When you’re working on your tennis game, improving some small details can have a big impact on your overall level. Whether you are an advanced player or a beginner, holding the racquet with the right grip is extremely important.
During the 15 years I played tennis competitively, I went through a lot of struggles when it came to my grips. I’ve changed my grip unintentionally a few times because I was getting used to a different court surface; at other times, I changed it because I was trying to avoid touching a blister I had in one of my hands. Even worse, there were times I changed my grip just because my brain woke up that day and decided it wanted me to change my grip. Regardless of the reason, every time my grip changed, I had to go back a few steps and make the necessary corrections on my game. Those corrections sometimes take weeks – and trust me, the last thing you want is to have to fix a forehand or serve right before a competition.
As you become older and more experienced, your grip starts changing less and less. Your muscle memory becomes stronger and accidental changes happen less frequently. However, we are all exposed to a few unfortunate and unintentional changes. And sometimes, you may try to change a grip because you think that it is going to improve your game. In any case, it is important that you are knowledgeable of the different kinds of grip and the best ones for your game. With a good foundation, you will be able to reach your peak a lot faster.
In this article, we wanted to cover everything related to tennis racket grips. By the time you’re done reading, you should be ready to go back to the court and start practicing.
How To Hold A Tennis Racket
When learning how to hold a tennis racket, it is important to first understand the grip of your racket. In short, grip might mean two things: 1) the part of your racket which you hold; and 2) the way or position in which you hold your racket. I’ll cover the 2nd definition later, so now let’s focus on the 1st.
Every tennis racket has a grip (or handle) with 8 different sides. Each one of these sides is called a bevel, and they are numbered from 1 to 8 for easier identification. As you rotate your hand around those bevels, you will end up with your hands in a new position or grip.
This is the second definition of the word grip in tennis. Some grips are widely used by players, so they have their own name (Continental, Eastern, Western) – which I will explain later.
As you can see in the images below, the bevels are numbered differently for right-handed players and left-handed ones. However, one numeration is just a “mirrored reflection” of the other.
The important thing to know is that there is no universally perfect way to hold a tennis racket and that each grip will have its own benefits and drawbacks. We will cover them below.
Tennis Grip Styles
A particular grip style is determined by which bevel your index finger and heel pad lay on. Players normally adopt one grip style for each stroke (serve, backhand, forehand) and change the grip according to each shot they hit.
Throughout time, a few grips have emerged as the most prevalent grips adopted by players. Some of them are better suited for slower courts (since they generate more topspin) while others are better for fast courts. Below we will cover all the important grips and their pros and cons.
The Continental grip is the foundation of every beginner tennis player’s game. Since this grip is ideal for shots like serves, slices, volleys, and overheads, beginners end up using this grip for every stroke so they don’t have to worry about changing grips.
In order to use a Continental grip, you should hold your racket as if you were “giving it a handshake”. The bottom of your index finger should be right on bevel #2. The Continental grip is excellent for hitting shots that do not require much topspin, like serves, volleys, slices, and overheads.
In the past, players used to serve and volley more often and therefore used Continental grips all around. However, modern tennis players need to hit heavier shots, which means they need more topspin. Since it can be very tricky to add topspin to groundstrokes when using a Continental grip, players usually tend to choose either Eastern or Western grips for shots like forehands and backhands.
- Shots: Serve, Slices, Volleys, Overheads
- Ideal For: Shots that require quick reflexes and that don’t require much topspin
- Drawback: Hard to generate topspin
- Bevel: #2
Eastern Forehand Grip
The next grip on the scale is the Eastern Forehand grip. You just need to rotate the racket one bevel (counterclockwise for right-handers, clockwise for lefthanders), which means that the base of your index finger should lay on bevel #3.
The Eastern Forehand group allows players to hit forehands with more topspin than Continental grips, yet less than Semi-Western ones. The Eastern forehand grip is great if you play mostly on fast surfaces, since it allows you to hit flat shots and to quickly switch grips between forehand and serves or slices.
While this grip is more popular than the Continental grip, it is not used by many players. The reason behind it is that it can cause a lot of stress on your wrist. Juan Martin del Potro is the only player who hits forehands with a true Eastern grip, and he has had to have several wrist surgeries because of that. Roger Federer hits his forehands with a grip that resembles the Eastern grip, yet it is slightly modified.
