Get Hip with Your Grip
It can be a real bummer playing with a racquet that has the wrong grip size or a grip that’s way too old and worn down. In this section, we’ll show you how to select the right grip size, how to replace a grip, and how to choose a grip that’s right for you.
Choosing a Grip Size
One of the most important and also often overlooked aspects of finding a new racquet is selecting the proper grip size. The problem with this is that there is no definitive answer for what is the proper size for an individual. The best we can do is to apply two general rules, and then work from there. First, we must understand the reasoning behind finding an appropriate grip size that will allow you to play without the negative effects of an improper grip. In the past, the idea was to play with the largest grip that was comfortable. This was largely due to the more conventional grips used, but with the current popularity of the western grip forehand, the trend is to use the smallest grip possible.
The problem is that both of these situation present potential problems. If you attempt to use a grip that is too large, it becomes difficult to hold onto, stability is compromised, and the racquet twists in the player's hand. The result is that less effective weight is making contact with the ball, resulting in a loss of both power and control and additional shock being transferred to the player's arm. While initially this indicates to use the smallest grip possible, the problem with that is that as the grip gets smaller, the tendency is to want to squeeze tighter in order to hold the frame steady. The action of squeezing tightly does two things; first, the muscles will tire quickly in addition to putting the muscles and tendons under excessive constant strain. Compound this extra strain with the impact forces during typical hits, and you have a recipe for tennis elbow.
Ideally, a player should be able to grip the racquet comfortably without squeezing too tightly, and without worry of it twisting in his or her grasp. So how does one find the appropriate size? In typical adult racquets, the grip starts at a 4 inch grip; this is the measured circumference around the grip at the midpoint, well above the flared out buttcap end. This measurement includes the grip, so if one were to replace with a grip that was designed with more cushioning material, the grip size would feel larger after the change. Sizes are available in 1/8 inch increments starting at 4 inches, and going as high as 4 5/8 inches. In the past, there were select models available in 4 3/4 inch grips, but these are largely non-existent today.
There are two generalized methods of measuring one's grip size. The first and easiest way involves using a racquet that you already have. Most companies will list the size of the grip on the buttcap itself. Wilson is an exception to this with their more recent racquets, where the measurement is listed inside the trap door, which can be easily popped off and replaced with a small flathead screwdriver. Using the racquet you already have, hold the racquet as you would for a serve. The next step is to look at the space between the tips of your fingers, and your palm. Using the index finger of your off hand, try to fit it in that gap so that it just barely touches both your palm and your fingers. If it just barely touches, then you have found the appropriate size, and if there is significant overlap, the grip is too small.
If you do not have a racquet nearby, try to find some form of measuring device, whether it be a measuring tape designed for sewing or a simple ruler. When you measure the distance from the second main crease in your palm, to the tip of your ring finger, this will typically correspond to the correct size. This method is prone to a bit more error, as not all individuals have proportionate hands, and those with longer fingers can measure largely inappropriate grip sizes.
Please remember that these are generalized rules, and while they make a great reference point, ultimately it comes down to the personal feel of the player. Rafael Nadal, for example, is 6'1" tall and uses only a 4 1/4 grip. His personal preference and extreme grips dictate his decision to play with a smaller grip size and that is comfortable to him. If you are still unsure as to what grip size you need, be aware that it is much easier to make a grip feel larger than it is to make a grip feel smaller. In order to increase the size of a grip, methods include adding overgrip(s) or having a heat-shrink sleeve put on under the traditional replacement grip.
Also be aware that various manufacturers have different ways of listing the grip size on their racquets. The most common way is using the traditional "circumference" measurement in standard units of inches, such as 4 3/8. Because grips are not circular in shape, the term circumference is used loosely in this sense. The more common way outside of the USA is to ignore mention of inches, as it is a unit of measure not typically used, and instead simply list the grips as sizes ranging from 0 to 5. Each number represents another 1/8 inch increment above 4 inches that the grip measures. In other words, a grip size listed as 4 would be the same as a 4 1/2 size (based on the 4 inch + 4/8 inch calculation).
As a further tribute to days past, many companies will preface the number with a letter distinction, typically L or G. While not important to the actual grip size measurement, many companies, such as Head, will also list a 4 1/4 grip as an L2 grip. The G designation is almost exclusively used by Yonex, largely to distinguish a few of their models that are available in multiple weights, for example, the RDiS200 is available in a 10.4oz (295g) version that would have a grip listed as G3 for example, while the heavier 11.3oz (320g) version would be listed as an HG3. The H obviously designating that it is heavier than the regular G model.
One final thing of importance to mention is that each manufacturer uses a different mold for their grips, resulting in each brands having a slightly different shape. For example, Head grips have an extreme rectangular shape, while Prince frames have a much more square shape. While a 4 3/8 grip in each brand will typically measure the same around the grip no matter what brand, each grip will feel different. Many players tend to say that Head grips feel a bit on the smaller side, while Babolat feels a bit larger.
Replacing a Grip
Overgrips will go on right over the existing and are very easy to put on. Simply start at the bottom, pulling the grip firm, and then twist it around the handle until you make your way to the top. When you run out of grip, use the tape included in the package to secure the top of the grip to the handle.
Replacement grips can be a tad bit trickier, but it’s essentially the same concept. First take off the existing grip and remove the staple. With the tennis racquet upside-down, unroll a reasonable amount to start with and remove the tape backing. Then take the tapered end of the tape and attach it the butt cap. You may want to staple it there, but it’s not necessary.
If you are right-handed tennis player pull the tape to the right with the racquet head down. Go left if you are left-handed. Make sure to pull the grip taught and wrap it slowly around the handling, overlapping slightly on the previous layer. Once you reach the top of your handle, you will need to trim the grip with scissors. Draw a straight line across the grip where you want the top to be. Then unravel slightly and cut the grip along the line. Then wrap the grip back up and secure the top with the rubber collar. Congrats, you’ve got a comfy new grip!
Choosing a Grip
Basically, there are three things to look for with replacement grips. Those are:
Go with whatever feels best to you!