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Tennis Techniques & Grips

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson we will discuss some of the various techniques and racket grips that are necessary for players to improve their tennis skills. We will also discuss the various shot types that players will have to make during the game.

The Tennis Grip

Tennis is a highly athletic game that also requires attention to basic fundamentals and techniques if one is to improve at the sport. Many experts believe the most overlooked aspect of the sport is the grip itself, which is a bit ironic considering the hand is the only connection the player has to the racket. There are three basic grips and then several variations of those basic holds. The three basic grips are the Continental, the Eastern, and the Western.

Adjusting the Grip

To understand the tennis grip it is crucial to picture that a tennis grip handle has eight sides to it, therefore it is in essence octagonal like a stop sign. A player can adjust the grip by moving his hand or hands one 'bevel' or 'notch' either to the left or right. The Continental grip is unique in that it can be used with all the shots, but in today's specialized era that is rare. In this grip the 'V' created by the thumb and the forefinger is pretty much atop the racket as we look down on it. The Eastern Forehand grip is very close to the Continental and entails rotating the hand just one bevel clockwise from the Continental. The Western Forehand is quite different than those two grips as it places the palm almost completely under the racket. The great and gregarious Jimmy Connors was known for his two-handed backhand and there many other variations of these three basic grips used by both average players and legendary champions.

Groundstrokes and Volleys

Once play has begun we witness the players hitting balls using various techniques including groundstrokes and volleys. Groundstrokes are usually hit with a full swing near the back edge of the court and can be hit on either side of the body as forehand shots and one or two handed backhand shots. Forehand and one handed backhand groundstrokes are commonly hit using an Eastern or Western grip, while a continental works well as the bottom of the two hands on a two handed backhand. From the baseline a player can also use the lob, which is a soft, high shot that the opponent may have to run after as it drops behind them.

If the player hits the shot before it touches the ground it is considered a volley, and if a player hits the ball just after it touches the ground it is a half volley. The continental grip is commonly used for volleys because it allows for a more firm grip to meet the ball in the air. A drop shot is kind of a 'trick shot' that is barely hit over the net so that the opponent must rush forward to try to reach it, sort of the opposite of the aforementioned lob. A smash is an overhead shot hit with force sort of like a serve but during the action.

Lindsay Davenport Sets Up to Hit A Two Handed Backhand
Lindsay Davenport Gets Set Up to Hit a Two-Handed Backhand

The Serve

The serve is one of the most important aspects of the game and unfortunately is one of the most difficult to master. It requires a unique blend of balance, rhythm, timing, power, and coordination along with mental toughness and concentration. The serve is where one may witness a multitude of odd styles and techniques, but there are some basic fundamentals that are generally followed. The right foot is placed parallel to the baseline with the left foot at a perpendicular. The preferred grip is usually the Continental but some use the Eastern. The toss is slightly forward and to the right, and then the player follows through smoothly to complete the serve.

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