- Shots: Forehand
- Ideal For: Flat groundstrokes and fast courts. Quick changes from continental grip
- Drawbacks: Might cause wrist injuries and doesn’t generate topspin easily
- Bevel: #3
Semi Western Forehand Grip
The Semi Western Forehand grip is located one rotation after the Eastern grip, which means that the base of your index finger should be on bevel #4. This grip is probably the most popular forehand grip among professional players, as it is an all-surface grip.
When compared to the Eastern grip, the Semi-Western grip allows players to add much more topspin, while adding less stress to the player’s wrist. The drawback of using this grip is that it can be slightly challenging to hit shots close to the ground and to change your grip quickly.
Players like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Stan Wawrinka all use either a Semi-Western grip or a slight variation of it.
- Shots: Forehand
- Ideal For: Heavy topspin shots. More topspin than Eastern but easier to hit low shots than Western.
- Drawbacks: Slower changes from Continental and hard to hit shots close to the ground
- Bevel: #4
Full Western Grip
The next and last forehand grip is the Western Grip. In order to hit it, your index finger should be laying on bevel #5. It is on the end of the forehand spectrum, and it may seem weird at first.
The more you rotate the racket, the easier it is to add topspin to your forehand. As such, this grip is ideal for players who have a solid baseline game and play on slow courts that require a lot of topspin. However, it also becomes even more difficult to change grips and to hit shots close to the ground.
This is also a fairly popular grip among tennis players. Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev are among the players who use the Western grip.
- Shots: Forehand
- Ideal For: Most topspin of all grips, good for slow and bouncy courts
- Drawbacks: Quite challenging to hit low shots and change grip from continental
- Bevel: #5
Eastern Backhand Grip
The Eastern Backhand grip is a popular choice among players who hit one-handed backhands. This grip is characterized by positioning the base of your index finger on bevel #1. Remember that, for a backhand, the back of your hand will be facing your opponent.
This grip allows for easy grip changes if the player uses the Western grip for his forehand. The only thing a player needs to do then is to switch the face of the racket, while still maintaining the same grip.
Roger Federer and Stefanos Tsitsipas both use the Eastern Backhand grip or a slight variation of it.
- Shots: One-Handed Backhand
- Ideal For: Flatter backhands and quick changes from Continental grip
- Drawbacks: Not as much topspin as Semi-Western
- Bevel: #1
Semi-Western Backhand Grip
The next backhand grip on the scale is the Semi-Western backhand grip. It is also a grip for one-handed players, and it allows players to add more topspin to their backhand shots. However, this grip is located on bevel #8, which means that players need to execute a bigger change when going from a backhand slice to a backhand topspin.
If the player uses a Semi-Western grip for the forehand as well, he or she doesn’t need to change the grip between shots. All that she needs to do is to change the face of the racket.
While some current professional players use grips close to the Semi-Western one, no player uses a full Semi-Western grip.
- Shots: One-Handed Backhand
- Ideal For: Heavy topspin shots and players with Semi-Western forehand grips
- Drawbacks: More difficult changes from Continental grip.
- Bevel: #8
Double-Handed Backhand Grip
Finally, we arrive at the traditional Double-Handed Backhand grip. It has become the most popular grip on the professional tour, as more and more players develop two-handed backhands.
This grip is characterized by positioning the player’s dominant hand’s index finger on bevel #2 and the index finger of the non-dominant hand on bevel #6. Notice that, in order to switch to a continental grip, all the player needs to do is remove the non-dominant hand.
While this is the standard grip for double-handed backhands, players use all sorts of variations that allow them to optimize their overall game.
- Shots: Double-Handed Backhand
- Ideal For: All-Around game
- Drawbacks: Less topspin and less reach than one-handed
- Bevel: 2 & 6
Tennis Grip Size
Now that we have covered the best ways to hold a tennis racket, we should cover another important aspect of your tennis grip: the grip size. Each racket can be purchased with different grip sizes, and it is important that you choose the right one. A grip that is too small will require extra strength in order to keep the racket from spinning in your hand. A grip that is too big will make it difficult to change grips and will make adding spin to your shots more difficult. In the long run, using a racket with the wrong grip size can cause injuries – including tennis elbow.
Grip Sizes Chart
When you’re looking for a racket, you will usually find options with the following grips sizes:
|Grip Size – USA (in inches)||Grip Size – European||Size in Millimeters|
|4||0||100 – 103 mm|
|4 1/8||1||103 – 106 mm|
|4 1/4||2||106 – 110 mm|
|4 3/8||3||110 – 113 mm|
|4 1/2||4||113 – 118 mm|
|4 5/8||5||118 – 120 mm|
How To Measure Your Tennis Grip Size
When searching for the right grip size for you, there are generally 3 different ways you can find it. The first one involves using tennis rackets, the second one involves using a ruler, and the third one requires a printer. We’ll cover each method below.
