Top 10 Reasons to Avoid Serving with an Eastern Forehand Grip
David W. Smith, Senior Editor TennisOne
Stealing a page from David Letterman, I wanted to use his "Top 10" list to communicate the importance of learning to serve with the continental grip.
While there are some subtle variations in the use of the continental grip among pros, the foundation is clearly established, even among these evolved variants of the grip.
Perhaps more importantly, it is the almost universal stagnation that players meet when they first learn to serve and compete with the eastern forehand grip (EFG). I've mentioned this before in my books, TENNIS MASTERY and COACHING MASTERY: That one of the most identifiable traits among those players who languish at lower levels (below their potential) are the pervasive use of EFG (or “waiter’s” grip) on the serve.
Before I launch into my Top 10 list, I want to point out how many in the industry still perpetuate the use of the EFG. I don't mean to say that these professionals intentionally lead players astray; however, it is through the simple neglect of identifying the problems associated with the use of the grip that can lead so many to actually suggest its use by beginners.
I have over 100 books on tennis. In virtually every single book, the author, many whom are quite prolific in their recognition and contributions to tennis, suggests the initial use of the EFG.
Click photo: At the 3.0-3.5 level, the Eastern Forehand is the predominant service grip.
All of the instructors offer an initial or transitory method of learning the serve by first learning with the EFG. As you will see, this method of progression is not only flawed in general, it is really detrimental to any player who wishes to reach their true potential as it relates to the serve.
Top 10 Reasons
- Limiting: The angle of the racquet with the EFG is generally under the equator of the ball at extension. This severely limits the ability to create optimal spin, making it almost impossible for slice, hybrid, topspin, or kick serves to be executed.
- Swing Path: Because the EFG lays the racquet back (as in the "waiter's grip" position), the player will be forced to swing with the elbow leading the way through the contact zone. This inhibits the Kinetic Chain from being maximized and forces a linear swing path.
- Swing Speed: Because the racquet head is generally under the ball and behind the serving hand, the player can’t swing harder without the ball sailing longer and longer with progressively harder swings.
- Shin Bruises: Generally, players who use the EFG and try to swing hard often end up banging their shins with the racquet. This is because the EFG causes the player to have maximum racquet acceleration (when swinging harder) well after contact and actually down around the waist. Because the swing path is also more linear (swinging the racquet more in line with the target), this combination of swing path and faster acceleration at the waist ends up with players inadvertently hitting themselves on the leg. Not so much fun!
Second Serve Weakness: One of the big defining features of more advanced players is their ability to hit big, effective second serves. Players who use the EFG tend to have to slow their swing down to use gravity to bring the ball into the court (Because of Reason #10 above!).
- Lower Contact Point: Players who use the EFG tend to let the ball drop much lower than more advanced servers. This, combined with #4 below, creates a sense of “steering” the ball into the court because the player can’t create optimal axis-of-spin which, in turn, prohibits the player from being able to hit harder with more spin and create the greater downward arc into the court.
- Facing the Net: Because the racquet face using the EFG is laid back, the player must rotate very early and face the net to create the needed linear swing path for the serve to be directed towards the target.
- No Angular Momentum: The EFG won’t allow for the player to use body coil effectively and create angular or rotational momentum within the serve. Again, the player must use a linear swing to direct the ball.
- Shoulder and Rotator Cuff Problems: This is rare because players who use the EFG tend to learn they simply can’t swing hard at the serve. But, for those who think they can and do try to swing faster, the service motion places the shoulder in a weak and very inefficient position and can place tremendous strain on the shoulder joint.
And the number one reason to avoid serving with an Eastern Forehand Grip
- Change is frustrating, difficult, and nearly impossible for many! If we start playing tennis using this grip–and all the elements that are inherent to the serve using the EFG–then making a change once we have ingrained this grip and subsequent swing elements will be a serious undertaking. This is why so many players, even those who know they should learn and change to the continental grip, always revert back to their old, familiar EFG. I mean, who would want to play a match using something that is uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and usually not very effective (initially!) during a match they are trying to win?
From a more subjective standpoint, the most difficult students to help learn to serve well have always been those who were first taught (or first taught themselves) to serve using the EFG. One of the problems with so many people who try to teach themselves tennis is that the EFG feels so much more comfortable to most beginners. Facing the net, swinging in a linear path towards the target always feels more "right" than standing sideways, swinging more across the ball, and hitting with spin that makes the ball curve away from the intended target. It takes time to learn these elements as well as to understand how the different spins will effect the flight of the ball. This is why I always teach my beginners the slice serve with the continental grip first. I want them to gain a feel for the grip, the spin, the action on the ball, etc. (See my series on "Training an 8-Year Old in the TennisOne lesson library.")
