Proper tennis playing technique involves holding the racket using certain grips. The choice of grips are up to your personal preference. Here are the main types of tennis grips (see accompanying pictures).


1. Eastern Forehand

The Eastern forehand grip is the classic grip most often taught to beginning students, and although it has been largely displaced on the pro tours by the Semi-Western grip, it is still used by many advanced players. It places your palm on the side plane of your handle, parallel to the plane of your strings. With your wrist straight and relaxed, the Eastern grip results in a vertical racquet face when your racquet is even with your front hip. For a classic swing style, this is the most natural and physically most secure relationship between body, racquet, and point of contact. The Eastern is also the most versatile forehand grip, because you can easily tilt upward for slice or keep the racquet face vertical to hit topspin. Many players find that they can hit heavier topspin and better handle the high kick of the opponent’s topspin with the more western grips, though, which accounts for the reduced popularity of the Eastern at the pro level.


2. Semi Western forehand

The Semi-Western grip places your palm on the lower right slant bevel, the plane 45 degrees clockwise (for a right-hander) from the plane of the strings. To counteract the resulting natural downward tilt of the racquet face, you must meet the ball slightly farther forward (at a given height) than you would with an Eastern grip, and while it’s possible to hit flat, you will generally need to swing upward more sharply, which encourages you to hit topspin. The average grip among the pros now is Semi-Western, primarily because of the importance of topspin in the modern, advanced game. The Semi-Western grip does well both at generating topspin and handling the high bounces from the opponent’s topspin. It is not well suited to hitting slice, and it’s less comforable on low than on high balls.


3. Western forehand

The Western grip places your palm on the bottom plane of your handle, a full 90 degrees clockwise from the plane of the string bed. This makes the racquet face tilt downward severely, and you must meet the ball even farther forward (at a given height) than you would with a Semi-Western grip to get the string bed into a vertical plane. The most natural swing pattern with a Western grip is sharply upward and very fast, which explains why most Western hitters generate heavy topspin. The Western grip handles high balls much better than low ones, in large part because a higher point of contact need not be as forward. It is possible for some players to hit flat with a Western grip, but doing so forces your wrist into a very awkward position. Hitting slice Western is only for the true contortionist.


4. Continental forehand

The Continental grip places your palm on the upper right slant bevel, 45 degrees counterclockwise from the Eastern. This makes the racquet face tend to tilt upward, which is especially appropriate for hitting slice. You can hit flat with the Continental, but you must meet the ball in a weaker position, slightly farther back, than with the Eastern. The Continental grip can be used for both forehands and backhands, but it’s rarely used anymore for forehands, because it’s poorly suited to hitting topspin. It was popular until the early 1970s, when the US Open and the Australian Open stopped playing on grass and left only Wimbledon to be dominated by the low bounces for which Continental grips are best adapted.


5. Hawaiian forehand

The Hawaiian grip places your palm 135 degrees clockwise from the Eastern, or 45 degrees farther west than the Western. The Western grip got its name from having evolved in California. What’s west of California (short of Asia)?

The Hawaiian grip is rarely used, but it had a moment in the spotlight when Alberto Berasategui used it to make the 1994 finals at Roland Garros, where he lost to Sergi Bruguera. One way to find the grip is to place your hand in a Continental position, then twist your wrist and forearm 180 degrees clockwise so that your knuckles are facing forward. Just trying this without hitting a ball can hurt a little, and actually getting the ball over the net requires a point of contact way out in front or quite high. To use this grip consistently, you must also whip upward severely, generating heavy topspin. As you might guess, the Hawaiian grip is unsuitable for hitting flat or slice.


6. Full eastern backhand

The Full Eastern backhand grip (sometimes called Western, but see below) centers your palm on the top plane of your racquet handle. This grip offers the most solid support for the racquet, whether you’re hitting topspin or slice, but it requires a point of contact well in front of your body, which causes some players to meet the ball too late. Such players often find the Eastern (sometimes called modified Eastern) grip a little easier.


7. Modified Eastern backhand

The Eastern (sometimes called Modified Eastern) grip centers your palm on the right edge of the top plane, just slightly clockwise of the Full Eastern. Compared to the Full Eastern, this grip is a bit less solid for topspin, but equally good for slice. It allows a point of contact several inches farther back than the Full Eastern, and for many players, that little bit of extra time makes it significantly easier.


8. Continental backhand

The Continental grip places your palm on the upper right slant bevel, 45 degrees clockwise from the Full Eastern. This makes the racquet face tend to tilt upward, which is appropriate for hitting slice. Hitting flat backhands with the Continental is fairly easy despite the weaker support of the racquet handle, and you can meet the ball through a wider range of points of contact, either farther back than you could with either Eastern grip, which gives you more time to prepare your shot, or as far forward as Eastern, which gives you more power than you would get farther back. Meeting the ball with a Continental grip at an Eastern point of contact requires a slightly awkward wrist position, though. The big drawback of the Continental grip is its limited suitability for hitting topspin, but many advanced players, including some pros, like to slice most backhands anyway, so Continental backhands are still fairly common.


9. Western backhand

The Western backhand grip centers your palm on the left edge of the top plane, counterclockwise from the Full Eastern, with which it is sometimes confused. Designed for hitting heavy topspin, it’s awkward for flat shots and even more awkward for slice. The Western backhand also requires a point of contact several inches farther forward than the Full Eastern. All of these limitations account for its rarity.

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