Getting a Grip

Here’s something that happens to me a lot. I’m in a match or clinic, and my racquet keeps turning when I hit the ball. I think to myself, “Maybe I’m not holding the racquet tightly enough,” or “I need to look at the ball more,” or just a general “Man, I really stink today.”

After a few days of substandard play, it finally dawns on me. I need a new overgrip. (Duh.)

So I give my club pro a few bucks, he puts a new one on for me, and we’re all good. Except sometimes he’s in the middle of a lesson. Or I forget to ask him. Or I’m playing outside.

I started thinking I should learn how to put on an overgrip myself. And then I started thinking, if I’m going to buy an overgrip, maybe I should put some thought into which one. And then that led to why we even need an overgrip–why don’t we just use the regular grip that’s already on the racquet?

So now I’ve got a whole messy can of worms opened. Worms that I’m going to have to research. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to start thinking about things at all…

Why do you need an overgrip?

You don’t. You can simply use the grip that came on the racquet. But eventually that will wear out, plus it may not give you the performance you want.

An overgrip serves a variety of purposes, including

  • Improving your grip on the racquet so it doesn’t turn in your hand
  • Making the handle more comfortable to hold
  • Increasing the circumference of the handle

Designed to be disposable, overgrips are much cheaper than regular grips. A regular replacement grip for your racquet might cost more than $10, whereas a single overgrip can cost less than $2. Buying in bulk will run you even less.

Choosing an overgrip

I never put much thought into my usual overgrip. It’s a Wilson Pro. It’s tacky–no, not socks-with-sandals tacky. I mean, it’s a bit sticky. I don’t need to clench my racquet handle hard for it to stay put in my hand–at least, until the overgrip needs to be replaced.

It’s also comfortable. There are other overgrips that offer even more cushioning, but the Wilson Pro has a soft, comfortable feel.

But now that I’m thinking about the grip, I’m seeing a few drawbacks. When the Wilson Pro overgrip is brand new, it’s TOO tacky. I have a western grip for my forehand and a continental for everything else–that’s almost 180 degrees I need to turn the racquet between shots.

When the overgrip is too tacky, I can’t easily slide from the forehand grip to the volley. I have to open my hand to make that adjustment. That’s distracting–and I definitely don’t need distractions during a match.

After a week or two of play, some of the tackiness wears off and it’s fine. If I were going to continue using this type of overgrip, I’d look for one just a tad less tacky.

Also, now that it’s summer, I sweat a lot more. So despite the tacky overgrip, my racquet turns in my hand. I guess this makes sense. Imagine trying to affix Scotch tape to your sweat-soaked skin. It wouldn’t stick very well.

So while a tacky overgrip may work fine in the winter months, I may need something more absorbent for the summer. (It’s possible an even tackier overgrip could stick through the sweat, but as we just covered…I don’t like excess tackiness.)

Finally, I’m bothered by the Wilson Pro’s thickness, which makes it harder to feel the handle’s bevels. The bevels are the eight sides of the racquet handle. They help you find your correct grip, whether that’s continental, eastern, semi-western, or whatever.

The overgrip rounds out the handle somewhat–the thicker the overgrip, the harder it is to feel the bevels. I decided I wanted to try something a little thinner.

I swear I’m not this preposterously picky in the rest of my life.

So with my list of likes and dislikes, I went to talk to the helpful and very patient folks at Boston Ski and Tennis in Newton, MA. Not only do these guys know their stuff, they have a handy chart categorizing their overgrips as tacky, absorbent, or in-between. You can also find this information on the packages, as well as a sample square to test before you buy.

After debating the relative merits of various grips, I ended up buying the Babolat Original VS. Babolat describes this overgrip as “dry” and “thin.” This seemed to meet my criteria.

Armed with my Babolat VS, I came home and changed my own overgrip for the very first time. If you’ve never done this, you can check out my video….when I finally get it online.

But honestly, you don’t need a video. Changing an overgrip is stupid-easy. Just do it.

The results

I’ve been using the Babolat VS for a few weeks now, and…it works! The first trial day was in the middle of a heat wave. I was sweating hard, but my racquet stayed put when I wanted it to stay put–but also slid easily from continental to western grip.

What’s more, I haven’t had any frantic moments of spinning my racquet around, searching for the right bevels. In fact, I didn’t think about bevels at all, which is exactly as it should be.

But the Babolat VS isn’t perfect. It wasn’t as comfortable as the Wilson Pro, which shouldn’t be surprising since it’s thinner. My hand didn’t ache after playing, but it’s just not as nice a feel. It’s noticeable. But for me, the trade-off is worth it.

The VS is also far less durable than the Wilson Pro. Again, this may be due to its thinness. After a couple of weeks, the grip couldn’t stand up to my sweat at all. (It also looked downright vile. Is all that black gunk my absorbed sweat and grime? Eww.) I can see I’ll be regripping more often than I’d like.

Is there an overgrip that’s thin AND cushiony AND absorbent AND long-lasting? Seems doubtful, although I may keep looking. In the meantime, the Babolat VS is a step in the right direction–for me.

Obviously, my preferences and needs may differ from yours. Some people will prefer a tacky feel year-round. Others will value cushioning. And some may just want the longest-lasting overgrip they can find.

If you think you might benefit from a grip change, visit your local pro shop and take a different overgrip out for a spin. It could be just what you need for a steadier game.

Are you happy with your overgrip? Which one works for you?

My serve total: 2,240

4 thoughts on “Getting a Grip

Add yours

  1. Nice post. Three things on this. First, i’m pretty sure that cushioning doesn’t just feel good. It also helps you keep your racquet steady in your hand because your fingers can dig in.
    Second, everyone should try to put the overgrip on themselves because it’s only $2. If you mess it up, just take it back to the pro shop and have them do it.
    Third, i know you are playing amateur leagues, but how often do the pros change their overgrips? I bet the answer is every single match. Maybe don’t wait for the overgrip to wear out, but rather schedule a new overgrip once a week or once every two weeks. You’ll have much more consistency in how your grip feels from match to match.

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  2. Agreed–everyone should try putting on his own overgrip. It really is impossible to mess up. You can just unravel it and start over if you need to make it tighter or with a different amount of overlap. It’s that simple, and it’s ridiculous that I waited so long to try doing it myself.

    Also, yes, the pros are changing their overgrips all the time–I’ve seen them do it mid-match, even. (They’re a lot faster at it than I am!) Maybe having a regular re-grip schedule (like, every 10 playing hours) would improve my consistency–that’s actually a great idea. And totally worth a few extra bucks. 🙂

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  3. I like the idea of the regular schedule. Just stock up, and pop on a new one. But don’t stick up too much. If you find one you like better, you don’t want a lot of inventory.

    And yes, you are that picky in everything! But we adore you anyway. You wouldn’t have as much to write about if you weren’t always striving to achieve the best. 🙂

    Personally, I like the cushiony overgrip. I agree with David that it helps give you something to crush with your amazing hand strength. But seriously, I didn’t think about the racquet turning because the grip wore out. I thought I just got lax or sweaty. I will have to consider that.

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