Using the EFG won’t prohibit anyone from playing tennis. In fact, there are literally millions of 3.0 and 3.5 players who have been playing for decades using this service grip! Yet, if you GOAL is to become the best tennis player you can be, this grip will severely limit you progression.
If we can all agree that the more advanced grip is the continental (which it is) and that pros and skilled players alike use this grip to augment their service patterns, then it makes no sense at all for a student of the game who wishes to become a skilled player to avoid this grip. Consider this: If we somehow believe that the EFG is better suited for beginners, yet we all also admit that if the player is indeed to become more effective as a server by changing to the continental grip, the question I have for you is “WHEN?”
When would a player suddenly decide to make this change? One year? Ten Years? More? We can easily see the problem especially if we look at a player who is now playing “competitively” with the EFG. (This level of competitiveness is certainly within the limitations I’ve outlined.) If we are now playing competitively Why would one need to change?
The reason is simple: There are many levels of competitive play just as there are many levels of skilled execution in any sport. Most people would like to keep improving and play at a level consistent with their potential. use the analogy of a piano player: Would a person learn to play the piano with only their two index fingers if they ever wanted to play the instrument within their potential? Of course not. Then why would we start tennis players off with a flawed or limiting grip which would do the same thing?
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
The Ball Toss
It is widely agreed by many coaches and players that the serve is the most important shot in tennis, and the ball toss is perhaps the most difficult yet important component of the serve. The serve is like a fingerprint, with no two being identical yet, in this video analysis, Christophe Delavaut, shows you how most top professionals make the exact same movements so they can toss the ball consistently in the same spot time and time again.
Racquet Face Awareness and the Floating Grip
There are many technical aspects of the game that have a feel component. One such "feel" is Racquet Face Awareness. Racquet Face Awareness is the ability for a player to feel and use subtle changes to the angle of the racquet to change the characteristics of a specific shot. But there is an impediment many club players face that inhibits their Racquet Face Awareness and that is "The Floating Grip." But is a floating grip necessarily bad, well says Walt Oden, that may very well depend on your level of play.
What is Your Footwork Number?
Tennis is a game of movement and for many players, movement is the biggest limiting factor in their games. The fact is, if you don't get into optimum position to hit the ball, you're probably not going to make a very good shot. In past issues, we have differentiated between the number of steps pros take between shots and the steps club players of various levels take. Jorge Capestany and Luke Jensen have designed a way for you to figure out your footwork number and it may just encourage you to become a better mover on the court.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Shahar Peer's Serve and Net Game
This 23 year old Israeli woman continues to march up the rankings since her professional debut in 2004. A steady if unspectacular player, Shahar is presently ranked 13th, she holds 5 tour singles titles and has earned more than $3 million dollars in prize money. Shahar is presently playing without a coach, and is in the midst of her best year ever. She favors a grinding baseline style of game, and retrieves exceedingly well off both sides. She can finish the point when the court is open, but she can still add power and placement to her offensive repertoire. New this issue, Shahar Peer's Serve and Net Game.
TennisOne Writers Store
One of your many new benefits as a TennisOne membership is your ability to purchase selected instructional DVDs at 20% off ($7.50 off each) in our new TennisOne Writers Store (login in first to access members links):
- "Building Your Serve from the Ground Up," Jim McLennan Members Public
- "Building Your Ground Game," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Building a Kick Serve," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Achieving Peak Performance the Wholistic Way: The Mental Game," Happy Bhalla Members – Public
- "Building a World Class Serve," Phil Dent Members – Public
- "Building a World-class Volley," Dave Smith Members – Public
- "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: One-Handed Topspin," Doug King Members Public
- "Best of Ken DeHart," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Corrective Techniques & Myths," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Defeating the Monsters in Your Mind," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Skills, Drills, and Games for Beginning Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public.
- "Drills for Intermediate Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Drills for Advanced Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public.
- Click here to see all the benefits of a TennisOne Membership.
- Click here to sign up for a risk-free, TennisOne 30 day free trial membership.
Copyright Notice: The contents of the TennisONE web site and contents forwarded to you by TennisONE are intended for your personal, noncommercial use. Republishing of TennisONE content in any way, including framing or posting of these materials on other Web sites, is strictly prohibited. See our full copyright statement
If you wish to be removed from our newsletter list, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and leave the subject line blank. A confirmation email will be sent to you, and you will be removed from our newsletter list once you reply to that confirmation. If trouble unsubscribing, simply email us with a request to unsubscribe at: email@example.com