So you're finally joining your pals on the tennis court. Excellent choice. Tennis offers fitness benefits, camaraderie, competition and an opportunity to bask in the sunshine. You'll play better and the game will be more fun if you have the right equipment. The right racket and the right grip are the two essentials. If they fit your swing and hand correctly, you'll play your best and graduate from beginner to intermediate level in a relatively short amount of time.
It's hard to overstate the importance of the right grip size. As Tennis Warehouse explains, if your grip is too small, the racket will tend to twist in your hand, destroying your accuracy. You'll have to compensate for a too-small grip by using more muscle strength to keep the racket from twisting when you swing -- and that can result in a painful condition called tennis elbow. A grip that's too big is also a problem. You'll have trouble getting any wrist snap on your serves. A too-big grip is similar to a too-small grip in two major respects -- you'll need more muscle strength to control the racket and you'll be susceptible to tennis elbow as a result. So take a lesson from Goldilocks and the Three Bears and find a grip that's just right.
The typical grip size for women ranges from 4 1/8 to 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Sizes vary in 1/8-inch increments. Although such small differences in grip size sound trifling, the feel and performance of a racket with, for example, a 4 1/4 inch grip can be totally different than a racket with a 4 3/8 inch grip. Fortunately, there are two methods to determine the appropriate grip size for you.
Measuring Grip Size
You can determine your correct grip size in two ways. According to Tennis Warehouse, you'll need a ruler for the first method. Measure the distance from from the top of your ring finger to the bottom lateral crease on your palm, which is around mid-palm. For most women, the measurement falls in the 4 1/8 inches to 4 1/2 inches range. The second method is to hold the racket and then slide the index finger of your other hand between the tips of your fingers and the base of your palm. If there isn't any room for your finger, the grip is too small. If there is an excessive amount of room for your finder, the grip is too large. If it fits in snugly, you've got the correct grip size.
It's always a good idea to try out rackets and grips, and most tennis shops and clubs will give you demo rackets to test. In addition to grip size, you'll want to choose either a leather or a synthetic grip. As Tennis.com notes, leather is often an "old school" choice for players who say the rigid nature of leather gives them more feel. Synthetic grips are softer and cushioned with pinholes to soak up sweat. They feature textured surfaces with raised stitches that serve as grooves for your hand. If you are between grip sizes, go with the smaller size. You can wrap tape around the grip if you need to build it up. But you can't cut down a grip if you later decide it's too big.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.