effective on grass and low bouncing surfaces.

Western Forehand Contact Point, Right Western Forehand Contact Point, Left The Western Forehand.

This particular grip/stroke combination's ideal contact point is high and definitely in front of the body. One needs a 3/4 or open stance to hit the western forehand. This is a great forehand grip for clay and high bouncing surfaces. However, low bouncing balls present problems. That's why this grip is terrible on grass.

Continental Slice Backhand Contact Point, Right Continental Slice Backhand Contact Point, Left The Continental Slice Backhand

The continental grip is great for hitting the slice shot. The contact point for this grip/stroke combination is best when the ball is low and slightly in front of the body. Note that Brent hits this shot with a closed stance...so should you!

Eastern Onehand Backhand Contact Point, Right Eastern Onehand Backhand Contact Point, Left The Eastern Onehand Backhand

This is the bread and butter grip/stroke combination for most players using the onehand backhand. It provides a lot of flexibility. The contact point is somewhere between the knee and the waist. One can effectively strike the ball a bit behind the front leg to slightly in front of the front leg. Thus, it has a broad contact area. Closed stances are preferred, but one can hit the eastern onehand backhand effectively from a 3/4 stance.

Continental Slice Backhand Contact Point, Right Continental Slice Backhand Contact Point, Left The Full Eastern/Western Onehand Backhand

This is basically a topspin oriented grip/stroke combination. You are best able to hit this shot from a 3/4 stance...although closed or open are possibilities. The contact point is definitely higher and in front of your body. This is Thomas Muster's favorite backhand.

Twohand Backhands

Below you will see the contact point for three twohand backhand grip/stroke combination. The only difference among them is how the dominant hand holds the racquet. Brent is using his non-dominant hand in what is actually an eastern forehand position. Some players use different positions for the non-dominant hand. So, there are two many combinations between dominant and non-dominant hands to list here.

  1. Twohand Backhand with dominant hand in Eastern Forehand Position

    Here, the contact point is between the knee and waist...and a bit behind the front leg. This is best struck from a closed stance.

    Twohand Backhand with dominant hand in Eastern Forehand, Left Twohand Backhand with dominant hand in Eastern Forehand, Right

  2. Twohand Backhand with dominant hand in Continental forehand Position

    In this combination, the contact point moves a bit closer to the front leg and a bit higher. The closed or 3/4 stance works well with this grip/stroke combination.

    Twohand Backhand with dominant hand in Continental Forehand, Left Twohand Backhand with dominant hand in Continental Forehand, Right

  3. Twohand Backhand with dominant hand in either Eastern or Full Eastern/Western Backhand Position

    This grip/stroke combination has a relatively high contact point that is definitely in front of the body. Here, the 3/4 or open stances work very well.

    Twohand Backhand with dominant hand in Eastern or Full Eastern/Western Backhand, Left Twohand Backhand with dominant hand in Eastern or Full Eastern/Western Backhand, Right


Stances

Although I have already referred to stances in the above descriptions, let me make certain that we are clear on what I mean. To illustrate stances, I have Brent hitting forehands. However, the principles apply to backhands, as well. In essence, you are standing sideways, 3/4 sideways or straight forward in closed, 3/4 and open stances...regardless of whether you're hitting forehands or backhands.

Closed Forehand Stance, Right Closed Forehand Stance, Left Closed Forehand

In this stance, your body is sideways to the net. We are viewing Brent from the net's point of view.

3/4 Forehand

In this stance, Brent is standing with his body almost facing the net. I have changed the camera position to better show the position of the rear leg.

3/4 Forehand Stance, Left 3/4 Forehand Stance, Right

Open

Now, Brent is facing the net directly. There is no sideways position to his body.

Open Stance, Left Open Stance, Right


Finishes

How one ends or finishes a stroke is of key importance. Proper finishes vary from grip/stroke combination to grip/stroke combination. Here, are some images to help you finish properly.

Proper Finish for Continental or Eastern Forehands, Right Proper Finish for Continental or Eastern Forehands, Left Proper Finish for Continental or Eastern Forehands

Proper Finish for SemiWestern and Western Forehands, Right Proper Finish for SemiWestern and Western Forehands, Left Proper Finish for SemiWestern and Western Forehands

Proper Finish for Continental Slice and Eastern Backhands, Right Proper Finish for Continental Slice and Eastern Backhands, Left Proper Finish for Continental Slice and Eastern Backhands

Proper Finish for Full Eastern/Western Backhands, Right Proper Finish for Full Eastern/Western Backhands, Left Proper Finish for Full Eastern/Western Backhand

Proper Finish for All Twohand Backhands, Right Proper Finish for All Twohand Backhands, Left Proper Finish for All Twohand Backhands


Well there you have it. Hopefully, these images will help clarify some of the nomenclature I use in my column. Whatever grips, stances and finishes you choose to use, be certain that they fall within the proper parameters. If you do, I am relatively certain that you'll soon become a tennis overdog

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This column is copyrighted by Ron Waite, all rights reserved. Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to Ron by using this form.

Ron Waite is a certified USPTR tennis instructor who took up the game of tennis at the age of 39. Frustrated with conventional tennis methods of instruction and the confusing data available on how to learn the game, Ron has sought to sift fact from fiction. In his seven years of tennis, Ron has received USTA sectional ranking four years, has successfully coached several NCAA Division III men's and women's tennis teams to post season competition, and has competed in USTA National singles tournaments. Ron has trained at a number of tennis academies and with many of the game's leading instructors.

In addition to his full-time work as a professor at Albertus Magnus College, Ron photographs ATP tour events for a variety of organizations and publications. The name of his column, TurboTennis, stems from his methods to decrease the amount of time it takes to learn and master the game of tennis.


 

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