When should I change the grip on my tennis racquet?Tim Strawn
The vast majority of racquets available to consumers come with a grip made of synthetic material already installed and these types of grips will be the focus of this post. Eventually, you will need to change the factory grip and these grips will be referred to as replacement grips. Replacement grips come in all sizes and shapes, and they will be thicker, more durable, and more long-lasting than another option which is often referred to as an overgrip. Although similar in function, an overgrip is a less expensive thinner grip that’s wrapped on top of the factory grip and replaced to help reduce slipping and absorb sweat.
Replacement grips feature a top layer for traction, a center foam or gel layer for comfort and cushioning, and an adhesive backing to ensure they stick to the handle and don’t move around during play. We recommend replacement grips be installed by a trained racquet technician if you want the job done correctly.
The time frame on which to gauge how often you should change your factory grip will be different for every player. When you play, you squeeze the racquet’s handle just before ball impact and as a result, the grip is compressed repeatedly. Over time, the middle layer of the grip becomes so compressed that it actually loses any comfort and cushioning it originally had. This is the point at which your grip needs to be replaced. If you play twice a week and string your racquet twice a year then you should think about installing a new replacement grip after the 5th or 6th time you restring your racquet. The following are some things to consider:
- Comfort–If you’re noticing that the handle of your racquet is becoming hard, it’s time to replace it.
- Tackiness–If you notice that your grip is becoming slippery or difficult to control due to sweat, it’s time to replace it with a new one. You can use an overwrap to increase the tackiness but this would just serve as a temporary fix.
- Worn spots and tears–When your grip shows wear and tear and starts to fall apart then you’re way overdue and it’s time to replace it.
How do I choose a new replacement grip?
The first thing you should do is have your actual hand/grip size measured properly to see if it matches up with the size of your racquet grip. A professional racquet technician can do this for you or, you can actually do it yourself. To take this measurement, place a ruler in the palm of your hand (open your hand completely flat) and measure from the tip of your ring finger to the second lifeline in your palm that is closest to your wrist (photo below left). This measuring technique will be adequate for the vast majority of players and is a great starting point. A common mistake is to have the player grip the racquet and then place a finger in the opening left between your fingers and the base of your palm (photo center). The problem with this method is that everyone doesn’t hold a tennis racquet in the same way. Here at IART, we are of the opinion that the best way to measure proper grip size is to have the player hold the racquet and then visually, see that the tip of the middle finger lies parallel to the first crease in the thumb (photo right)
Once you have the measurement done for your hand, now it’s time to find the racquet with a grip size that matches your measurement. The most common way racquets are marked for grip size is on the butt cap (bottom end) or with a sticker typically placed on the side of the racquet just above the factory grip. Butt cap designations will indicate the size by a numeric, like the number 2, which designates a size 4 1/4 for that racquet’s grip size (see Prince butt cap below, left). The size can also be stamped as 4 1/4 and very often, you’ll see the numeric stamped on one side of the butt cap and the actual measurement stamped on the other side as in the Prince example. They can also be side by side as seen in the Head butt cap (photo below, right). Many times the cellophane wrapping on the handle of the racquet will also display the racquet’s grip size.
The bottom line here is that this is a very common thing that often gets overlooked by the player. If you use a racquet that’s properly fitted to your personal grip size and you keep it in tip-top shape you’ll be surprised at just how much better your racquet feels and, you just might play better (TBD)
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