JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best
About Your Butt Cap
It's interesting to me that today's racket manufacturers – now collectively responsible for making it difficult to find a bad one with today's ever advancing technology and know-how - produce grips with very small butt caps.
Curious to me since all professional players – club players take note - hold the racket down very low on the handle with their pinky right at the grips edge.
Name one professional player who does not embrace this. Not to mention the racket company's collective penchant for constantly marketing greater power, and control, both in concert in every new frame introduced featuring the latest new space age materials with those exotic names like HEAD'S Graphene.
Interestingly, this sell, makes the case for maximizing the performance of any racket, even an old-tech one, to achieve that Holy Grail power-control factor, by even a small amount just with one's gripping position.
This lower position does indeed create a slightly longer lever - also facilitating greater wrist action and racket head speed when appropriate - versus those players choking up on the handle (some rackets are still produced that are actually longer than the standard 27", reinforcing the longer lever axiom further). More powerful shots are produced with less effort, and with an accompanying lower muscle tension that is instrumental in leading to better shot control.
Consider that relaxed muscles are figuratively "smart," what we commonly refer to as acquired muscle memory, and can more readily repeat, over and over, successful, clean ball striking. Tight muscles – it all starts with grip tension! – are figuratively "dumb" and spastic, and do not readily produce consistent play, not to mention cause injuries – hand, wrist, arm, elbow, shoulder, even lower back. They create unfortunate, inefficient muscle memories.
In any event, butt caps that are enlarged somewhat, unlike stock caps, fill the concave "hole" in your hand's palm when gripping down low.
Tour veteran, Frenchman Ricard Gasquet, he of the awesome, free swinging one-handed-backhand, and the poster boy for this customization since his racket handle looks like the end of an NHL hockey stick (knob) in its exaggeration. This results in a greater grip-to-hand friction coefficient allowing for reduced grip tension, a more secure feeling, a resulting lack of racket twisting on off-center strikes – not that mis-hits ever happen in Clubland - and generally freer, unencumbered strokes like the Gasquet dream stroke.
Rich Vernsey (Wrigley's Tennis), an international stringer and master racket technician (Australian Open, Japan Open, etc.) located right here in Punta Gorda, Florida for you SW Floridians, can do this customization for you for a nominal fee should you want to try it. Nothing to lose; it's not permanent.
Or, you can easily do it yourself with 1/2" adhesive tape (with the pinking shears edges) to customize the cap exactly to the increased size you're most comfortable with depending on hand size.
Cut a piece 2' to 3' to 4' in length, depending on comfort and feel, wrapped tightly around the grip's original stock grip right at the very bottom where the grip "flares" a bit, and then finished with a thin overgrip of choice to create a noticeably different feel.
A few of my more advanced, technically oriented lesson clients, having noticed my racket's big butt (see image) have made the conversion, and have stayed with it, maintaining that it has improved their play - noticeable to me as well - mainly because of a resulting auto lowering of their grip tension.
Surprising to me, Vernsey informs me that only a very small percentage of tour players that he has strung for alter their stock grip's smallish butt cap, or grip shape for that matter. Lately I've been observing this anytime the Tennis Channel offers a close up view of any player's racket.
Nonetheless, I'm in the Gasquet camp. I know I play better with a more relaxed and secure low grip tension primarily because of the bigger butt cap. You might too.
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