TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.
Hi Justin, I have a question about leather grips, particularly how they compare with synthetic grips when used as a base grip. I currently use a Wilson Pro Overgrip over the factory rubber grip that came with my Wilson KBlade 98. But I’ve heard that a number of pros use leather under their overgrip. What would I stand to gain (and/or lose) with leather? Thanks—Allan S.
You’re right, Allan, that many professionals, including Roger Federer, prefer wrapping an overgrip over leather. The advantage of the material is, by and large, its increased feedback. When compared to synthetic fibers, leather yields a firmer, more traditional sensation, allowing players to better feel the bevels (i.e., edges) of the handle—a boon for quick, accurate grip changes. Furthermore, leather permits more frame and handle vibrations to travel through the palette into the hand, which for some players translates into greater “feel.” (Read: awareness of what has transpired upon impact).
What would you stand to lose? Comfort, mainly. Leather is not the most forgiving material, and those accustomed to playing with softer, more shock-absorbing grips may find their hands tire more quickly. (And obviously, for players who do not use an overgrip, leather isn't nearly as tacky as modern synthetics.)
One final note: Switching over to leather, expect your racquets to increase in weight about 10 grams, depending on the brand of grip and how it’s wrapped. Given the location of the weight change, you may also find that your racquet swings a bit more head-light through the air.
UPDATE: The 2012 US Open starts next week, and I'll be on the grounds covering the event. Curious about what a certain player strings with? Have questions about US Open swag? Send in those queries, and I'll do my best to track you down an answer. Again, thanks for reading.—JD