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The Magic of the Grip Jump

by Rod Heckelman, USPTA Professional

This quick maneuver has snuck under the radar as being the newest and most clever way to vary a player’s spin on the ball. Many seasoned senior players have used this grip jump for years, but now you’re seeing this tricky maneuver being used by many of the young big hitters. It is especially effective with those using a western grip. In an instant, they can transition from their regular forehand grip to a continental grip, allowing them to create a backspin shot that can be used for everything from a slice approach shot to a drop shot, or even a wide defensive forehand serve return. What makes this move so unique, is not just the quickness of the execution, but being able to change the grip without the help of the other hand. To pull this off, a player will use the momentum of taking the racquet back along with a loose grip to jump into a continental grip. This baton like movement takes a while to master, but once achieved, produces one of the most deceptive and well disguised shots in the game. Note the sequence of the pictures :

This experienced move demonstrates the importance of mastering all the possible grips a player can use during a match. In fact, go back as far as you can in the history of coaching tennis, and it’s a sure bet that the very first thing any student was taught was the proper grip to use for each stroke. There’s a very good reason for this. How a player grips their racquet will have more impact on their stroke mechanics than any other factor they will be taught. The grip essentially becomes just like any other joint of your body…your knee, elbow, or shoulder, and as a result has a major influence on your stroke mechanics. If, for instance, your knee was put together differently, it would completely impact the way you walk, sit, or generally move. For this reason, most players master their grips early on, but the jump grip is a whole new animal fitting right into modern day tennis.

Today’s game, at all levels, seems driven by either increased power or spin. Power seems to have a finite limit, especially for seniors, not so true with spin. What makes learning new spin so impactful is that it opens the door to a more diverse style of playing. This especially impacts two groups of tennis players; the new modern-day big hitter that favors more western grips for topspin shots, and a tremendous number of senior players with a style of play that favors old standard eastern grips, common for performing classic strokes. The big hitters have fallen in love with the grip jump by virtue of deception and variety. For the older, more established players, who are married to their traditional grips, the grip jump is only a minor adjustment. This move can be taught with a little patience and practice and the result accommodates a whole new diverse style of play, that will open the door to physically achievable shots than can enhance their tactics.

So essentially, no pun intended, the coach will have to come to grips with what works best for each player they are developing. So often we find, open one door and discover several more, this is the wonderful expansion of learning. This is what a good coach hopes to develop in their students, new opportunities to be a better player, not so much by doing what they do better, but by expanding their game and broadening their ability to have new tools, both offensively and defensively, so they can reach higher levels. The grip jump may end up being the gateway to this learning behavior.

About Rod Heckelman

Rod Heckelman’s career started in 1966 when he began his five-year role as a teacher at John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch in Carmel Valley, California. In 1976, he made his way back California, where he became general manager/ tennis director at the Mt. Tam Racquet Club in Larkspur. In 2010 he was awarded “Manager of the Year” for the USPTA NorCal Division and later announced as the “Manager of the Year” at the USPTA World Conference. He recently came out with two more instructional books, Playing Into the Sunset, and 250 Ways to Play Tennis.

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