Get it wrong and it can make holding the racket uncomfortable, impacting the quality of your play. At worst it could even cause injury.
Why size matters
Choose a grip that’s too large and it can be hard to get proper purchase. Not only that but as you change grip position to hit forehand or backhand, topspin or backspin, the racket will be cumbersome to twist.
On the flip side, if the grip is too small you risk blisters as the racket moves around in your hand when you swing. This can cause you to grasp on to the handle too tightly in order to keep it in place, leaving you open to more serious injuries such as tennis elbow or RSI.
How are grip sizes measured?
A racket’s grip size is quite simply a measurement of the circumference of the handle which generally ranges from 4 inches for junior rackets to 4 and ⅝ inches at the top end.
In Europe that’s often expressed in millimetres or simply as a number between 0 and 5.
Depending on the manufacturer, that number may have the letter L in front of it so L1, L2, L3 etc.
See the table below for how those sizes are expressed.
Size zero is typically reserved for junior rackets. If you want to learn more about selecting a racket for kids check out our guide here.
There used to be a size 6 at 4 ¾ inches but grip sizes have trended down over the years and generally that’s no longer available.
Where on the racket will I find the grip size?
If you’re buying online, any decent retailer will give you a clear choice of grip size as you place your order. If you’re shopping in-store, look for the number on the butt cap.
Occasionally the grip size can also be found on a small sticker on or near the throat of the racket.
How do I measure my own grip size?
There are two main methods for checking your tennis grip size.
The first – if you’re shopping in-store – is to hold the racket in your dominant hand as if you were shaking hands with it. Now place the index finger of your other hand between the fingers and your palm.
If the finger won’t fit then the grip is too small for you. If there’s space to spare the grip is too large.
Of course these days there’s a decent likelihood you’ll be buying online. If that’s the case we need a slightly more accurate method.
To determine your grip size without having a racket available, simply hold your dominant hand out flat and measure the distance from the top of your ring finger down to the lower of the two horizontal creases in your palm (also known as the bottom lateral crease).
This should give you a measurement somewhere between 4 and 4 ⅝ inches. That is your grip size. Now simply check our table above to convert for wherever you’re buying your racket.
What to do if I’m not sure?
If you’re unsure exactly which grip size is right or if you fall somewhere between two sizes always go for the smaller grip. It’s much easier to make a grip bigger than it is to make it smaller.
For example you could add an overgrip, adding an extra 1/16th of an inch or so to the grip’s overall size.
In fact, playing with an overgrip is arguably preferable anyway. Not only will you get to choose the tack or texture of grip that you prefer, you can also change it out regularly giving you a fresh feeling handle and at little expense. Check out our guide to find out the best overgrip for you.
Failing that it’s possible to have your pro shop install a heat shrink sleeve to add even more width to the grip.
As we said above, reducing a grip size is really not practical but if you did already buy a racket and somehow missed this guide (shame on you!) you could try removing the grip that comes with the racket and replacing it with a thinner one. Again, this might be a job for your local pro shop.
What’s the most common grip size?
A size 3 or 4 ⅜ grip size is the most widely sold. Most men will plump for a grip size of either 3, 4 or 5.
As women tend to have smaller hands the average range is lower – 1, 2 or 3.
But there’s a huge amount of variability in people’s hand sizes and preferences so it’s always best to measure using the methods above.
Don’t lose your grip…
Though the above methods for selecting a grip size will serve you well, as with most advice it all comes down to personal preference. Some players actually prefer a grip that’s a little small for their hands. If you play a lot of heavy topspin for example, you may find it easier to get additional whip on the ball with a smaller handle.
In fact, over the last twenty or thirty years, many pros have tended towards smaller grip sizes than previous generations. Rafael Nadal is known to play with a size 2 or 4 1/4 inch grip. As he explains in this interview with GQ:
“I like the small grip because when I have the small grip on my hand, I have better control of what I am doing… I can produce more spins than when I have a bigger grip on my hand”
Likewise, Federer and Djokovic play with a size 3 or 4 ⅜, inch grip. Despite all three being of well above average height.
As ever, if you’re in any doubt, there’s no substitute for trying out different sizes on the court. Your local pro shop or club should be amenable to letting you try a few out. It never hurts to ask. And if you haven’t already done so, check out our guide to finding the right racket for your skill level.
What does L1, L2, L3 etc mean on a tennis racket?
The L number that you often find on the butt cap of a racket refers to its grip size. Sometimes the size is given simply as a number with no letter in front of it.
L1 means the grip has a circumference of 4 ⅛ inch.
L2 means a circumference of 4 ¼ inches. L3 is 4 ⅜ and L4 is 4 ½.