Tennis Grips 101: 8 Grip Styles Explained For Beginners

8 Grip Styles Explained For Beginners

You hit the court every single weekend.

You’re a good player.

What kind of grip are you using? Do you even know that there are different kinds?

Sadly, most beginner tennis players aren’t properly informed of the difference between grip styles and textures.

The reason for this is simple: it’s a game-changer, so the pro players want to keep the advantages all to themselves.

Depending on your style and how you grip your racket, you might benefit greatly from switching up your grip style.

We have eight grips to tell you about and this knowledge might help you elevate your game.

If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the tennis grips, we got you covered:

Grip Styles

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Ready to find out?

Let’s dive in.

Continental Grip

Tennis racket grips usually have a series of points of contact on the racket handle.

For the continental grip, this is an eight-point handle because it’s octagonal in shape.

Continental grips are often what is taught to beginners. It isn’t a basic or unsophisticated grip, but is a great place to start when learning the game.

Continental grips are used in all levels of play, from clubs to the pro circuit, so you can definitely stick with it for a while if you’d like.

With a continental grip you’re able to maintain a solid wrist position and definite control of the racket.

Overall, it’s the quintessential, common grip for most tennis rackets.

Eastern Forehand Grip

The eastern forehand is something you’ll see a lot in pro tennis matches.

It’s basically when you put your hand on the racket with a slight angle.

Instead of simply grasping around the handle as you would with a continental grip, you’re going to have your index finger a little forward, and your thumb/heel pad overlapping the rest of your fingers.

Your thumb will slightly protrude outward from the racket handle.

So what’s so special about this grip type?

The natural contact point is around the center of your hand, and it’s thought to put less stress on your joints depending on your overall playstyle (what types of hits you go for, etc.).

This is the same type of grip that Federer uses, and it’s because you can hit the ball a little flatter than with a continental grip.

During your match, you might switch up your grip type to optimize you for another shot.

Switching to the eastern forehand and then hitting a flat shot across will confuse your opponent, which is why it’s a great tool to have in your arsenal.

They’re not going to be expecting a straight shot, because that would normally be too easy—it’s going to bamboozle them.

Semi-Western Forehand Grip

Thought to be one of the more difficult grips in the game, the semi-western requires a lot of wrist strength.

You’re going to bend your wrist at about a 30° angle, and imitate some of the same motions we just saw in the eastern forehand grip.

Your thumb will protrude out from the rest of your fingers when stretched across the racket.

Your index is going to curl around the top of your grasp, while your bottom three fingers just sort of follow suit.

The semi-western requires an insane amount of wrist control, and that’s where the difficulty comes in.

When you hit that snap at the height of your shot, you’re putting a lot of strain on your wrist, and you risk an injury more often than using a different grip type.

That being said, it still has its perks. You have more control over the racket, and you can hit a slice shot with far more ease than other grip types.

While it’s not the most widely used, it does have its place in the pro circuit.

Your natural contact point rests between the thumb heel and your wrist, which is where you’ll feel a lot of pressure.

Master this by hitting your balls against a tennis ball machine first.

Western Forehand Grip

Your ability to rebound incoming shots will be insane once you get this grip style down.

You’re going to keep your hand very close to the hilt of your tennis racket for this entire grip style. If your hand slides up, push it back down.

Keep the knuckle of your index finger on the fifth contact point of your octagonal handle, and let your thumb gently reach across.

Your index will be far higher than your thumb. Your bottom three fingers will be a bit cramped but help with overall control.

Much like the semi-western, this has a lot of focus on wrist control—in fact, it has more.

Since your hand is lower on the handle of the racket, every bit of impact is going to be felt in your wrists.

That doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you can train your wrists properly for the occasion.

When you make contact with the ball or even swing the racket upward, more momentum is required to hit a good shot.

That’s because if you think about it, there’s more weight (more handle inches) above your hand than there was before.

One good way to practice this grip style is to get your wrist in the right position (30° angle), and move your entire forearm when you go to make a hit.

That will at least get you used to how you’re holding it, and from that point, you’ll be able to advance to predominant wrist control instead of arm movement.

Backhand

You’ve heard of the backhand and how it’s practically going extinct in tennis, but every now and again, it still creeps up to find its way into a pro game now and then.

Well, it’s the most simple grip you can imagine. Just put your hand on the bottom half of the racket handle, and reach all four fingers around at the same angle and stretch over the handle.

Then lean your thumb on your index finger, and you’re done. It’s simplistic because so is the move that it’s loosely based around: the underhand.

You train by swinging in a downward motion or with snap to your wrist, and a backhand grip isn’t designed for that.

It’s designed to use the back of the racket to sort of tap the ball over the net, and that’s just way too easy of a serve.

Your opponent is going to see right through this and basically defeat you right away. It’s a weak serve, but a type that you still need to know about.

Two-Handed Backhand Grip

Now we’re talking.

This can be used for a solid backhand if you’re not the one serving, which could give you enough power to really fly past your opponent.

The single-handed backhand just doesn’t pack enough heat, but this one uses both hands.

Place your dominant hand on the upper half of the grip. Grasp it firmly, allowing your thumb to greatly overlap your fingers.

You’ll want the index knuckle on the seventh point of your octagonal handle.

For your non-dominant hand, grip it around the base of the handle with your index knuckle slightly raised above your other fingers.

