The Continental Grip in Tennis
Grips can be one of the more confusing aspects of learning tennis for a beginner. As if the movement, rules, scoring and how to keep the damn ball in the court! One of the most fundamental grips in a tennis player’s arsenal is the continental grip, as it is very versatile and is the first grip that a lot of players will learn. But, you may not be using this simple but effective grip to its full potential!
How to Find the Continental Grip
The first thing you need to know about the continental grip is how to find it on the racket. In order to do this, simply hold your racket as if you were going to chop a piece of wood or hammer a nail with the side of the frame.
This chopping analogy is why the continental grip is commonly referred to as the ‘chopper’ grip! If you have the V between your thumb and index finger in line with the bevel 1 or 5 of your grip and the V is pointing towards the side of the frame, you’ve got it!
As you hold the racket in your hand, you should see the strings facing upwards as you extend your arm to hit a shot.
This gives the continental grip its characteristic affinity to slice shots, as you can hit downwards or underneath the ball and the backspin you generate will get the ball rising through the air.
The continental grip is one of the most fundamental but crucial grips any tennis player can master. It is the way that most beginners will learn how to hold a tennis racket in the first place, but what else is it used for?
What is the Continental Grip Used for?
As we have mentioned, the continental grip has a lot of uses on the court including the grip that most beginners will first be taught. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is the sheer versatility of the grip.
You can hit a vast number of shots including the serve, returns, slices, volleys and even conventional forehands and backhands with the continental grip.
First off, before players learn topspin they tend to learn how to hit the ball flat. If you can master the basic pendulum style of swing that will get the ball moving towards a target, you’re on the right track to become a consistent tennis player.
At the beginner stage, you may have slight variations of the continental grip one way or another to try and generate more topspin or backspin, but sticking close to the continental grip when you return to your ready position will serve you well.
Since the most simple and easy to learn motion to hit your groundstrokes will be an easy back and forward, you don’t need more than the continental grip to get things moving.
Of course, when you want to hit the ball harder and stop it from flying out of the court, learning how to brush up the back of the ball with a closed racket face is essential, but you can definitely learn the fundamentals of the game using the continental grip.
Whilst you may learn the fundamentals of tennis off the ground with the continental grip, many players actually use an eastern backhand or full western forehand grip to serve with when they first start.
This is because the most common service motion used by beginners, be it young children or adults that have taken to the game later in life is the ‘frying pan’ motion.
This makes sense, as you are giving the ball the best chance to go over the net and into the service box, since you are allowing the strings to face the back of the ball completely, giving you a flat hit.
This high margin for error technique is great for beginners just looking to get the ball in the court, but when you want to progress to hitting with more power, spin, disguise and placement, you have got to use the continental grip.
This is because it is a neutral way of holding the racket that gives you the most options when it comes to wrist placement and flexion.
With the continental grip, you can carve out slice serves, get kick serves rearing up at your opponents and really incorporate your legs and drive up at the ball giving you more power.
You can also fully pronate your wrist using the continental grip, giving you the maximum flexibility with your wrist placement.
Again, many recreational players will start off hitting their volleys with a frying pan technique as it can seem to be the easiest way to contact the ball cleanly without using the correct footwork patterns or shot technique.
Whilst this can work up to a certain level, as soon as the ball gets below the height of the players waist it becomes almost impossible to hit the ball cleanly.
This is why players should develop a sound volley technique that utilises the continental grip and allows them to change from forehand to backhand easily.
This gives players the maximum amount of control and allows them to hit all sorts of volleys using the exact same grip.
Hard, punching volleys that penetrate through the court, knifing volleys with a lot of slice that stay low and deft touch stop volleys with backspin can all be hit using the continental grip!
You’ll need to develop a solid volley technique to use the continental grip effectively though, as there are a few elements to get right before you can hit your volleys crisply.
First, you should keep your racket head above your wrist, so you can form a strong L shape between your racket, wrist and arm. This is the key to a strong volley and will stand you in good stead when taking the ball out of the air.
Next, remember to bend your knees as you’ll need to use your legs to reach low volleys and stretch for passing shots. This is essential if you want to remain consistent with keeping your racket about your wrist and maintain a solid technique.
Finally, remember not to swing too much when you’re hitting your volleys. The idea is to use your opponent’s pace and redirect the ball, but it can sometimes be tempting to take a big cut at the ball in the heat of the moment.
Focus on placement over power and you’ll have a lot more success up at the net.
One of the most useful ways in which you can use the continental grip is with the slice. On both wings this is a great way to get out of trouble.
You can also hit slice returns to work your way into a point, even blocking the ball back with a volley-like technique can be very effective against big servers.
The slice backhand tends to be used by most players more than the slice forehand, but both are essential to learn if you want to become a well rounded tennis player.
You may want to open your racket up a little more to get the strings facing higher as this will give you more backspin and more time to recover.
Make sure you hit through the slice to get it skidding through the court, as this will help the ball stay low, give it some extra bite and make it more difficult for your opponent to return.
A lot of players make the mistake of having their racket face too open and hitting completely down on the ball without their motion actually moving forwards towards their target.
This makes the ball float with not much pace and gives your opponent more time to get into position and attack your slower shot.
In order to hit through the slice effectively, it is essential that you have a full shoulder turn and get your racket back nice and high, so you can hit down and through the ball with your open racket face to generate the spin.
This is effectively the opposite of what we say to hit topspin, but works in the same sort of way.
The continental grip is a vital grip for any aspiring tennis player to master. It is used in a wide range of different situations, from serving to returning to volleying to defending.
It is a universal grip that can get you out of trouble anywhere in the court.
Whilst it may not immediately feel natural to hit shots like your volleys or your serve using the continental grip, learning how to do this along with the other technical and footwork aspects of these shots will massively enhance your game.
So, we hope you get comfortable using the continental grip out there on the court, you’re going to need it!
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