Having a correct grip for your forehand and backhand strokes in tennis is the key to hitting your shots with consistency and power.
An incorrect grip will always hold you back in some way when you’re hitting your strokes as it will force you to improvise in some way instead of allowing your body to swing in a bio-mechanically optimal way.
You also need to switch between forehand and one- and two-handed backhand grips quickly and efficiently as every tenth of a second lost fiddling with your grips increases the chance that you will hit the ball late.
While there are many ways of finding the right grip for your strokes, I want to show you one method that also helps you be more aware of the correct contact point for each stroke.
a) Semi-Western Forehand Grip
The following method helps you find a very comfortable Semi-Western forehand grip, which is a grip I recommend. You can also use an Eastern forehand grip, which is very reliable but might give you some problems on very high balls.
To find the Semi-Western forehand grip, hold your racquet by the throat in your non-dominant hand and extend it fully away from your body while keeping your arm straight.
The racquet needs to be horizontal with the head on the right side and the handle on the left side. The handle should be just in front of your right arm so you need to reach across your body with your non-dominant arm.
Then extend your dominant hand towards the handle and grip it in a very natural comfortable way without twisting your wrist.
You will then very likely hold the racquet with the Semi-Western forehand grip.
b) Eastern One-Handed Backhand Grip
The method for finding the Eastern grip for your one-handed backhand is very similar.
Hold the racquet again by the throat with your non-dominant hand, but this time the racquet needs to be oriented the other way, meaning that the head is on the left side and the handle on your right side.
Extend your non-dominant arm away from your body and keep the handle again just in front of your right arm.
Extend the right arm and comfortably and naturally grip the racquet handle.
You will very likely hold the racquet now with an Eastern one-handed backhand grip.
c) Two-Handed Backhand Grip
The method for finding the right grip for your two-handed backhand is very similar, and your objective is to eventually hold the racquet with an Eastern forehand grip with your non-dominant hand and with a Continental grip with your dominant hand.
Follow exactly the same procedure that I explained above for finding a one-handed backhand grip with one difference – this time, don’t extend your non-dominant arm fully away from your body but keep it very close with just a few inches of space between your body and your arm.
When you place your dominant hand now on top of the handle, it will naturally grip it with a Continental grip.
Then simply slide down your non-dominant hand in a very comfortable way to the handle, and you’ll very likely hold an Eastern forehand grip.
A common misconception when it comes to changing a grip is that you do it with your dominant hand. It does hold the handle differently, after all.
But we actually change the grip by using our non-dominant hand, which turns the racquet by the appropriate amount of rotation so that it’s oriented correctly for the backhand grip.
We simply let go of the racquet slightly with our dominant hand so that it can turn in the hand and then use our non-dominant hand to turn the racquet a bit.
We also initiate our backhand (whether one-handed or two-handed) by turning our shoulders. This very process will actually facilitate the racquet turning process as we perform both moves simultaneously.
Once we finish turning our shoulders, we’ll also finish turning the racquet handle by the correct degree of rotation and our dominant hand will feel that it’s holding the correct backhand grip now.
We can then just firm up the grip a bit and initiate our swing forward.
The process is very similar if you’re changing from a forehand grip to a two-handed backhand grip except that now you turn the racquet handle a bit less and your non-dominant hand eventually slides down the throat and grips the handle in an Eastern forehand grip.
The process of changing your grip from a forehand to a backhand grip should eventually be completely unconscious and automatic.
If you’re not changing the grip with your non-dominant hand or you’re still struggling with finding the right grip, then I suggest you practice that at home.
Practice changing your grip by simulating a more realistic situation as if you’re on a tennis court. Be in a ready position and do a small split step before initiating your grip change and the shoulder turn.
If you devote just a few minutes per day of practicing your grip change, you’ll soon make that process unconscious and likely find out that you now experience more time when preparing for the next shot.