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Tennis| Squash| Badminton
May 2014

Fitting the right

racket grip

Selecting the wrong size of tennis, squash or badminton racket grip will not only affect a customer’s enjoyment of the sport, but can also result in injuries. YAMKELA MKEBE asked some experts for advice on how best to fit the right racket grip size to a customer.

By helping a customer to choose the correct racket grip for tennis, squash or badminton your customer will have a better chance of enjoying their game.

Just like an ill-fitting shoe will make it very uncomfortable for a runner to complete a race, a racket with a grip that is too big or small can cause great discomfort during a game. “Much like a cricket bat that’s too big, the wrong grip size can lead to bad habits creeping in,” says Patrick Franck of WET Sports Importers.

What is more, using a racket with the wrong grip size can lead to injuries. “The injuries I’ve seen the most from the wrong grip size are tennis elbow and wrist problems,” says Brad Summers from The Golf Racket, local distributor of Wilson and Tourna Grip. “The player must never feel like he is straining when holding a grip.”

When a grip is too small, a player needs to apply a lot of muscle strength in order to prevent the racket from twisting in his hand, and prolonged play with such a racket can contribute to problems like tennis elbow. A grip that's too large, also requires more muscle strength to control, and can therefore also contribute to tennis elbow. It also inhibits wrist snap on serves.

Measuring a tennis grip

There are different ways to measure a tennis racket grip for a customer. This could be done practically with demonstrations using the racket grip, or by using measuring devices like a ruler.

Using the racket: Ask your customer to grip the racket as he would hold it during normal forehand play. There should be a gap between his thumb and ring finger.

“Your customer must be able to fit the index finger of his opposite hand between the thumb and fingers of the hand holding the grip,” says Roberto Vaglietti from Leisure Holdings, distributors of Prince.

If the index finger cannot fit in the gap, the grip is too small for your customer. If there is space between the finger and palm, the grip is too big.

“Ask the customer if the grip feels right,” adds Summers. “Your customer should never feel like he is straining to grip the racket, it must feel comfortable.”

Using a ruler: You can also measure your customer’s right grip size by using a ruler. Ask him to hold his hand open with the palm upright and fingers extended close together. Place the bottom of the ruler in the lateral crease of his palm, facing upwards, and measure the length to the tip of his ring finger. The length will give the circumference, which is indicated in inches on grip sizes.

Many racket brands actually have grip measuring devices that can be put up in a store to help assist in choosing the grip size, adds Summers.

When a customer’s measured grip size falls between two sizes, always go with the smaller grip size, as the customer can always put an over grip on to make it bigger. It is easier to work with a grip size that is too small for the player, than with one that is too big, which you cannot adjust.

Enlarging a grip

There are different ways of finding a solution to a grip that is too small for a player’s hand.

A too small grip can always be fixed by building it up through adding material under the grip. Another option is to put on an over grip. This normally solves the problem. It is also not recommended to go up two sizes — if that much adjustment is needed, rather recommend a racket with a larger grip.

Not all rackets with the small grip problem, however, can be fixed in the same way. Retailers are advised to be careful as some rackets have technology that doesn’t allow the grips to be easily modified.

Tennis grip sizes

“Lately there has been a big trend towards smaller grip sizes in tennis. Wilson has in fact dropped the 5/8 size altogether and have also dropped the 1/2 size from some commercial rackets,” says Summers. “The reason for this is the radical grip changes now employed in tennis. The smaller the grip, the easier it is to change grips quickly.”

Retailers are urged to educate their customers of this trend.

Most retailers offer two sizes for tennis racket grips. In the past few years there have been a huge switch to 3/8 and 1/4 grip sizes, says Summers. About 70% of consumers prefer to purchase the 3/8 size and this makes it the most common size used by players. With that being said, women on the other hand prefer to use the 1/4 size, he adds. “The 1/4 size makes it easier for the player to change their grip on the racket during play.”

Wilson is also adding a 1/8 size to many of their commercial rackets.

Badminton grips

If a player is unable to hold the racket in the correct manner then it will be impossible to ensure quality badminton strokes. Using a suitable badminton grip has its advantages for the player as this can ensure a better and more comfortable performance.

