Chapter 6: Grip And Racquet Position

The way you hold your racquet in your hand for a particular shot is called your “grip.”

Players usually have a “forehand grip,” a “backhand grip,” and some slight variations for serve and volleys.

Through the methods in this book grip changes become automatic, as part of the feel of each particular stroke.

To learn your basic grip and racquet position stick your index finger through the throat opening of the racquet, as shown in these pictures.

Put the racquet butt by your bellybutton, as shown below.

Look ahead–not at your racquet. “Feel” the grip. Your fingers should be comfortable, slightly spread apart. The left hand is in front of the right hand. The position of your left hand can vary, according to your liking, and it might adjust itself as you learn. The racquet is pointing forward, slightly downward, held relaxedly, and the racquet face is fairly vertical (strings perpendicular to the ground).

An advanced choice

As a more advanced set of drills, or if the racquet by your belly button is not your most comfortable position, you can start now with the next set of instructions, which is more the way the top pros play today, even with the racquet quite loose, to accentuate the racquet head whip-like speed through the windshield-wiper stroke.

A) Start with your racquet face (the strings) slightly facing the ground and the butt of the racquet close to your right hip, as shown below.

B) Do a drill, starting as above, with the hand facing down as if petting a big dog, and bounce the ball down into the ground repeatedly with the strings parallel to the ground. Do it until you can comfortably control the ball for a continuous up and down rally. You may brush the ball a bit backwards (finding the ball with the hand, then bringing the strings to hit it) as if dribbling a basketball with a bit of backspin, to increase the contact time and your feel.

C) Now have a friend toss you the ball gently, point at it with the tip of your racquet while taking your hand a bit to your side, as shown in the first of the next sequence of pictures, then, applying the same feel as in drill B) come forward to meet the ball, while pulling the racquet around with a windshield-wiper rotation and backwards while lifting every part of your body to get the ball upwards with a forward roll, clearly clearing the net. The challenge here is to push the ball gently into your friend’s direction, at a comfortable speed where it can be caught comfortably. Most students think forward power is necessary, while actually the lift and rotation imparted to the ball are the most important elements in the development of a pro. Remember that tennis is a game of feel and that the memory of a top athlete is the feel within the body at contact and at the finish that allows them to repeat endlessly their favorite and most efficient and powerful shots.

Maria Sharapova
Rafael Nadal

Sharapova Forehand —-Rafael Nadal Forehand Finish

The left hand is basically helping you rest your racquet in both hands while are you not hitting the ball. This is formally called “the waiting position”, or more appropriately, the hands-waiting-position.

On a ball coming to your right side the left hand will release the racquet at some point after the bounce of the ball to let you swing at it. After the finish of the swing and observing where your ball landed, even if you were moving to cover the court you left open, the racquet will come back onto your left hand, again resting comfortably in both hands.

You can move your hand down bit by bit towards the end of the grip. On this basic or advanced grip and racquet position, make sure the racquet feels comfortable in your hands. I have purposely not shown closely the position of my right hand in some of the pictures because this varies from individual to individual. It is the player who chooses the exact grip, rather than the instructor doing it for the student. Choose what is most comfortable to you, not the teacher’s idea of what is best for you.

Somewhere in the learning process small grip changes occur. This is okay, since the person is adjusting to a more comfortable or more efficient grip.

This is in essence your forehand grip. There is nothing complicated about it. You don’t need to think about it, and you don’t need to look at it. It just needs to feel comfortable and secure.

You don’t need to grip your racquet tightly. Just keep it firm throughout the hit. You can vary the finger pressure accordingly, usually tightening up your fingers at impact time.

DRILL #1: After you learn the above, walk around the court, or your house, with the racquet in both hands as described, until you get used to this position of your arms while you move at slow and medium speeds around the court. For emergency and further reach, you may need to very briefly release the left hand from the racquet and to pump your arms like in a sprint.

Turn to your right, walk, turn to your left, walk, then get to the middle of the court and face the net. Repeat a few times.

In a short while you’ll be ready to play tennis. You need to keep your racquet in both hands as long as possible while you are waiting or running, so that you aren’t tempted to start your swing well before its time.

DRILL #2: At some point close your eyes while standing. Release you right hand from the grip and move it to the right side of your body, while keeping the racquet in position with your left hand. After a few seconds bring your right hand back onto the grip, getting the same feel as before. This way you’ll learn to find your grip without looking at it.

DRILL #3: After you developed certainty in the last drill, with your eyes still closed, release your right hand from the grip and move the racquet toward the left side of your body with your left hand. After a few seconds bring the racquet back to your bellybutton or to the position you chose before to be comfortable, and grip it again with your right hand, always feeling the same grip.

After a few repetitions do it with your eyes open, but without looking at your grip.

Just a few minutes doing each of these drills will groove-in your grip for life.

Backhand Grip

This two-hand resting position is also the basis for the two-handed backhand grip. In that stroke the driving hand is the left one, with the right hand accompanying the process, fairly relaxed, still keeping the forehand grip or any position comfortable. The hands are fairly close, or touching each other. You would start, as in the forehand grip, with the index of the left hand through the throat of the racquet, as shown in the picture below. Finish over the opposite shoulder.

Serena Williams
Rafael Nadal

Serena Williams Backhand – Rafael Nadal Backhand Finish

The power will be generated mostly by your left side. You could do the above drills this time alternating with your left hand alone holding the racquet first, then with the two hands on.

Should you choose a one-handed backhand, your grip will be different. This is explained in Chapter Nine, “The One-Handed Backhand.”

Section for coaches

Grips for modern strokes have changed quite a bit. While previously the preferred forehand grips were Continental and Eastern, now the Semi-Western and Full Western are the choice of most youngsters and of pros, as these permit them to generate topspin in a most natural and profound way.

How a grip is measured