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.
What should I focus on when putting on a leather grip? I want to try playing with leather, as I’ve heard that many top players use it. I am also going to use a thin overgrip on top of it. I am a 4.0 player from Kansas City.—Jim L.
Wrapping a leather grip is not too much unlike wrapping a regular overgrip, Jim. As I wrote not too long ago on the latter, as you swivel the material up around the handle, what's key is to apply constant pressure—enough to prevent the grip from slacking, but not so much that you stretch it out of shape. Otherwise, you're liable to end up with a bumpy grip, which probably won't feel too comfortable in your hand. Obviously, for the smoothest and most secure surface, leaving gaps between overlaps is also a no-no, as this can cause a grip to shift or slough off during play.
That said, there are a couple things unique to wrapping leather that warrant a novice’s attention. The first is that most leather grips, like most replacement grips, come backed with adhesive tape, meant to stick the leather more firmly to the palette. Certainly, at the end of the day, the tape makes for a sturdier grip. But missteps (i.e., repeatedly wrapping and unwrapping) can mess up the adhesive, so it's best to work slowly and deliberately.
Second, note that most manufacturers skive the leather around its edges, which should allow you to overlap the grip upon itself while still maintaining a relatively level surface. (On the other hand, most overgrips are the same thickness all the way through, and so come out a little more uneven on the grip.) Further, according to the USRSA's Racquet Services Techniques, "To accentuate the handle's bevels, some stringers [even] use a wall paper seam roller to flatten the grip.”
As always, the best thing to do is to find a stringer or savvy teaching pro in your area. Watch them wrap a leather grip, and then emulate. Good luck.