The Unnatural Grip Continued
Getting the service grip right from the outset is essential and to master it properly, it helps if you properly understand what’s happening and why.
A serve grip resembles a one-handed backhand grip used by Sampras (above), only now the thumb is aligned with the front of the racket’s hitting surface, rather than bolstering it from behind, as it does on Pete’s backhand.
And we use it because it seriously – unnaturally – abnormally? – angles the racket face, and power and spin can then be got(ten) from an in-flight un-angling of that racket face.
‘But why recommend a weak grip?’
It only feels weak because you’re new to it – you don’t yet know what it is for – and you can’t have full confidence in a technique you haven’t mastered.
The greater the unnatural angle on the racket face, the greater is the potential for serious power and spin.
In 1 & 2 we see the grip of another world class server and former Grand Slam Champion.
Any idea who it is? (I’ll leave you guessing – great serve, though).
This is a further example of a thumb-to-the-fore grip, giving us the required angle on the racket face,
Take another look at Martina Navratilova’s service grip, which likewise provides an angle – the trick now is to get rid of it.
‘What you chattin’? You want me to use a weak grip, to angle my racket head unnaturally… just so I can then get rid of it?’
Because the grip is the angle provider – and the angle is just the starter-position.
What’s important is the process of making this angle go away.
This un-angling process provides the magic we need, to turbo-power a serve. But before moving on, I first want to contradict myself.
A Starter Grip
In these two magnifications we see more of a transition grip.
‘I thought you said….’
… I did. But to prove I’m not an uncompromising stickler, I’ve included a grip that can be used as a sort of starter grip.
‘Is it from a bad serve?’
No, actually. It’s one of the best ever – probably be in my all-time top 5 service actions.
Click to the second image and you’ll see that the grip belongs to Boris Becker, who used it on a first serve.
Like Sampras, Boris had a relatively unique way of achieving power snap, which overcame the limitations of the grip – could the grip even be said to facilitate this unique approach ?(oh, the vagaries of tennis technique).
But Boris’ serve is a specific case study, and generally this is the closest to a forehand grip you should ever get on a serve (unless it’s Edberg’s forehand grip, below, which is pretty much ideal), as it deprives the user of (some of) the essential angle needed for the process.
Becker’s grip is also useful for younger beginners.
Boris’ serve has massive relevance for today’s players, and – health, wealth and time permitting – I hope to de-and-re-construct it at some point, because I believe a serve with Boris-type modifications can still furnish the world’s best serves for the now generation.
Anyhow, I’m galloping ahead of myself again.