The grip in my opinion is the foundation of any player wishing to progress in squash. If the grip is held incorrectly, the inconsistency in shot production will increase.
When the grip is held in a “comfortable position” (see picture), it will feel like the majority of your hand is cushioned around one side of the grip more than the other. As the picture shows, when the wrist is in a neutral position, you can see the racket head/face is pointing downwards on the forehand stroke, and on the backhand in an open racket head/face position. This is the reason why players struggle to get the ball to the back of the court, or cannot lift the ball high on their forehands.
Another giveaway of an incorrect grip is when a player tries to lift a low ball from the front of the court, and ends up hitting their racket face on the floor before connecting onto the ball. This is caused as they try to rotate their wrist to get the racket face open, and in the process of the racket head rotating, it clips the floor.
The left-hand image shows the correct grip position. For this to be obtained, it is vital that the frame angle of the racket is parallel to your line of sight before placing your hand on the grip. The racket in this position allows your hand to drop onto the grip with no tension on the wrist.
The right-hand image shows the racket frame angle at 45° before placing the hand on the grip. In this position, the grip looks correct when turning the racket back to the parallel position, however, it has caused the wrist and ligaments in the forearm to feel uncomfortable and under stress. This is incorrect.
The correct grip is achieved by your hand sitting equally on the two ridges of the grip (as shown in the left-hand image). This will feel unnatural – as if you don’t have a firm grip of the racket. It is important that the “V” or thumb and index finger run along the left side of the racket frame (if you’re left-handed, it’s the right). It is important that the hand and fingers feel stretched comfortably forwards across the grip. It’s this length that gives you a natural hold without having to squeeze the grip tightly. The racket has to feel like an extension of your own arm, rather than holding an object.
Now that you have the correct grip position, when the wrist is in a neutral position, the racket face and head are straight. It is important that every shot in squash is sliced (open racket face), which I will talk about in more detail in future blogs.
The racket face now requires very little input from the wrist to open, and the buckling that was seen with the incorrect grip has now gone. You will now be in a position where you can open the racket head/face at greater angles without discomfort. This correct grip position stays the same for both forehand and backhand strokes, and you should not feel it necessary to change the grip on what stroke you have to use in the game.
It is also important that when going from an open racket face on the forehand that you don’t keep the same angle when you have to then change to a backhand stroke. If this happens, you will find your racket face/head pointing towards the floor. The transfer from a forehand shot to a backhand shot should see your racket face transfer in an open position to the other stroke. In other words, your racket face should always be open to the front wall. What I have just explained is the same if you transfer from a backhand to a forehand shot as well.
The correct grip is possibly the hardest thing to coach and enforce, as it doesn’t feel natural to hold the racket in this position. Juniors find it especially difficult as their hands are usually smaller than the standard racket size grip. This makes it even more difficult for this correct grip position to be achieved.
Players that hold the grip incorrectly also rotate their wrist when striking the ball. This is one of the reasons why they have inconsistency of where their ball is played off the front wall. When the correct grip is used, the wrist should not have to rotate as the angle required for the shot is already set earlier. However, the player still tends to rotate their wrist as they did when they held the grip incorrectly. This causes the racket face to point towards the ceiling on connection to the ball, causing the ball to hit the ceiling. The player then becomes frustrated with the new grip. I will go into more detail regarding this in future blogs.
Holding the correct grip is not going to become easy without continued repetition. Even if you are not on court playing, you can pick your racket up at home to try and enforce muscle memory to take place. If you have to keep reminding yourself of the correct grip position, you could draw a pen line where the “V” of your hand should be placed. This will give you the added confidence that the time you are spending getting this correct is not a wasted one.