by Don Hightower
Tennis Warehouse Technical Director
Many players find it necessary, at one time or another, to increase the size of their grip. If youre one of these players, well show you a few different ways you can customize the size and feel of your grip, all of which are reversible. First, lets take a look at what grip sizes are available and how theyre classified in the US and Europe. Most racquets are available in grip sizes ranging from 4-1/8 to 4-5/8 inches in circumference. A few models are also available in 4-3/4, such as Wilsons Hyper Pro Staff 6.5. Junior racquets are now sold in 4 inch grip sizes. European grip sizing is different than the US and is the source of some confusion. The chart below correlates US and European grip sizes.
As you can see, each European size corresponds to 1/8 inch (1=4-1/8, 2=4-2/8 or 1/4, etc.). So, increasing your grip by 1 size would equal 1/8 inch, whether using the US or European sizing system. This is the most common increment of handle build-up, although many players find increasing by only 1/2 size, or 1/16 inch necessary. This is our starting point for building up your grip.
If youve ever used an overgrip, you increased your grip by 1/2 size. Most overgrips are 1/16 inch thick and are perfect for many players to achieve just the right grip size, as well as provide extra moisture absorption and cushioning. There are also some very thick replacement grips that add extra thickness and cushioning, such as Princes Cushion Fit grip.
If you prefer the feel of a synthetic or leather replacement grip, you can also increase your handle by 1/2 size by adding a 1/2 size heat-shrink sleeve. Available from Tennis Warehouse, these sleeves are easy to use and retain the handles bevels. You will need a heat gun or very hot hair dryer and a few tools for this procedure.
1. Remove grip and staple, being careful not to tear the grip if reusing. Clean any tape debris from the handle.
2. Slide the heat shrink sleeve over the butt cap and up the handle, overlapping the handle end by about 3/8 inch.
You can either leave the excess at the bottom and trim with a razor knife after heating or trim to 1/2 inch of the butt end with scissors before heating.
This second option will leave a small ring around the butt cap, which some players prefer so they can identify which racquets have built up handles. If you choose to trim the excess, follow the instructions below. We dont recommend trimming the heat-shrink sleeve at the top of the handle. Its very easy to scratch the painted shaft.
Hold the sleeve firmly in place at top and begin heating from the bottom, keeping the heat gun 3-4 inches away. Rotate the racquet while slowly moving the heat gun up the handle. Dont keep the heat gun aimed at one spot too long or get too close to the heat-shrink sleeve or you will melt the sleeve. Continue heating until the sleeve has shrunken completely around the handle. Allow to cool before trimming the excess at bottom.
To trim the overlapped sleeve, place the racquet on a stable surface. Gently apply pressure to the razor knife within 1/8 inch of the butt end. Turn the racquet as you hold the razor knife steady until the sleeve is completely trimmed.
To remove a heat-shrink sleeve, gently slice it lengthwise and peel off handle.
Regrip - for instructions on wrapping a grip, go to How to Wrap a Grip.
The easiest and most effective way to increase your grip one full size (1/8 inch) is to use a full-size heat-shrink sleeve. Follow the instructions above for installing a 1/2 size heat-shrink sleeve.
It is possible to install 2 heat-shrink sleeves but this adds a substantial amount of weight to the handle, increasing overall racquet weight. Maneuverability will be reduced slightly but not as much as if this amount of weight were added to the racquet hoop.
If you hold your racquet at the very end of the handle and find your hand slipping off too often, you might want to build up just the butt cap. There are a few ways to do this.
1. Wrap 1-inch athletic tape around until you achieve the proper build-up.
2. Install part of a heat-shrink sleeve and trim as needed.