Author Topic: Service Grip query - getting the most from one grip?  (Read 1584 times)

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Offline Stay Puft

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Service Grip query - getting the most from one grip?
« on: December 02, 2008, 03:28:28 PM »
Hello, my first post.... greetings from Scotland!

I am wondering what grips people on this forum use when serving, and more specifically what single (or slight variation) grip gives them more variety in their serve. When I was younger I stuck to a continental grip and used an unorthodox technique that did not utilise a fluent racquet drop. My service was however fairly consistent and accurate, but the unorthodox technique bugged me. Having just come back to tennis 14 years later at the age of 27, I have used my old serve style, but improved on seeing the ball at toss, keeping my tossing arm up for balance, and deadening my head on contact. My serve has been consistent, notably with my slice serves being hard to return. Yet once again the unorthodox stroke technique bugged me as it does not allow for variety in my serve, i.e. hitting with kick, flat, slice and top spin. I also have concerns I have been using my arm to generate power rather than a full rotation from legs upwards, which could cause injury. From previous tutoring and info from web sources and literature, it seems the eastern backhand is capable of offering a great variety of service shots.

On Sunday I undertook a basic relearning of my serve to improve my racquet drop, utilise pronation, and be able to give me these shots. I have changed to using the eastern backhand grip, which when first starting out looks like it will be impossible to hit with, but with the pronation and body rotation, seems to be effective. I played a casual game yesterday using my new serve and it worked, with only 2 double faults in 2 sets, and a nice slice. So right now I think it is the right way to go and I should build on this service technique, but what do you think?

Am I right to use the eastern backhand? Should I relearn using this grip, or have I made a mistake somewhere down the line… I don’t want to develop bad habits twice!! I have tried to study slow motion footage of pros like Fed too, and am pretty sure the eastern backhand is what they consistently use. I believe I have heard pros sometimes use an eastern forehand or continental for 1st serve flat serves though, and of course there are always difference between pros too. Any opinions would be greatly appreciated, and it would be nice to know what the general consensus is on service grips.

Thanks for your time.
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Offline Tennis4you

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Re: Service Grip query - getting the most from one grip?
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2008, 06:14:52 PM »
Welcome to the forums!

I use the continental grip for all of the serves regardless of spin, placement or speed.  If your grip different is big enough I think decent players will pick up on that and know what is coming before you hit it.

I personally think only the continental grip is needed.  I know very little about the eastern backhand grip so I will keep quiet about that one. 

In terms of any variation in the grip, I do not think one is needed there either, I believe you can hit all the serves you need to with just the continental.

You are right in trying not to develop bad habits twice.  Watching slow motion of Federer is like taking a lesson, well, almost.  If you have the time and $$$ it can only benefit you to take some lessons from a local pro.  :)
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Offline pawan89

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Re: Service Grip query - getting the most from one grip?
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2008, 06:19:17 PM »
Welcome to the forums :) and a great topic to start off with!
some of the more experienced posters will definitely help you out better but I'll tell you what I think.

There is no wrong grip to use. The continental is a fine grip to use as is the eatern backhand grip. Your problem seemed to have been the "unorthodox technique" and you don't elaborate on it much. you can have an "unorthodox technique"  with any grip and you can have an orthodox technique with any grip and neither of them guarantees that your service motion is right or wrong. There is efficiency and comfort and you want to find the balance between. Well efficiency should include comfort in it. You are problems are as far as I can tell, 1) getting power from the rest of your body and 2) getting more variety on serves. Now you can do both of these with the same "unorthodox technique" and the continental grip but obviously you want to find the best solution and that might not be it.
As far as grips are concerned, you nailed it. The eastern backhand, by design, naturally brushes up against the ball more (assuming you do toss it slightly behind and hit the ball on the way up and through) and gives you top spin. this serve usually kicks up too so the term in interchangebly used - well more true is the fact that a kick serve has huge topspin on it. you are right, more people would like to use this grip to get topspin especially on second serves because it gives you a larger margin for error and dips down quicker. The continental and even more of a forehand grip if you dare are easier to produce slice on the ball and go flatter. A little more risky but well worth the effort for strong serves.
As far as your technique goes, that's what determines if you are using your whole body. you want to stay lose, you want to put your weight into your serve, you want the arm to be just an instrument that hits the ball with the torso and legs and upper body providing the bulk of the mass thrown at the ball. You stay loose and you go into the ball and you automatically have good pronation which, unhindered, will give you a better follow through on the ball and give you a mroe fluent racquet drop, which you mentioned earlier is something that  is keeping your serve from being as good as it can be.


can't say any more specifically for your case but if I were to make a guess, I'd say toss the ball a tad bit higher. Some of the things you mention like using just your arm and not having a smooth racquet motion seem to be something that results when you are not tossing the ball low and are forced to just hit the ball with your arm becaue its coming back down too fast for you to get your body and full shoulder extention into the ball. Just my guess, might not be the problem at all. But you might want to try it just the same, this does afterall give you more time to bend your knees, arch your back, twist your upperbody and lets YOU uncoil at the ball instead of you having to react to the ball coming at you.

Hope what I said made some sense. I personally do what you said. When I am in form, I go for flatter and more accurately placed slice/flat serves with the continental grip. Second serves, and to mix up my serves, I go moderte to heavy backhand grip, gives me more kick and angles and is more dangerous than a similar speed flat serve.

