Purchasing a New Racquet? Don’t Forget About Your Grip!
Guest Authored by Michael Emmett, January 2018
Are you in the market for a new tennis racquet? When most people choose a tennis racquet, the weight of the racquet is their first priority. Amateur players try to determine if the racquet is well balanced or head heavy while a more experienced player will focus on the strings and the stringing pattern. They might ask themselves if the racquet is more geared toward spin or power? Sometimes the most important factor is the look of the racquet – the colors and the patterns. Personally, I want a racquet that is going to perform well and allow me to play tennis in the most critical situations.
Important Things to Consider
Interestingly, the number one factor for me when purchasing a new racquet is the grip size. I feel most club players are playing with racquets with grips that are far too large. No tennis player should be using a racquet with a grip size of 4 5/8 and then shockingly put an over grip on it which makes it play like 4 ¾. Tennis injuries can definitely be attributed, in some cases, to oversized grips. If we eliminate cost as one of the factors, I believe that the most important characteristics in a racquet are:
- Grip Size
- String Pattern
- Type of String
- String Tension
- Head Size & Balance
Tennis players today should be buying racquets with grip sizes of 4 1/8 or 4 ¼ and putting their own over grips on them (the thin kind that only adds a small fraction to the overall grip size). When I get a new racquet from the manufacturer, the first thing I do is take off the factory made leather grip so that I can see the wood. From there, I put on one layer of duct tape in order to give it some cushion & then I add one thin over grip to give it the perfect feel.
I get my racquets with a 4 3/8 grip size, however, after all my tinkering, it plays just like a grip of 4 ¼ which in my case is perfect for the size of my hand. It allows me to feel the ball and manipulate the ball just like the pros. Think of it this way, if you had the wrong sized shoes on your feet, you’d likely compete in a sub-standard fashion. The same argument can be made for having the incorrect grip size on a tennis racquet. Holding something thick (like a tree trunk) makes it impossible to manoeuvre your hand over the top of the tennis ball and generate the feel necessary to create the revolutions on the ball to keep it inside the boundaries of the court.
What Are the Best Players Using?
It’s no coincidence that the best players in the world are using smaller grips than the average club player. Rafael Nadal is using a grip that is 4 ¼ and this seems to suit him just fine. Nadal is all about spin. The bigger the grip, the less spin you can generate on the tennis ball. It’s simple physics. The hand and the wrist are the most important elements in creating top spin (or under spin) on the tennis ball. If you are holding something that is bulky and cumbersome you will not be able to come over the ball to the necessary degree to create the shape on the ball to keep it in the court. Tennis today is about spin. With the new technology in racquets – everything is about power and if you don’t spin the ball to some degree you will NOT be a consistent tennis player. You will make numerous unforced errors and be one of those HOT and COLD players who cannot be relied on in the crucial moments when the chips are down and you must produce to win a match. You can take all the lessons in the world and spend thousands of dollars – without the correct grip size – you are wasting your money, time & effort! Remember if you buy a racquet with a smaller grip size and don’t like it you can always build it back up with over grips. However, it’s a much more difficult process to reduce a grip that is too big.
Do Your Research – Try Before You Buy
Before taking my word on this, go to your nearest pro shop and try a racquet that has a grip of 4 ¼ and see if it’s not easier to generate more spin on the ball for all the different shots required to play the game effectively. I have tried to play with some of my client’s racquets on occasion (racquets with grip sizes that feel enormous – probably in the 4 5/8 range with all the over grips) and can’t believe how difficult it is to generate spin. When I go back to my racquet it is instant relief at the ease at which I can create topspin or slice on the ball – and it’s all about the grip size.
People who have taken my advice on this subject come back to me raving about the change and what a great piece of advice I gave them! And they all say the same thing to me – “why didn’t you mention this years ago?”