As I said, I believe that there are a lot of little things we can do in our game that can have a huge impact on the tennis court. One area where it's very easy to make some changes that can truly improve your game is your equipment. For example, last week I talked about what to do if you break a string on your racket during your match. The reason I talked about this is because I still see so many players coming out to court with only one racket. And there's a real danger when you show up with only one racket that you'll break a string and not have a back-up racket ready to finish out your match.
What's the Deal with Yucky Racket Grips?
This week I'm talking about another equipment issue that I see on court too much. And that is players showing up with icky, dirty, yucky grips on their racket, often grips that are just shredding in the player's hand. And there is no reason for that. So I want to talk today aabout the grip on your racket and what you can do to make sure its in excellent shape so that that one tiny little thing is just one less thing you have to worry about because have a good grip can really help your game.
What is the Grip and Why is it Important?
So just what is the grip on your racket? The grip on your tennis racket is the handle. That's all it is. When you buy a new racket, this handle is covered with a wrapping of some synthetic material. So there's the handle itself, the manufactured part of the racket, and it will be wrapped with a synthetic material called the grip. The thing you hold is called the grip. And the material wrapped around it is also called the grip.
The reason this grip is important is because this is what you're holding. This is the contact point between you and your racket. And it is made to be just a little bit cushioned or padded so that the racket feels comfortable in your hand and you can hold it tightly enough that it does not slip around in your hand when you're hitting the ball.
Now what can you do to make a little improvement in the grip of your racket so that you make sure you're playing the best tennis possible and the grip of your racket is not adversely impacting what you're doing?
How and Why to Replace the Original Grip of Your Tennis Racket
First of all, let's talk about that grip that comes with the racket when it comes off the shelf. Because a lot of people play with the grip without covering it with anything like an overgrip. They play with that grip exposed. If you're one of those players, you will find over time that that grip can get dirty and yucky. But most importantly, it can lose some of the cushioning that makes it feel good in your hand.
And that grip can be replaced if that happens, if you've owned your racket for quite a while. Because some of us, me included, own the same rackets for years. You don't necessarily go out and buy a new $200 racket every year. So you can replace that grip, that original synthetic material wrapped around the handle of your racket. You can take it to your stringer and they can do it for you. Or you can easily do it yourself. A new replacement grip, even a leather grip, shouldn't cost you anymore than $15 max. And there are a lot of synthetic grips that are even cheaper than that.
And you can customize your racket if you'd like a little more padding on that grip area by buying a new replacement grip and changing it out. It's really a simple matter to do this. The most important thing to do is to remove all of the old grip including any tape or sticky material off the handle when you take that grip material off.
As I said, you can pay someone to do this for you but it's not very hard to do for yourself. And you can easily find replacement grips in tennis specialty stores or online.
So the first thing you can do to make sure the grip on your racket is in the best condition possible is to replace the original grip that came with your racket.
How and Why to Add an Overwrap to Your Tennis Racket Grip
The next thing you can do to make sure you have a nice grip on your racket is to use an overgrip. I don't think these terms are that confusing but its funny that everything on the handle is called the grip. The overgrip or overwrap is a material that wraps around the grip of your racket to cover that original grip to give you some additional cushioning and also to keep your racket from slipping around in your hand.
There are a lot of different overwraps you can put on your racket. If you have a tennis specialty store near you and you go in to look at them, you'll see all different kinds of materials as far as the cushioning, as far as how sweat-proof they are, and as far as colors and designs. There are different lengths to make sure you make it all the way around your racket handle. So there's a standard length but there's also an extra long wrap that you can buy. I myself have worked my way through several different wraps and I have one right now that I use that I really like a lot and Ive gotten very used to. The one thing I like about it is I can get it in different colors and that helps me keep track of which racket I'm using right now and which one needs to be restrung.
I like using an overwrap as opposed to holding my racket on the original grip that came with the racket because it protects that original grip and helps maintain the cushioning and its also very quick and easy to change an overwrap when it starts getting dirty or starts losing some of its tackiness. The primary reason for an overwrap, in my opinion, is to keep my racket from slipping. It adds some tackiness to the grip and therefore my racket isn't as likely to slip when I hit a shot.
Again, your stringer can do this overwrap for you. And I know a lot of people take their racket in and have their stringer do the overwrap for them. But it is very simple to do yourself, especially if you take the time to do it before you head out to a match. I have seen people try to change an overwrap right before a match or even between sets and I don't recommend that because I think you want to make sure you take your time and apply that overwrap carefully. You want to the overlapping parts of the wrap to be not too far overlapped or too far spaced apart. If they're too much overlapped, you're not going to make it all the way up the handle of your racket. If they're too spaced apart, during your match, when you're playing, the overwrap can separate so that part of the original grip material is exposed and you're not going to get a consistent feel or the right amount of tack on your racket.
How and Why to Use Grip Products with Your Tennis Racket
The third thing you can do to improve the grip on your racket is to actually use a product on your hands or something that you rub right on the grip of the racket. Recently, I've started doing this even though I'm also using an overwrap which I change pretty frequently. I started using a rosin-infused lotion from Prince. I'm sure a lot of you have seen this. I don't use it all of the time but I have used it when it seems like my hands are getting particularly sweaty or it seems like my racket is slipping a lot.
There are also rosin bags that you can buy to pat on your hands to give you some extra tack. And there are even towels that are infused with a sticky, tacky substance that you can either rub on your hands or rub them right on the grip of your racket.
Customizing Your Grip
So it could be that you need a combination of all of these things. You need a replacement grip to give you a little more cushioning on your racket and some more tack if you're holding right onto that original grip. You use an overwrap to again give a little additional cushioning and some increased tack. And third, you can buy one of these grip products – either a rosin bag, or a lotion or cream that you apply to your hands, or something that you wipe on your hands or grip with a tacky substance infused in it.
Why You Should Learn to Customize Your Grip Yourself
As I said earlier, replacing the grip on your racket or applying an overwrap are things that stringers often offer to do for you for a charge. But I highly recommend that you learn to do this yourself. Its very simple to do. The only equipment you really need is a pair of scissors. I think any decent player should be able to do this so I recommend you get some grips and give it a try rather than relying on your stringer to do this for you every time you need it done. And the reason I think you should be able to do this is you may need to replace these things frequently, especially an overwrap. There's no reason to let it go for so long that's it's literally shredding and falling apart in your hands. So learn how to do it yourself. It's really simple.
And just so you know, I did find a really good video put out by Dunlop, the racket manufacturer, that shows how to replace the grip on your racket. You can find that embedded below in the Resources and Links section.
Let me know what you think of this episode and if you have any other recommendations on how to customize your tennis racket. You can do that by leaving a comment below.
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE:
There are lots of videos on YouTube showing how to replace the grip and the overgrip on your tennis racket. Here's one I really like from Dunlop that explains how to replace the grip:
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