This will better help your thumb/index area contour to the heel pad of your dominant hand’s thumb.

The entire point of this style is to hit the ball back with a lot of momentum, and bring down the power, so to speak.

You’re going to use this when your opponent has a lot of speed on their side, and you need to find a way to counteract it.

Eastern Backhand Grip

Similar to the western backhand grip, you’re going to have a lot of control here and slight wrist mobility.

Put your index knuckle on the first contact point on your octagonal racket handle, and let your other three fingers grasp around the actual hilt of the racket.

You shouldn’t be able to see the hilt of the racket handle at all beneath your hand when you’re just looking at it normally.

Your thumb will drape across multiple contact points to lay across your bottom three fingers, leading your index isolated near the top.

This one is all about maintaining control.

There’s enough wrist movement available that you could hit some snapshots, but there’s also a little more rigid control since you don’t have to worry about the counterbalance weight from the hilt of the racket handle.

When you use this grip style, you’re also giving yourself a slightly longer response time required to hit your shots.

Use the eastern backhand grip if you’re fast on your feet and can travel the court like it’s nobody’s business.

Extreme Semi-Western Backhand Grip

It’s called eastern because it’s the opposite of the western hand grip.

Instead of having your hand on the left of the racket, you’ll have it on the right. The best way to describe how this is going to feel would be to do a little exercise right now.

Raise your right hand, and bend your wrist a little to the right. Extend all your fingers. Slowly, begin closing your hand from the pink to the index finger, keeping a loose grip.

That’s how your fingers are going to lay on the handle. Your index will be far above your middle finger from the angling we just described.

Your thumb doesn’t play as big a role here, because you’ll still maintain that loose grip across all your fingers.

When you release your grip, the handle should start to fall towards your pinky. It’s very precise for such a loose grip, right?

It’s not a commonly used grip but is seen a bit more in women’s tennis than means.

Pros will pull this out of the woodwork from time to time, but it’s usually something that’s best left to practice sessions.

By all means, you should learn it so it’s readily available in your tennis arsenal if the situation calls for it.

Which Grips Are Used by Pro Players?

Double Backhand

There are four primary grips used by the pros, and those are the semi-western forehand, eastern forehand, full western forehand, and the continental grip.

For the reasons we’ve outlined, they’re the best grips for total control. That includes your wrist, your arm, and your fingers having a solid grip on the racket.

As you might imagine, your hands are going to get pretty sweaty in the middle of a pro match, and as a result, you want a grip style that’s not going to falter when you need it most.

Pro tennis players have this excellent ability to snap the ball at lightning-fast speeds, which is why they don’t use some of these grips, like the backhand for example.

While we’re not saying you should only use these four grip styles if you want to go pro, we believe there’s a reason that you basically only see these types being used by them.

Overgrips vs. Replacement Grips

So the grip is running out on your tennis racket, and it’s time to fix it.

You’re basically met with these two options: overgrips or replacement grips.

You might have a great set of strings and a frame that’s not going to let you down, so you might be considering an overgrip.

Well, we’re going to explain why we’re a little bit biased towards replacement grips, while still pointing out the positive and negative attributes of each one.

OvergripsReplacement Grips
Category Overgrips offer the same control as a replacement grip for a short amount of time after applying. Because they aren’t secured in the same fashion, movement and vibration (tearing) can affect these more. You also need an under grip in order to have somewhere for this to stick onto, otherwise, your control will suffer.Replacement grips offer the best long-term control. There’s almost no worry about vibrations causing tears in the material. They also tend to be made out of stronger blends of the grip material. These don’t have to rely on an under grip; they technically are under the grip, so you won’t have to worry about the loss of control there.
ReplacementThey’re about as easy as you’re going to get. Just as the name suggests, it’s a grip that goes over your existing grip, and what could be easier? The application time is much quicker than replacement grips.These are egregious as can be to replace. It’s going to take a while to slap a new one of these on, which is why a lot of casual players will just opt for overgrips from time to time instead of replacing the entire thing.
Ease of UseThe ease of use is best broken up into two sections. It’s not easy to use after it’s begun to degrade, which will happen rather quickly after you use this for the first time. The other side of the spectrum is that these are a bit bulkier than replacement grips, so if you have smaller hands, you have to combat this fact.These keep the racket lightweight and don’t affect the total surface space of coverage. Technically, though it’s in small amounts, an overgrip gives you more surface space. That’s bad if you have small hands or you’re used to a certain kind of grip. These keep rackets the way they were meant to be used.

The reason we didn’t include a cost difference here is that it’s easy to explain.

You’ll replace overgrips twice as often, but replacement grips are twice the cost.

Either way, you’re going to spend the same amount of money for the same length of coverage from each type, so it’s just up to preference.

Your Style, Your Serve

Your grip says a lot about how you play the game, and that can be a good thing.

Some players are intimidated by others who practice with grips that are considered to be harder to use or expert level.

If you can psych out your opponent, then you’re already winning the mental portion of the battle.

Using stronger grips gets you used to a more structured, if not rigorously precise method of hitting the ball back.

Now that you know exactly what you need, it’s time to figure out how to get it.

Take a look at different grades of tennis rackets to figure out what works best for you, and give yourself an opportunity to elevate your game.

You’re already good, but your grip can help boost you just a little bit further. Don’t disregard the massively important change this could bring you.

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