Forehand tennis grips
How you grip the tennis racket is a fundamental part of the game. A bad grip can cause technique problems and even injury. This is why it’s important for a coach to have a thorough knowledge of this subject. The grip can affect the quality of how you strike the ball, effects such as spin, and plays a role in the whole biomechanical process.
Definition and placement of the hand of the handle for different grips
A tennis grip is how you hold the racket, it’s the place where you position your hand on the handle of the racket. For each grip, it is important to keep your hand relaxed on the handle, and to have your index finger in a ‘trigger position’ slightly separated from the other fingers. We can distinguish different grips by where the hypothenar eminence is placed. You’ll notice that the racket’s handle is made up of several parts. The different sides of the handle are called bevels.
Here are the different forehand grips:
1 : the continental grip. hypothenar eminence placed between 1 and 2.
2 : the Australian forehand grip (half-closed). Placement of hypothenar eminence on 2.
3 : the Eastern forehand grip (closed). Placement of the hand further down on 3.
4 : the Semi-Western grip (very closed). Placement further down on 4.
5 : The western forehand grip (extreme), placement on 5.
To help you remember these terms take the racket in your hand, at a right-angle to the ground. When you turn the racket in your left hand (as a right-handed person) we’re closing the grip as it turns towards the ground.
The biomechanic role of each grip
The grip has a direct effect on movement and technique.
Here are some of the things that can change according to the grip used.
- Strike zone: The more closed the grip (the closer to 5), the further forward the strike zone. The more open the grip (closer to 1), the further back the strike zone will be, obviously remaining in front of the body.
- Swing angle: The more closed the grip, the more the swing angle will increase (under the ball before impact). With the strings turned towards the floor the racket should follow a more marked upwardly path to hit a low ball over the net.
- The stance: we know that open stances favor lift and increase the upward thrust, and squared stances accentuate forward motion and are more adapted to striking flat.. It’s is recommended to use open and semi-open stances with grips between 4 and 5 (Western and Semi-Western).
- The use of the wrist: we know that the wrist has an important role in striking. Many players delay racket head, and follow-up with the wrist to add speed. Biomechanically, the more open the grip is (closer to 1), the more difficult it is to lower the racket head under the wrist because it will be blocked.
- The release: we know that closed grips favor lift. The lift slows the speed of the ball so it is difficult to play fast with these grips, the player will probably force too much and miss the release.
- Elbow placement: The more closed the grip is, the more bent the arm will be at impact. Inversely, with a grip between 1 and 3, the arm can be outstretched on impact.
These elements can sometimes be weaknesses in players. It is important to remember that these faults always have a cause. The grip is often the cause of these technique problems.
Which grip to use for which forehand style?
We saw in the previous section that the more we close the grip (the closer we get to 5), the more lift we will have.
Here are the forehand styles that can be found and the grips used:
- The flat forehand (grip 1 and 2): it is a swing that is gradually disappearing. The evolution of the game, the equipment, and the physical abilities of the players are behind this. It is now possible in particular thanks to the equipment to swing very hard with great effect. They are now very few players using this swing. The young Australian Alex de Minaur is one of the last to play completely flat. He has a great counterattack. It uses grip 2, Australian forehand.
We can see as described above that his arm is outstretched and his strike zone is not very far forward.
All former players used these two grips, they have practically disappeared.
- The versatile forehand (grip 3): a large number of the players use this grip. Most of the time they use covered strikes, which are relatively quick but with a little lift, to keep the ball on the court. Juan Martin Del Potro uses this grip, he hits very hard and the trajectory is not very vertical so his ball isn’t too affected.
Roger Federer also uses this grip. His wrist is very flexible which also allows him to play with a lot of lift.
We see here that Del Potro does not have a large swing angle and can, therefore, strike hard with little effect.
Federer’s forehand is one of the best in the world.
Most players who use this grip are also able to change their grip slightly depending on the strike they intend to deliver and therefore have a full forehand.
- The lifted forehand (grip 4 and 5): A lot of players also use grip 4. These grips really favor lift, it is however very difficult to play flat. Some players using grip 4 are able to play fast strikes with little effect like Novak Djokovic, others are able to play very lifted like Rafael Nadal.
Novak Djokovic certainly has the most complete forehand on the circuit, capable of lifting, accelerating, defending, countering, passing … We can see that his strings are tilted towards the ground before striking.
Some players use grip 5, often clay court specialists who only play lifted forehands. This grip can limit the development of a player and also a source of injuries: there will be stress on the elbow and the wrist, which can cause pain.
In conclusion, the grip is a determining element in the training of a player. It is recommended to use grips 3 and 4 in order to have a full unrestricted forehand. However, there are exceptions. If a swing is effective and it has a natural progression, it is not recommended to change the grip, especially since with age, it is very difficult to add changes to a player’s technique.