What your forehand tennis grip means for shot depth and point of contact
The tennis grip for forehand, this crucial element connection between you, your racquet, and the ball. Take a moment to think about how you hold your tennis racquet when you hit a forehand. The feel of your hand palm likely brings a sense of comfort or reflects the way you enjoy playing.
How to hold a tennis racket forehand?
The grip selection that feels natural to you may differ from your tennis partners. For example, you probably hold your tennis racquet by using one of the six following grips: 1) continental, 2)eastern grip forehand, 3)semi-western, 4) western, or if you hit a double-handed forehand, you would use 5) and 6) submissive or dominant hand on top for double-handed forehands grips like Monica Seles and Marion Bartoli.
At Data Driven Sports Analytics, we decided to dig into more than 5000 matches between college-level and WTA/ATP tours to find more about the implication of forehand grip selection on depth shot and point of contact on the court. We share our data analysis in six diagrams, one for each forehand grip.
Let us start with the majority: close to two-thirds of men and almost 9 out of 10 women use the semi-western grip. We found that the utilization of the semi-western grip results in better depth. Balls hit with semi-western forehand grip land closer and inside to the baseline relative to players using other grips. For instance, almost one-third of balls land deep with the semi-western grip, as shown in our diagrams. In comparison, players using a continental grip hit one-quarter of their forehand deep.
The eastern forehand grip is the second most popular for both men and women. About a quarter of men use an eastern grip on their forehand, 7% for women. Those play closer or inside the baseline relative to players using the semi-western grip, hitting less than 1 out of 10 forehands extremely far behind the baseline. Our findings for the contact point on the court are similar for the rare breed using the continental grip like Stefan Edberg and John McEnroe. After all, players using continental or Eastern grips like to use the ball speed of the opponent. Therefore, they have less of a swing making it more advantageous for them to play further up in the court. Also, players using a continental grip hit only one-quarter of forehands deep, less than those using the eastern grip (30%) and semi-western grip (32%).
According to our findings, another finding that strikes out relates to players using a western grip like Karen Khachanov, as they hit slightly more than half of their balls behind the baseline. Particularly, players with western grip hit close to one forehand out of 5 at least 3.5M behind the baseline. One big reason for this court positioning is the need for more time to swing for players using a western grip.
CONTINENTAL & EASTERN GRIPS
SEMI WESTERN & WESTERN
SUBMISSIVE & DOMINANT HAND
Finally, less than 3% of tennis players use a two-hand forehand. Again, the subtlety relates to where you put your dominant and non-dominant hands on the racquet, ultimately impacting more where you positioned yourself when hitting on the court than the depth of the shot.
In summary, the old saying is simple: tell me how you hold your racquet, and I will tell you what kind of tennis player you are. We invite you to think about your forehand grip next time you go on the tennis court. Feel free to experience variations, for the better or, the worse. You may end up with various positioning, inside or behind the baseline, and hit different spots when your ball lands on the other side of the court. At the other end of the spectrum, talking to your friendly partner about his grip may give you clues about his game and what to expect from him when he hit forehands.