Most brands offer four grip sizes, but they will differ from brand to brand. The grip size refers to the circumference of the handle with the original leather grip on. Yonex number their grip (G) sizes from big to small, while other brands number from small to big.

Other grips Yonex grips
G1 – 3 inches
G2 – 3 ¼ inches G2 – 4 inches
G3 – 3 ½ inches G3 – 3 ¾ inches
G4 – 3 ¾ inches G4 – 3 ½ inches
G5 – 4 inches G5 – 3 ¼ inches

The correct badminton grip will feel comfortable when your customer holds the racket with a relaxed hand.

• If he has to clench the racket very tightly when he takes a practice swing, the grip is probably too small.

• If the grip completely fills his palm, he will not be able to tighten the grip effectively for more power and he will have less flexibility when executing a shot.

• If your customer likes to play power shots, the grip needs to be of a size that he can tighten his hold to generate more power.

• Players that like to play rally shots might want a thinner grip so that they can turn the racket more comfortably in their hands.

The size of the grip can be adjusted by adding, or replacing, an overgrip. The overgrip thickness varies between 0.5–0.77mm and each layer will therefore add about a quarter size to the original grip. Therefore a handle grip can be made smaller by removing the original grip and replacing it with an overgrip (or two). If the grip is too small, an overgrip (or two) can be added over the original grip.

“Badminton players would opt for a less bulky grip than tennis players, because their rackets are smaller and lighter,” says Franck.

Some players therefore do not like adding too many overgrips, as this makes them lose the feel of the bevel — or sides — of the handle, which helps them to adjust strokes during play. It can also affect the balance of the racket.

Squash grips

Squash rackets come in only one grip size, although the sizes of kids, junior and adult racket handles will differ. Handle sizes can be adjusted through the application of grips and overgrips.

Players with slightly larger hands will, for example, add a layer or two of overgrip. If your customer’s hands are very big, he might want to buy an additional grip to fit over the existing one, before applying overgrips.

To determine if your customer will need to buy another grip or overgrip to adjust his racket’s handle size, do the following quick size test: Let him shake hands with the racket, with the V of the thumb and forefinger aligned with the edge of the frame and the other fingers spread along and around the grip. The forefinger and thumb should not overlap.

“Squash players prefer grips with a ridge like a Rib grip, which allows them better use of the wrist,” says Franck.

Grip tape

Tennis, badminton and squash suppliers agree that there is no specific type of grip tape that can be recommended over another, as all players will prefer different features.

“With the advent of new materials used in the grips it is more a case of what a player prefers.” says Franck.

The grip tapes are usually made of synthetic materials or leather. They come in different forms with different benefits and price tags. A durable rubber grip tape is the cheapest type that is not slippery and it is also available in different colours. A leather grip tape easily slips on the handles for tennis and badminton players and is made of durable leather.

A spiral grip tape has a built-in tape as it is wrapped around the handle. It is made of synthetic materials with a feel of nylon. If your customer wants a spiral grip, he should go with the one built in double sided tape, as it ensures a stronger and secure hold.

For a customer looking for durability, a retailer can recommend a leather grip tape. A rubber grip is not ideal as it can easily be damaged when used frequently.

Replacing grips

It is recommended that a player regularly replaces his grip. Customers are advised to get a retailer or another expert to help them with replacing the grip. Alternatively, you can advise your customer to replace, or add a new grip, as follows:

• Make sure that the handle is clean with no material and dirt in the grip area. If he is replacing a grip, all traces of the old grip and staple must be removed.

• If your customer is using a grip with a col- lar, he should slide it on before wrapping and pushing the grip out of the way. This is recommended over sliding it over the wrapped grip.

• He should remove about 30cm of the tape backing and attach the tapered end of the grip to the butt-cap — staple optional. Wrap the tape by holding the racket upside down and pulling it to the right for a right-hander and to the left for a left hander.

• He can steady the racket head against his hip or leg, while holding the grip firmly with one hand and rotating the racket slowly with the other hand. To prevent the tape curling and sticking unwrap the tape backing in small increments.

• Your customer can draw a straight line on the handle at the top of the old grip area and trim the tape on the line. It is recommended not to apply the new grip higher than the old one, as it will affect balance.

• A finishing tape will secure the tape end, before he slides the collar down.

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