Hope you stick along on the boards. You should also start a journal and post about your progress and how your tennis is going and get feedback from some really really good people on here, you'll learn a lot about your own game and also from others' games.  :)


Offline dmastous

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Re: Service Grip query - getting the most from one grip?
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2008, 08:07:23 PM »
I've been using a combination of continental, and backhand grip. I use the backhand grip if I want to get more spin, and the continental when I want to hit flatter (which has been rare these days).
The only other option is a forehand grip, ala Boris Becker. I've seen a number of people with a forehand grip that they use to hit a sort of lefty spinning serve right handed. I can't imagine you can get much power off of it, and once the returner figures out the spin, you are cooked.

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Offline monstertruck

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Re: Service Grip query - getting the most from one grip?
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2008, 10:48:25 PM »
I prefer the continental for all serves.
I can hit the kick, slice, and flat from the same toss with this grip.
In addition to using that particular grip, I also find it helpful to have a relaxed grip throughout the swing.
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Offline Stay Puft

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Re: Service Grip query - getting the most from one grip?
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2008, 03:55:48 AM »
Wow, thanks for the welcome to the board, and also for the advice... really interesting opinions.

My unorthodox technique was probably best explained by mentioning I would not complete a full racquet drop from the 'trophy pose' position, therefore I was swinging my arm around more to meet the ball rather than bringing my racquet from behind my back. I believe this would result in less power, and certainly less spin too. With my 'new' service technique, I am moving from the trophy pose to racquet drop to throwing of the arm slightly better, but it needs work. It's the bringing the racquet down my back which I find tricky, maybe I need to do some specific drills that integrate this positioning. Interestingly pawan89, you mentioned low balls toss.... so true, it is too low (I hit as the ball reaches the peak), that is another thing that needs to be developed. With my toss as it is, my complete service motion from transfer of weight on feet all the way to follow through, is fluent, but in a way I feel rushed. If I am to improve, I believe a higher toss may result in me staying in trophy pose a fraction longer, thus allowing me to bend my knees more then power from knees upwards. Fingers crossed!

Comfort wise, the eastern backhand does feel good to me. I use a single handed backhand with an eastern backhand, sometimes varying to towards an extreme (almost western backhand) when bounce is high and I'm feeling lucky, so I am accustomed to holding the racquet in this way. Therefore, this grip makes sense and doesn't seem unnatural/ uncomfortable.

Funnily enough dmastous, you mentioned the eastern forehand grip - with my older serve I occasionally switched to this when hitting first serves with more pace. And guess what, Boris Becker was my inspiration for playing tennis! The grip worked, but if I remember correctly I stood a little more open to the court. I even did the Becker 'back and forth' motion before serving for a while! I don't think I'll be going back to it anytime soon though.

If I was to prioritise what I want from my serve, I would definitely say spin and placement over power, with just one grip (to avoid telegraphing to my opponent as much as possible.) So it is good to know that both these grips enable slice, top and kick. Maybe for now I'll continue with the eastern backhand and see how it develops, try and form a fluid serving motion with a better balanced and timed trophy phase. Since each grip offers options though, hopefully in time I will experiment with each.

Thanks again, and hopefully there are things I will be able to share with others on the forum. Having returned to tennis recently, I have dived head first into studying the technique of shots, footwork, the mental game, and court strategy in order to improve my game, as well as a little on the science of racquets. It's all good fun but I'm becoming addicted!
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Offline jeffrx

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Re: Service Grip query - getting the most from one grip?
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2008, 10:20:31 AM »
I use a continental for all serves as well.  This covers flat, slice, kick, and topspin (although admittedly my kick serve pretty much sucks and my flat serve is not as fast as I would like).  My strong point is placement.  It seems to work pretty well and I don't see the need to change. 

Two of my opponents have been using what appears to be a semi-western grip on their serves, although I'm not sure if there is any advantage to this.  I have not spoken with them about it, but they have the same tennis instructor, who must truly believe in this. 

By the way, welcome to the forums!
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Offline Stay Puft

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Re: Service Grip query - getting the most from one grip?
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2008, 01:52:46 PM »
Well, I've stuck with the eastern backhand grip for around three practice sessions and a couple of matches (no offense continentals!) I'm improving very, very slowly but it is encouraging, and I'm in it for the long haul! Today was my most consistent session yet, although I do have one 'issue' that is puzzling me. I mentioned previously that I have never quite got a full racket drop when i go through the service motion. Well, it still seems to be a problem for me. Practicing serving from the racket drop position is fine, and the serve works great. But when i try to go from a trophy pose position (or anything in the motion before that) to the drop to the contact, it just isn't clicking. I don't do a full racket drop. The serve is still successful on the whole (it is usable for the level I am at), but I know a better racket drop will give me more pace and/or spin. I have improved my toss so it last longer, I don't feel rushed, so I don't think that is the problem.

I am wondering if anyone has any drill suggestions that can help me make the transition to a lower racket drop? Anything would be considered. i have been studying Sampras' service motion, his elbow gets so high its unbelievable! Considering I can't even get in this position without strain maybe some stretching and muscle development is in order.

Finally, the next time I practice I hope to video my motion and perhaps it will give me some answers as to where my technique is breaking down. Failing that, a raiding of the piggy bank might help me in affording the club coach for a session.
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