- Index Finger Method: The first method to measure your tennis grip size requires a few tennis rackets with different grip sizes. You should align the palm of your hand with your racket’s strings. Then, slide down your hand to the grip, and hold it as if you were hitting a forehand. The bottom of your index finger should be laying on bevel #3. As you hold on to the racket, you should try to fit the index finger of your non-dominant hand into the space between your ring finger and the palm of your hand holding the racket. Your index finger should fit just right. If the space is too big, the grip is too big. If the space is too small, the grip is too small.
- Ruler Method: The second method is easier and requires only your hand and a ruler. In order to determine the right grip size, you should open your hand while keeping your fingers together. You should then use the ruler to measure the distance between the top of your ring finger and the bottom lateral crease on your hand. This space will be generally between 4 and 4 ⅝ inches. You should then find the appropriate grip size based on the chart above.
- Chart Method: The third and final method requires a printer and US Letter sized printing paper. Wilson has a useful chart which you can print here, and all you need to do is fit your hand in the chart. You will know the best grip size for you if you follow this method correctly. If you can, however, I recommend you follow one of the first two methods as this one is susceptible to image scaling errors.
If you follow one of the methods mentioned above, you should be able to measure and identify the best tennis grip size for you. Notice that you can usually find a racket’s grip size either at the bottom cap of the grip or at the racket specs section printed below the racket’s head.
If you find that your hand falls between two sizes mentioned below, you should choose the smaller of the two grips. The reason behind that is that you can always make a grip thicker by adding overgrips, while you cannot make a grip thinner.
After learning about grip styles and grip sizes, the final thing you should pay attention to is the racket’s overgrip. When you buy a new tennis racket, it usually just comes with a black or white built-in grip. Players usually add overgrips on top of the grips, whether to improve sweat absorption or to increase thickness and/or comfort.
While grips usually have a sticky side, overgrips only have a tiny sticky portion in one of its sides. You can find dozens of different overgrip options out there from all sorts of different brands, but essentially you can divide all of them into 3 different categories: dry, tacky, and all-around. Each one of them has different benefits, and you should choose the one that best fits your game. Below we will cover each one of the 3 categories.
On a side note, you should usually stick to white or light blue overgrips. The majority of professional and advanced players choose these colors, and you can be seen as a beginner if you choose different colors.
Tennis Dry Overgrips
These overgrips are excellent for players who tend to sweat a lot or who normally play in humid weather. They are generally thinner and absorb moisture extremely well, giving you great control of your racket – even if you are drenched in sweat.
Unfortunately, I’ve gone through the experience of cracking a few rackets after they slipped out of my hand after a serve. Trust me, it’s a horrible feeling and you don’t want to go through that mistake. These dry grips really help to avoid that, so if you tend to sweat when you’re playing you might want to try these. The best dry grips I would recommend are from Tourna Grip, and you can get them for some nice prices on Tennis Warehouse.
The drawback of these grips is that, since they are thinner, they can get old fairly quickly and you might need to change them often. If that doesn’t sound good to you, you can try some Tacky or All-Around overgrips.
Tennis Tacky Overgrips
Tacky overgrips are on the other end of the spectrum, and they usually have a very “sticky” feel. They will give you a good grip on your racket at all times, and they are usually nicely cushioned and last longer than dry grips.
I’ve personally used tacky overgrips throughout most of my career, as I loved the feeling I got when using them. I’ve never struggled with sweat too much, so the tacky overgrips provided me with the perfect grip. The best brands I recommend for tacky overgrips are Tourna Grip and Wilson. I’ve used both in the past and they are equally good. I find the Tourna Grip one to be the tackiest of both, but the Wilson overgrips are slightly cheaper. They are both good and you can also get them cheap on Tennis Warehouse.
Tennis All-Around Overgrips
Finally, you also have the option of choosing all-around overgrips. They are a mix between both Dry and Tacky overgrips, as they start off with a tacky feel and turning into a drier grip after a few uses. They are a good option if you’re not particularly passionate about any of the two overgrips mentioned above.
The best option of all-around overgrips is Babolat’s Pro Tour, as they provide both the tacky feel and still are considered very absorbent.
How To Regrip A Tennis Racquet
If you’re looking to make your overall grip a little thicker or if your old grip has gotten too dry, it may be time for you to replace or add an overgrip. It is very easy to do so and you can do it yourself by following the instructions on the short video below.