If you’re new to tennis one of the very first grips you’ll likely be taught is the continental grip. This grip is unique because it’s the one grip that virtually all tennis players have in common for their serves and volleys.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the continental tennis grip, how you should hold it and what it’s useful for.
The Continental Grip
Back in the day, when dresses and pants were a common sight on the tennis court, the continental grip was the predominant grip amongst tennis players for all tennis shots.
The continental grip was convenient, in that players didn’t have to change their grip throughout a point as they moved from stroke to stroke, however at the same time the grip was extremely limiting due to the fact that little or no topspin could be generated when hitting.
While it’s hard to imagine using this grip for groundstrokes, it was actually quite appropriate for the times considering the available racquet and ball technology.
Of course, as the game of tennis evolved and play became more aggressive, the continental grip became less popular for groundstrokes, but it’s still the gold standard for many tennis shots.
Holding A Continental Grip
The first time you’re introduced to the continental grip you might be told to “shake hands with the racquet,” or to “hold the racquet like it’s a hammer,” in order to form the proper grip.
Nine times out of ten these suggestions will get you pretty darn close to the actual grip. Perhaps more importantly, these sayings provide new players with an easy way to remember the proper grip once it’s been taught.
However, in order to get more specific, it can be helpful to recognize that tennis racquet handles form roughly the shape of an octagon, which simply means that the racquet handle has eight sides or bevels, just like a stop sign.
If we label each bevel of the racquet handle, as we’ve done in the diagram below, we can easily find the continental grip. If you’re right handed simply place the palm side of your index finger’s knuckle against the second bevel or if you’re left handed against the eighth bevel.
In many cases, especially after you’ve been playing with a continental grip for a while, you may notice that raising your index finger about ¼ to ½ inch up the handle, can provide more control and stability when moving the racquet.
Why Is The Continental Grip So Effective?
One of the main reason the continental grip is so effective lies in the angle of the tennis racquet when holding the grip.
If you think about it, when you change grips what you’re really changing is the angle of the face of your racquet when you’re hitting the ball.
With the continental grip, the angle of the tennis racquet is neutral, which simply means the frame of the racquet when you hold it out in front of you is perpendicular with the ground.
An open racquet face is one that angles up towards the sky, while a closed racquet face is one that angles towards the ground, such as with a semi-western forehand grip.
Ultimately, this neutral angle affords players a great amount of flexibility when hitting different types of tennis shots.
Tennis Shots With The Continental Grip
The continental grip is easily the most versatile grip in tennis as it can be used for a wide rage of tennis shots. While the most common shots it’s used for are the serve and volleys, it’s also the ideal grip for half volleys, overheads, slice and chip shots.
On your serve, the continental grip and neutral racquet face, allows you hit a hard flat serve, a kick serve by hitting up on the ball to generate spin as well as a slice serve by brushing the side of the ball – all with one grip. The same holds true for hitting overheads.
Similarly, the continental grip is handy for volleys because it allows you to block the tennis ball back with a racquet face that can easily be adjusted slightly open to ensure you don’t dump the ball in the net, or pop the ball up in the air.
The continental grip is also important for volleys as it allows players to hit a forehand or a backhand volley without changing their grip, which can be critical as things happen quickly at the net, leaving you with very little time to react.
Lastly, the continental grip is also great for slice and chip shots as the neutral racquet face allows you to hit slightly under the ball to generate backspin.
Should I Use a Continental Grip
Yes, without a doubt. If you’re looking to develop your game it’s important to take the time to become familiar with the continental grip as it is fundamental to many shots in tennis.
However, it’s not a recommended grip for hitting a forehand. It’s extremely difficult to generate topspin with a continental grip, so you’ll want to introduce yourself to the eastern, semi-western or western tennis grip for your forehand.
Have questions about the continental tennis grip? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to help!
Photo Credit: FedererFan07
Serve EssentialsA step-by-step course to develop and improve your serve
- Part 1: Technique
A step-by-step guide to building your serve from the ground up.
- Part 2: Fundamentals
Learn the core principles that are common among all great servers.
- Part 3: Drills
Practice essential drills to help bring your serve to life with ease.