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.
Hey Justin, I am a 4.5 player using a Babolat AeroPro Drive with RPM Blast and XCel Power strings. Currently, I’m using a 4 and 1/8 grip size, which I build up slightly with an overgrip. What grip size would you recommend to gain more power, but still maintain consistency and control? Thanks—Jack Hugh
As I wrote a few months back, Jack, how a certain grip size affects performance really comes down to your own on-court idiosyncrasies—i.e., the way you play the game. Given that I don’t know much about the game you play, it’s tough for me to sign off on your grip size. But consider some the following possibilities.
For starters, smaller grips—like your AeroPro’s extra-thin 4 and 1/8—afford greater pace and spin on serves, because of the extra wrist flexion and accelerated pronation they allow. At the same time, it’s generally accepted that such smaller handles are a liability at net because of their reduced stability; on hard-hit and especially off-center hits, a small-handled racquet can twist in the hand, compromising control.
On groundstrokes, however, the cost-benefit analysis is situation-specific. If you play a modern, Western game, with lots of topspin and racquet-head speed, your grip’s size should probably fall somewhere between a 4 and 1/8 to a 4 and 3/8. The smaller the grip, the freer your wrist will be to whip the racquet through the hitting zone, generating more pace and spin.
If, on the contrary, you play a more traditional game with conservative groundies—i.e., Continental or Eastern—a grip size in the order of 4 and 3/8 or thicker may be best, due to those strokes’ reliance on solid impacts and linear momentum.
So the challenge, Jack, is to weigh your games’ strengths and weaknesses against the possible (dis)advantages that certain grip sizes confer. Of course, comfort should also be a consideration. If you have uniquely-sized hands, you may want to bracket the above until you’ve first found a handle that fits. And if you’re predisposed to wrist or arm injury, consider playing with larger grips. The smaller the handle, the more stress your tendons are likely to endure.