Tennis Grips Decoded: Mastering Your Racket for Every Shot

Tennis grips for Learn to play supplement

Adjusting the grip you take on a tennis racket is a way of altering the angle of the racket face as it meets the ball. Most of the time, as you trade forehands from the back of the court, you will have your own standard grip based on your strengths and weaknesses. This should change to a different, flatter grip for serves, volleys, smashes and slices. Both grips can be reversed to play backhands, while the two-handed backhand has a grip of its own.

A good way to understand different grips in detail is to move your hand around the handle of the racket in a clockwise motion. Left-handers should move the same distance anti-clockwise in all cases. Imagine that the top of the handle (ie the narrow side, looking down on the edge of the frame) is 12 o'clock.


The basic, neutral grip - known as a continental grip - is formed by placing your hand on the racket so that the V formed by your thumb and forefinger are at roughly 11 o'clock (or one o'clock if you're left-handed). This is the flat grip you would use to serve, volley or smash. You can also use it to slice a delicate dropshot from the back of the court, as it allows you to hit down on the ball, punching through it to impart backspin.


Move your hand clockwise around the racket, so that the thumb-finger V is somewhere between 12 and one o'clock. This is an eastern grip, which is similar to what you would get by "shaking hands" with the racket in a very relaxed way. This allows for a small amount of racket acceleration up the back of the ball, which will spin it slightly, keeping the ball relatively flat.


If you move your hand further round, the wrist comes into play, and it puts the racket into a much deeper position, which allows you to hit up the back of the ball a lot more and generate more spin. If the V is between two and three o'clock, you're using a semi-western forehand. Somewhere around here is the ideal grip for the modern game, where you're trying to generate both spin and weight of shot through the ball.

Full western

With the V anywhere beyond three o'clock, you'd be playing a full western forehand, which is what a lot of the clay-court Spanish players use. In fact, they twist their grip so far that they actually hit the ball with the opposite face of the racket, which generates an awful lot of racket speed and lines up the strings, so they can spin the ball in a steep low-to-high movement.


To change your grip from a forehand to a one-handed backhand, use the clock principle, starting again from the continental grip but this time moving the same amounts anti-clockwise, depending on how much spin you wish to impart. In practice, most one-handed players stick with a roughly eastern backhand.

Two-handed backhand

Using a two-handed backhand is a bit like playing a forehand with your wrong hand, so for right-handed players, the left hand does all the work and the right is there solely for support. There are three or four different grips you can use, but a standard two-handed backhand would position the right hand in a neutral continental grip, while the left hand would adopt an eastern forehand grip higher up the racket handle.

Now try this ...

The problem with most two-handed backhands is that the dominant hand thinks it is the one that plays the shot. A great way of practising is to take your racket in the two-handed grip then remove your right hand and practise playing left-handed forehands, swinging low to high, while keeping your left hand at the top of the grip. This will teach the weaker hand to control its swing when you eventually put the other hand back on again.

What am I doing wrong?

A classic mistake people make with their grip is not bringing the racket back to their non-dominant hand to help them change it. As a result, they often stay in the grip of the shot that they hit most often (usually the forehand), and then have problems with their backhand because they haven't changed grip.

Get into a habit of touching the throat of your racket with your non-racket hand after every single forehand shot. With a bit of practise, your non-dominant hand will take the full weight of the racket and your dominant hand will be free to move all the way around the grip depending on what shot you think is best to play next.

Here is a good video on grips.


Embrace the challenge, cherish the game, and remember, at 10is Academy, every shot is an opportunity to improve.