Get a Grip
Choosing a grip to furnish ‘the good shape’
If you are going to play the game properly, you’ll need a forehand grip that encourages good technique – a grip that helps furnish the low-to-high, upwardly mobile shape we’ve just seen, and which allows us to nurture a similar dual action of up and through – for unique cocktails of power and spin – as seen in the animation below of Nole.
Let’s look at a few grips.
In 1 thru 3 you’ll see two magnifications of the Pete Sampras forehand grip (plus a side view – same grip, different year), in which the palm of Pete’s hand is behind the racket handle/grip.
This puts his thumb on top, though some way to the front.
This is an all-purpose forehand grip, which allows players to develop both flatter drives and also some topspin (see click-thru).
Unless you are already a confirmed heavy topspin merchant, this is a particularly good grip for first-time hitters of a tennis ball.
This is our Mystery Player.
Can you spot the difference between this grip and the previous one?
Flick 1 & 2 and you’ll notice that the palm is tucked further under the racket handle.
Consequently, the knuckle of the thumb isn’t quite as far to the front of the handle as Pete’s, and it sits more on top (of a racket that is edge-on to the ground – when referring to grips, it is always of a racket side-on to the ground).
This grip puts more potential arm strength under the racket, enabling the player to hit more forcefully upwards from low-to-high.
As forehands develop, and players start to hit with greater amounts of low-to-high topspin (coming a little later), many find the palm of their hand slipping further under the racket handle without any real encouragement.
This could be seen as organic progression, which enables a player to hit topspin with greater efficiency.
Grip 2 is a workable grip for most standards of player.
It doesn’t seem right using one of the all-time great tennis players as a cautionary tale for a bad forehand grip, but the grip you see now is best avoided.
Because too much is on top of the racket, which makes it more difficult to hit with topspin.
With the palm of the hand above the racket, this grip encourages players to hit down on the ball, for the choppy brand of forehand slice that belongs in the 1920’s or on a squash court – why am I not surprised that Stefan is also a top class squash player?
It’s helpful to compare this grip to the two previous ones, because if you understand the differences you can avoid the pitfalls.
Obviously, if you’re 90 years old and you’ve played with this grip since Churchill was a boy, it’s pointless changing.
But if you are new to the game, or young and eager enough to build a modern groundstroke game, you should consider moving to one of the other grips (and eventually beyond).
For me, this grip was Edberg’s great weakness and it rendered his ground-stroke game far less than it could’ve been.
However, it’s testament to his athletic ability that he achieved so much in spite of a weak forehand grip.