Understanding tennis grips can really be a minefield.
With a range of different options to choose from, it can be difficult to know which to use for each different shot and find a comfortable way to hold your tennis racket.
When hitting your backhand, generally the weaker stroke for most players, this can become an issue.
Picture it, you are playing a match and your opponent approaches to your backhand side.
You are being rushed and your opponent is closing in to the net, forcing you to pick a grip and hit a passing shot quickly!
This can be quite stressful, and once you have shown a sign of weakness in this situation, your opponent will be sure to capitalize on this and keep plugging away at that backhand.
Therefore, it is very important to be able to change grips confidently and quickly in tennis, particularly on the backhand wing.
The eastern backhand grip is a very versatile way to hold the racket when hitting your backhand.
This commonly used grip allows you to hit both flatter drives and high, looping rips.
It is therefore by far the most common grip used to hit a one handed backhand and we at thetennisbros.com are here to explain why!
Now, you may be thinking ‘but wait, I hit a two handed backhand!’.
No problem, we’ve got you covered!
Whilst the eastern backhand grip is specifically for one handed backhands, the same principle applies for your top hand on your two handed backhand.
It’s just that when hitting a two hander, you’ll be using an eastern forehand grip with your non-dominant hand.
You may also be thinking, ‘how am I supposed to know which grip is the Eastern one?’ when I’m trying to concentrate in the middle of a match.
Well, we will break down exactly what the eastern backhand grip is, who it is for and exactly when to use it, to help you master your backhand today!
What is the Eastern Backhand Grip?
All of the great backhands from the best players in the world have a few common traits.
Full shoulder turn, early preparation, feet planted and a long, smooth swing.
However, one of the most overlooked aspects of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka’s fantastic backhands is their grips.
All of these players use either an eastern backhand grip for the one handers or an eastern forehand grip on their non-dominant hand for the two handers.
For the purposes of focusing on the eastern backhand grip, we will hone in on the single handed backhands.
There tends to be a lot more variation on the forehand side of most recreational and professional players.
Ranging from eastern to semi western to even some hitting full western grips.
By contrast, almost all players aiming to hit topspin on their backhands will hit with some variation of the eastern backhand grip.
It is worth setting some context so understand exactly how to hold your racket in an eastern backhand grip correctly.
As you hold your racket with the edge of the frame facing the floor, you may feel most comfortable gripping it with the V between your thumb and index finger in the exact middle of the racket’s grip.
Meaning this V will be pointing all the way up the length of the racket’s frame.
This is your continental or chopper grip, the grip you would use if you were to use your tennis racket to hammer in a nail or chop a block of wood (although we don’t you’d get very far)!
You’ll notice that the racket grip has 8 edges to it, an octagon shape.
As you look at the V of your hand, you will notice that V is covering the edge (or bevel) at the top of the grip.
These edges are larger and flatter on the top, bottom and sides of your grip.
If you are now to move your racket round clockwise in your hand, so that your index knuckle is covering the smaller edge or bevel on the left side, you will now be holding your racket in the eastern backhand grip.
In this grip, your racket should be pointed at roughly a 45° angle towards the ground, and as you hold your arm outstretched, you will be making a fist towards the oncoming ball.
The eastern backhand grip is ideal for one handed backhand players, allows you to drive through and flatten out the ball with ease, whilst also generating plenty of topspin just by adjusting your swing path and flexing your wrist.
When using this grip, you can decide whether you prefer to spread your hand further up the length of the grip, or keep it in more of a closed fist.
This is really a matter of personal preference, so feel free to pick whichever feels more comfortable for you!
So, now you understand what the eastern backhand grip is, we now need to know how to use it so you can improve your game!
How to Hit Backhands with an Eastern Backhand Grip
To use the eastern backhand grip, you need to start in the ready position, on your toes, with your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent.
This ensures you are ready to move in any direction, alert to incoming balls.
As the ball approaches your backhand, turn your shoulders, legs and hips to your left hand side (if you are right handed, or left hand side if you are left handed), and show your shoulder to the ball.
As you do this, you should turn your racket slightly clockwise in your hand, so you are now holding the eastern backhand grip.
The earlier you can do this the better. It is important to have good footwork here to move efficiently, so you can cover more ground in less steps.
Early preparation of your body and racket helps you to adjust to any unexpected bounces quickly, allows you to get behind the ball and time your backhand a lot easier!
So if you can get this preparation done before the ball has bounced on your side of the court, even better!
As the ball approaches you, lower your racket below the height of the ball in order to generate topspin.
Your eastern backhand grip should close off your racket face, meaning it is facing towards the ground.
As you drive up the back of the ball release your non-dominant hand and allow it to drive back behind you, this will help you with balance.
Your closed strings brushing the ball will generate topspin.
If you are looking to hit a flatter ball here, you’ll need to hit through the line of the ball, along a more horizontal racket path.
It will feel like you are pushing the ball back down the line it came from, driving it back into the court. This will allow you to hit a heavy, attacking ball.
A great tactic to use to take time away from your opponent, rushing them into an unforced error.
However, if your intention here is to hit a more loopy, high, ripping topspin ball here, you will be better off getting your racket as far underneath the ball as you can.
This will help you generate more upwards force on the ball, leading to more acceleration up the back of the ball and consequently, more height and topspin.
Hitting this shot is great to push your opponent back, and keep you in at least a neutral position in the point.
As you drive your racket up towards the ball, make sure to drive up with your legs to generate even more force.
Make sure to turn your racket and wrist as you make contact with the ball, in a windscreen wiper motion up the back of the ball.
This will help to keep your arm nice and relaxed, allowing you to brush the ball with ease and generate more spin.
When to Use It
The eastern backhand grip is mainly used for one handed backhand players when hitting topspin groundstrokes.
It is used for aggressive, flatter shots as well as more neutral trading balls and even high defensive balls or lobs.
It is therefore a very versatile grip that can be used in a wide range of situations on court.
If you are looking to hit your slice backhand, would be best off using a classic continental or slightly open continental grip.
There are different extremes of eastern backhand grips, with Dan Evans or Ivo Karlovic using a more neutral, relaxed grip and Richard Gasquet or Stan Wawrinka using a more extreme eastern grip.
However, they are all following the same principles described above.
So, the eastern backhand grip is a great one to learn, particularly when trying to master the art of the one handed backhand.
It is just as easy to whip the ball with topspin as it is to hit aggressively with power and end the point on your terms. We hope you get practicing it on court soon!
Overall, the eastern backhand grip is a widely used grip for good reason.
Its versatile nature and ease of use makes it a great grip to use for your one handed backhand.
If you can master the eastern backhand grip, you will certainly improve your one handed backhand and your tennis game!